Are Fish Antibiotics Safe for Human Consumption?

Guest post to by Cynthia J. Koelker, MD, author of 101 Ways to Save Money on Health Care and the medical prepper blog,


Let me preface my article with the Bible verse: “It’s not what goes into your mouth that defiles you; you are defiled by the words that come out of your mouth.” Matthew 15:11 (New Living Translation)

So I, a physician, church choir director, and Sunday school teacher, am uncomfortable with the title of this blog.  Perhaps the “S” stands for stool, or stuff, or sewage, or slime, or sludge.  I suppose it could.

My friend, Ranger Man, requested some information on fish antibiotics. It is a fact that fish antibiotics are intended for fish. It’s also a fact that people are already stockpiling them.  Is this safe?  The following article is aimed at minimizing risks of medication reactions if the sewage does indeed hit the fan.

* * *

It’s no secret that antibiotics for treating “common bacterial infections of fish” can be purchased without a prescription.  Reading the fine print, you’ll find that they are intended for aquarium use only, and are labeled, “Not for human use” (which requires a prescription, at least in the U.S.A.)

This is frustrating for survivalists, who want to responsibly prepare for future, unforeseen contingencies.  How will you treat pneumonia if there are no doctors to prescribe antibiotics and no pharmacies to fill the prescriptions?  Shouldn’t you have some on hand, just in case?  As a physician, I cannot argue with this position.  I have prescribed long-term medications for missionaries and other travelers to foreign countries, where access to reliable medical care was impossible.  How is concern about societal collapse any different?  If doctors really thought Armageddon was around the corner, we’d be helping our patients prepare for future infections and potential emergencies.

Ideally, your personal physician would be sympathetic to your cause. However, many doctors are hesitant to prescribe medications when the need is not a documentable health concern.  Will the FDA come breathing down their necks?  Would such prescribing put their medical license – a doctor’s entire livelihood – at risk?  Can the physician trust the patient NOT to use the medication unless it is the only option remaining?

So if your doctor won’t prescribe a supply of antibiotics (which I emphasize is the best choice), and you don’t have the option of traveling out of country to purchase them, and you don’t want to deal with questionable web sites, what do you do?  Surely you don’t want to purchase antibiotics adulterated with who knows what.  Surely it’s a good thing that the FDA seeks to assure safety of medications indicated for our children and loved ones.

Yet in your heart of heart, you believe it is in the best interest of your family for you to find a legal source of antibiotics, just in case society really does collapse.  Could fish antibiotics be the answer?

Hesitantly, oh so hesitantly, I answer . . . maybe.

Knowing how to use an antibiotic is one thing.  Standard dosing information is readily available from many resources.  Still, this requires a fair amount of medical knowledge, beyond that of the average American.  Yet this can be learned from reliable sources, and medical textbooks are not limited to medical professionals.

The bigger question is safety.  Are these fish antibiotics really manufactured for fish only, or do they perhaps come off the same production line as those manufactured for human use?  Could the fillers (the inactive ingredients) be potentially toxic to your little girl, or are they the same ones you’d find in brand-name human medications?

This information is hard to come by but not impossible to find.  For preppers who wonder if certain fish antibiotics are appropriate for human use, the following sequence outlines helpful online research you can do to answer your own questions.

  1. Find a retailer whose advertising features an image of the medication in mind.
  2. Check the color and imprint of the medication using a pill identifier such as that at
  3. View additional pill details, searching for the manufacturer.
  4. Next find the manufacturer’s home website and search for products.
  5. Under products, search for the same medication with the same imprint and appearance.
  6. Make sure the product lists “USP” and “AB Rated.” The United States Pharmacopeia (USP) sets standards for prescription and OTC drugs manufactured or sold in the U.S. An AB rating indicates that the generic in question has been proven to meet bioequivalence to a reference standard (which is generally the brand name drug).

Drugs that meet this standard would appear to be the same as those manufactured for humans.  If you cannot ascertain the above, then all bets are off.

Having antibiotics on hand and knowing how to use them are two separate things altogether.  If today’s medical system or society as a whole collapses, antibiotics should be reserved for life-threatening infections (and not the drippy nose you’ve had for a week).  I explain this in great detail in my upcoming book, Armageddon Medicine.  When you’re forced to be your own doctor, you’ll need to understand how to think like a physician.  Now may not be too soon to begin.

