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Sensitivity of warm water fishes and rainbow trout to selected contaminants

February 7, 2020

Guidelines for developing water quality standards allow U.S. states to exclude toxicity data for the family Salmonidae (trout and salmon) when deriving guidelines for warm-water habitats. This practice reflects the belief that standards based on salmonid data may be overprotective of toxic effects on other fish taxa. In acute tests with six chemicals and eight fish species, the salmonid, Rainbow Trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss), was the most sensitive species tested with copper, zinc, and sulfate, but warm-water species were most sensitive to nickel, chloride, and ammonia. Overall, warm-water fishes, including sculpins (Cottidae) and sturgeons (Acipenseridae), were about as sensitive as salmonids in acute tests and in limited chronic testing with Lake Sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens) and Mottled Sculpin (Cottus bairdi). In rankings of published acute values, invertebrate taxa were most sensitive for all six chemicals tested and there was no trend for greater sensitivity of salmonids compared to warm-water fish.