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An evaluation of liquid ammonia (ammonium hydroxide) as a candidate piscicide

April 8, 2013

Eradication of populations of nonnative aquatic species for the purpose of reintroducing native fish is often difficult because very few effective tools are available for removing aquatic organisms. This creates the need to evaluate new chemicals that could be used as management tools for native fish conservation. Ammonia is a natural product of fish metabolism and is naturally present in the environment at low levels, yet is known to be toxic to most aquatic species. Our objective was to determine the feasibility of using liquid ammonia as a fisheries management tool by evaluating its effectiveness at killing undesirable aquatic species and its persistence in a pond environment. A suite of invasive aquatic species commonly found in the southwestern USA were introduced into two experimental outdoor ponds located at the Rocky Mountain Research Station in Flagstaff, Arizona. Each pond was treated with ammonium hydroxide (29%) at 38 ppm. This target concentration was chosen because previous studies using anhydrous ammonia reported incomplete fish kills in ponds at concentrations less than 30 ppm. Water quality was monitored for 49 d to determine how quickly the natural bacteria in the environment converted the ammonia to nitrate. Ammonia levels remained above 8 ppm for 24 and 18 d, respectively, in ponds 1 and 2. Nitrite levels in each pond began to rise approximately 14 d after dosing with ammonia and stayed above 5 ppm for an additional 21 d in pond 1 and 18 d in pond 2. After 49 d all water in both ponds was drained and no fish, crayfish, or tadpoles were found to have survived the treatment, but aquatic turtles remained alive and appeared unaffected. Liquid ammonia appears to be an effective tool for removing many problematic invasive aquatic species and may warrant further investigation as a piscicide.

Publication Year 2013
Title An evaluation of liquid ammonia (ammonium hydroxide) as a candidate piscicide
DOI 10.1080/02755947.2013.765528
Authors David L. Ward, R. Morton-Starner, Shaula J. Hedwall
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title North American Journal of Fisheries Management
Index ID 70045005
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Southwest Biological Science Center