Copyright © 2011 Cynthia J. Koelker, MD

24 comments… add one

  • Jason April 5, 2011, 1:12 pm

    I’m a little confused Doctor, but where does it prominently say “Shit” Hit The Fan?

    As you clearly illustrate, the associated meaning of an acronym can be in the mind of the beholder. Like LOL – Losers On Laughter or DOA – Doorknobs Over Apples or … you get my drift.

    As for the rest of this self promotion & irrelevant parallel examples, I hesitantly, oh so hesitantly, reserve my comments. Suffice it to say, I filed it with my loathes & fishes files.

    • Judith April 5, 2011, 5:13 pm

      I won’t reserve mine Jason.
      It doesn’t take a genius to know when an upper respiritory virus turns into a secondary infection. And duh! Why spend 2 or 3 hundred dollars or more to go to a doc in a box and get a prescription of Amox. when you can dig a 5 day dose out of your own medical supplies.
      And also there are several reliable online Pharmacies in India and elsewhere.
      All these Drs. think their “stuff” doesn’t stink. Give me a break.

  • NoMEPreppy April 5, 2011, 7:46 pm

    The greater question is, are fish and other seafood from the Pacific safe at all?

  • wilson April 5, 2011, 9:28 pm

    When I was looking for information on the subject, I
    found the majority of opinion about the binders in antibiotics was that the human antibiotics were more likely to have a greater amount of binders in them. The fish stuff most likely has less “additives” and binders because the fish are much smaller and more likely to be sensative to them. IMHO get them now, because the government hates us and will get around to banning them, after all it’s for our own good.

  • Prepared N.D. April 5, 2011, 10:00 pm

    I’ll stick to herbs.

    • Jason April 5, 2011, 10:38 pm

      Consuming or smoking? Both are medicinal …. aren’t they?

      • Post Script April 5, 2011, 10:40 pm

        It’s pretty obvious I grew up in So. Ca. ~

  • Joel the K April 6, 2011, 1:45 am

    I thought it was cool that an M.D. basically gave us a read between the lines version of “yes guys, it’s safe to use these fishbotics as long as you know what you are doing with the dosage”. I mean she could not very well come right out and give a 100% endorsement without the F.ederal D.ingdong A.dministration burning all of her notes like the Canadian feds did to Rene Caisse. I thought Dr. Koelker did the best she could given the political climate in the USA. I for one will look for that book she spoke of. Also, there was a link on Steve Quayle a few weeks ago and it had a users guide to vet antibiotics. It was written by Dr. umn….crap, i cant remember that guys name. Just look on Steve Quayle’s search bar, type in “antibiotics”.

  • fortunateidiot April 6, 2011, 1:17 pm

    First of all, I’d like to commend and thank the Doc for putting this together for us. Finding any physician who would go even half this far is like pulling hens teeth, it just doesn’t happen. The legal and liability issues are astounding. That’s why it is a “qualified maybe”. Somebody reads that as an implicit OK to use, screws it up and injures themselves, then sues the Doc as “She said it was ok in a blog”.

    As for the self promotion, big deal…Ranger Man didn’t seem to mind as he let her guest post & post her blog. Why should you care if he doesn’t. I for one appreciate her posting her blog url.

    Lastly, with 34 yrs in medicine, the biggest deal that I can ssay about using fish antibiotics is knowing which one to use for which ailment. Following site has an excellent Army Medic course on Drugs Dosage and Therapy in pdf.

    (go to the index and get all the Mil Medical manuals you want (Index is in Thai ; click military medicine))

    • Ranger Man April 6, 2011, 6:12 pm

      “As for the self promotion, big deal…Ranger Man didn’t seem to mind as he let her guest post & post her blog. ”


      SHTF blog wouldn’t have gained many readers without the help of other sites. I don’t mind helping others out, because others have helped me. Promoting your own site in a guest post is kind of a given.

      She expressed concerns about “SHTF” and I told her to go ahead and say so in the post, I don’t care. Would the post have been more interesting if she’d left that criticism out? I don’t think so.

    • Jason April 6, 2011, 6:16 pm


      I guess my point with the self promotion comment was she shot herself in the foot & or wasted my time by posting something that essentially said … nothing – but, while I’ve got a captive audience, buy my book.

      Personally, I wouldn’t buy a book from this idiot because it would be – most likely (based upon her post writing), filled with more confusion and misinformation.

