This study evaluated the effects of β-diketone antibiotics (DKAs) on the development of embryo-larval zebrafish (Danio rerio). When exposure to DKAs, developmental malformations, such as hatching delay, curved body axis, pericardial edema, uninflated swim bladder and yolk sac edema, were observed at 120 h postfertilization (hpf). The estimated 120 hpf nominal concentrations of no observed effect concentration and lowest observed effect concentration for DKAs were 18.75 and 37.50 mg/L, respectively, suggesting that DKAs have much lower toxicity than other persistent pollutants. Following DKA exposure, embryonic heart rates were significantly reduced as compared to the controls at 48 and 60 hpf. The peak bending motion frequency appeared 1 h earlier than in control embryos. The 2.34 and 9.38-mg/L treatment groups had a higher basal swim rate than control groups at 120 hpf in both light and light-to-dark photoperiod experiments. The occurrence of high speed swim rates was enhanced approximately threefold to sevenfold in the 2.34 and 9.38 mg/L treatments compared to the control. Glutathione (GSH) concentrations in the 2.34 and 9.38-mg/L treatments were significantly higher than the control at 72 hpf, suggesting that GSH production was induced at the end of the hatching period. When exposed to DKAs, zebrafish superoxide dismutase enzyme (SOD) activities were significantly inhibited in the early embryonic period, demonstrating that the clearing ability in zebrafish was lower than the generation rate of free radicals. In summary, the combined DKAs were developmentally toxic to zebrafish in their early life stages and had the ability to impair individual behaviors that are of great importance in the assessment of their ecological fitness. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Environ Toxicol 29: 1134–1146, 2014.