Acute Toxicity of Major Geochemical Ions to Fathead Minnows (Pimephales Promelas): Part A—Observed Relationships for Individual Salts and Salt Mixtures

Russell J. Erickson, David R. Mount, Terry L. Highland, J. Russell Hockett, Dale J. Hoff, Correne T. Jenson, Teresa J. Norberg-King, Brandy Forsman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


The results of a series of experiments on the acute toxicity of major geochemical ions (Na+, K+, Ca2+, Mg2+, Cl, SO42−, HCO3/CO32−) to fathead minnows (Pimephales promelas) are reported. Tests of individual major ion salts in various dilution waters demonstrated that the toxicities of Na, Mg, and K salts decrease as the overall ion content of the dilution water increases. For Na and Mg salts, this is attributable to Ca content as previously reported for Ceriodaphnia dubia. For K salts, the cause is unclear, but it is not due to Na as reported for C. dubia. In an unregulated test at high pH (9.3), NaHCO3 was also found to be twice as toxic compared to when the pH was reduced to 8.4. Experiments with binary salt mixtures indicated the existence of multiple independent mechanisms of action. These include K-specific toxicity and Ca/Mg-specific toxicity previously reported for C. dubia, but also apparent toxicities related to SO4 and to high pH/alkalinity in CO3/HCO3-dominated exposures. Previous work with C. dubia also suggested a general ion toxicity involving all ions that was correlated with osmolarity. For fathead minnow, similar correlations were observed, but multiple mechanisms were indicated. At higher Ca, this general toxicity could be attributable to osmotic effects, but at lower Ca, osmolarity may be more a covariate than a cause, with this toxicity being related to a combined effect of ions other than via osmolarity. Environ Toxicol Chem 2022;41:2078–2094.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2078-2094
Number of pages17
JournalEnvironmental Toxicology and Chemistry
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2022
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors wish to thank K. Lott for supervising the culture of test organisms used in the present study and J. Nichols, J. Lazorchak, and three anonymous referees for helpful reviews.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 SETAC. This article has been contributed to by U.S. Government employees and their work is in the public domain in the USA.


  • Aquatic toxicology
  • Fathead minnow
  • Major geochemical ions
  • Mixture toxicity
  • Pimephales promelas
  • Toxicity mechanisms
  • Humans
  • Cladocera
  • Ions
  • Animals
  • Sodium
  • Cyprinidae
  • Salts/chemistry
  • Sodium Chloride/pharmacology
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical/chemistry

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


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