      And her AMA brainwashing statement of “When you’re forced to be your own doctor, you’ll need to understand how to think like a physician” is obtuse, to say the very least.

      I don’t buy into the liability argument – it’s just an inane excuse. You can preface it all with a strong disclaimer, be anonymous or any other set of solutions & take a position. This silly, ego driven drivel was pointing in only one direction – buy my book or read my website.

      Quite frankly most doctors I know and I know and interface with many, aren’t really all that intelligent. Our society puts them on a pedestal like some object worthy of our worship & they suck into that shallow, haute position as if they deserve that godlike association – and that my friend, is a colossal waste of energy.

      There you go Judith – a partial set of my thoughts & comments.

      • Anonymous April 7, 2011, 4:11 pm

        I swear Jason, some times you write as well as Kuntsler.

        • Jason April 7, 2011, 5:25 pm

          I have no idea who Kuntsler is & if that was a compliment, thank you & if it was a dig, thank you too.

          Either way I must have you thinking, which is always my goal.

          • Judith April 8, 2011, 12:20 pm

            Jason, didn’t mean for that to be anon.
            And I did mean it as a compliment.
            James Howard Kuntsler wrote the post apocalyptic novel “World Made By Hand” as well as others. He has a Mon. morn. blog that is decidedly left wing but great none the less.

          • Jason April 8, 2011, 4:12 pm

            Thank you Judith & to let you know, I am very conservative but hate weak or shallow points of view, like I wrote about Dr. Say Nothing.

  • Jim H April 6, 2011, 3:45 pm

    You know, over the past years I’ve read “article” after “article” from MD’s (the only people I willingly call “Doctor”) who talk about fish antibiotics. I have the following observations gleaned from them:

    1. UNIVERSALLY, their opinion on fish-antibiotics is “I don’t know”.

    2. They are doctors, of COURSE they’re going to say ‘see a doctor’ to get the “real thing”.

    3. A lack of anecdotes or citations of instances where fish-antibiotics were used and caused some secondary problems that were wholely the result of the misuse of fish antibiotics.

    4. NO doctor can tell exactly what kind of microbe they are fighting, they go on experience and what works for their region. In fact, I’ve seen the “shotgun” approach used quite often in elderly people I have contact with. The only way to know is to take a sample and send it to a lab, even the ‘fast assay’ strep kits aren’t 100 percent accurate. So antibiotics get prescribed all the time that aren’t quite right for the bacterial infection, and a culture and subsequent prescription is called for.

    And still, we listen to them, the message is clear and consistent – doctors do not know the source of fish-antibiotics, doctors don’t know their efficacy because no doctor would risk their livelihood to test it.

    I know one person who worked for a manufacturer of bulk pharmaceuticals for animals, I thought that was the extent of it. Then he told me about fulfilling GSA contract’s for antibiotics to be used in mass-infection situations. He said they followed the same production protocols and used the same base materials, the only difference was that the in-house lab wasn’t trusted to insure their purity and efficacy – an outside lab was mandated to test this.

    He said that the base cultures and vats used to grow and synthesize the antibiotics he was in contact with were of the highest quality, not some bathtub and mad-scientist type tending it. He also pointed out that by FAR the largest consumer of antibiotics in the USA are agricultural.

    Bulk antibiotics are, by and large, a bio-chemical engineering problem. If produced in the USA the products must meet requirements laid out by the USDA and adhere to standards laid out by those far far more experienced than us.

    Thus, if we find a lack of information about “fish antibiotics” as to source and purity, it’s not because they’re trying to pull something over on us – it’s because if they even hint that their products are the same as human consumption grade (note: all this means is a different lab tested them) then the FDA would fall on them like a ton of bricks, all led by the AMA, those well-intentioned folks who guard our health.

    I just can’t read another cookie-cutter assessment by an MD about fish-antibiotics, they all read the same. This was no different, and changes nothing IMO.

  • Cynthia Koelker, MD April 7, 2011, 8:01 am

    I appreciate the input from all who’ve written, and just wanted to address one topic, that is, antibiotic use and thinking like a doctor.

    This article did not address the actual use of antibiotics, only one approach to addressing the safety issue. The more important consideration is what to do with this precious commodity in an environment of scarcity. This is where the layman would really benefit from learning to “think like a doctor.”

