• Fish;
  • Salmo salar ;
  • Salvelinus fontinalis ;
  • spectrophotometry;
  • trout;
  • validation


Methemoglobin (metHb) is oxidized hemoglobin that cannot reversibly bind oxygen, and concentrations in healthy fish have been reported to be 0.6–24.8% compared with 0–3% in healthy mammals. In fish, metHb has been measured using spectrophotometric methods using potassium cyanide (KCN), but not using co-oximetry, which is the preferred method for human samples.


The aims of this study were to evaluate co-oximetry as a method for measuring metHb in Oncorhynchus mykiss, compare co-oximetry with a KCN spectrophotometric method, and establish reference values for metHb concentrations as measured using co-oximetry in O mykiss, Salmo salar, and Salvelinus fontinalis.


Blood samples from healthy female O mykiss, female S salar, and female and male S fontinalis were prepared by separation and washing of erythrocytes in Tris/NaCl/EDTA buffer followed by lysis in Tris/EDTA buffer. MetHb concentrations were measured using an IL-682 co-oximeter. Moderate and high metHb concentrations were produced in vitro using NaNO2.


At low concentrations of methemoglobin, CVs for intraday precision were 10.3% and 53.9% using co-oximetry and the KCN spectrophotometric method, respectively. The CV for interday precision using co-oximetry was 11.9%. MetHb concentrations were stable in whole blood stored at 4°C for 7 days. MetHb concentrations were linear up to 58.2% (= .99) using co-oximetry and 27.5% (= .94) using the KCN method. The lower limit of detection for metHb was 0.02 g/dL using co-oximetry. Reference values for metHb concentrations using co-oximetry in O mykiss, S salar, and S fontinalis (= 40 of each species) were 0.6–1.8%, 1.1–1.9%, and 1.1–4.0%, respectively.


Co-oximetry can be used to measure methemoglobin in blood from fish, in particular in O mykiss, and is better than the KCN spectrophotometric method. Reference values for methemoglobin concentrations in O mykiss, S salar, and S fontinalis are similar to those in mammals.