    In such a scenario, digging some amoxicillin out of your medical supplies for a cold that developed a secondary infection may well be unwise. What a shame to use a limited supply of potentially life-saving medication on a condition that will likely cure itself, given enough time. How painful would it be to watch your child die of pneumonia, having exhausted your antibiotic supply on runny noses?

    Although it’s true doctors usually don’t know what specific microbe we’re aiming at, prior medical studies have told us what germs are usually responsible for certain infections. For serious infections (say in the hospital), cultures are done and antibiotic choice adjusted accordingly. But cultures take a few days to grow, and in the meantime, it’s often wise to begin treatment against the common culprits.

    Most people are only familiar with outpatient treatment of minor infections, many of which would resolve on their own. We often use antibiotics to get a person back to work or school a day or two quicker. In an end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it scenario, this use of antibiotics must be abandoned.

    This is where thinking like a doctor comes in. Which infections are serious? Which are potentially curable? Should you exhaust your antibiotic supply on a (likely fatal) case of appendicitis? Should every urinary infection be treated? How can you tell normal staph from MRSA? Is the patient’s diarrhea caused by a virus, cholera, or perhaps C. diff? Will the person die without antibiotics? Will the antibiotics kill the patient?

    It doesn’t take a medical degree to acquire this information, but it does require a fair degree of study.

  • Joan prepper April 10, 2011, 7:58 am

    My husband and I are both preppers and we also have no health insurance. My husband has diverticulitis which requires antibiotics from time to time. A doctor visit to receive a prescription every time he needs antibiotics (just enough to address the current bout of diverticulitis) is ridiculous. So, we looked into fishcillins which are actual human antibiotics. Honestly, what fish needs Cipro? These antibiotics are very safe. We check dosage with our pharmacy pill book and we have no problems at all. If you don’t know where to buy these affordable non-prescription “pet antibiotics” check out Patriot Nurse on You Tube.

  • No One July 22, 2011, 1:08 am

    I just ordered and received Metronidazole 250mg and Amoxicillin 250mg from two different aquatic antibiotics vendors. Both products were readily identifiable on any number of drug identification web sites (ie or The Metronidazole 250mg were small white round tablets (like original aspirin) with “PLIVA 333″ imprinted. The Amoxicillin 250mg were pink/dk blue capsules with “A44″ imprinted. The pharmaceutical manufacturers have committed to package medications in pre-defined colors/imprints/shapes to facilitate identification. IMHO -> it’s infeasible that a pharmaceutical manufacturer is selling an antibiotic product into the aquatic community that is different in composition from product intended for human consumption, while maintaining the exact identification for product destined for human consumption. In a nutshell: these products are identical (at least the two I purchased)…

  • Lee July 30, 2011, 8:25 pm

    I have stated on here before that fish antibiotics are not pure. they may be the same exact pill as pharmacy but the difference is they are usually epxired. they set in warehouses and may be 4 or 5 years expired and thrown in a bottle with a label that says good for 2 years. I tried to put it on this blog but the person who runs this website keeps deleteing my comment

  • Anonymous July 30, 2011, 8:30 pm

    I had recently bought cephalexin online yes they were the real deal matched pill identifier as klx 141 and the day said good till 2012 . I took some and ended up so sick to my stomach i ended up throwing up everywhere and it gave me bad diarrhea. And yes I have taken cephalexin many times in the past with an actual precirption and have never had one side affect in my entire life to cephalexin.

    I have posted this at least 4 times before but Ranger Man or whoever owns this website keeps deleting anyone who does not agree with him.Guy probably sells old expired fish antibiotics out of the back of his pick up truck for a living

    • Ranger Man August 1, 2011, 10:30 pm

      An “anonymous” comment that mentions various Rx drugs by name almost certainly got tossed into the Spam folder and I probably missed them as being legitimate. I could really care if anyone disagrees with me.

  • Jim August 1, 2011, 10:08 pm

    THAT’s because you’re an anonymous troll – anonymous trolls should not have input into anything but anonymous troll business.

    You’re not a liar, you’re just a troll – HUGE difference!

    last I heard Rangerman was consorting with the Illuminati into having a couple of Templar Knights remove you from the equation…

  • billy February 21, 2015, 8:57 pm

    Fish antibiotics are the same as used for humans as long as they are USP. I was told this by a friend who is a doctor. He further stated he has stock piled them in case of SHTF scenario. The cost for fish botics is much cheaper so is why he buys them. Thanks


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