Fish Antibiotics for Humans: Emergency Guide

Everyday items, whether it’s honey instead of cough syrup, or vodka instead of rubbing alcohol can sometimes be used in lieu of traditional medical supplies when you’re in an emergency situation.

However, there are a few things that do not have a substitute. One of those is antibiotics.

Antibiotics have had a dramatic impact on the world. They revolutionized medicine when they were introduced back in the 1940s. More people can now survive serious bacterial infections thanks to antibiotics.

Today, there are a variety of antibiotics that can cure a range of infections. Not surprisingly preppers and survivalists look to keep a stash of antibiotics just in case.

The problem here is that they can only be obtained via prescription. Though some physicians will offer antibiotics for survival storage, you might have a hard time trying to convince your GP you need an extra course for a rainy day.

Fish antibiotics have increasingly been looked into by people looking for an alternative as they are more easily available and don’t require a doctor’s prescription. But now the million-dollar question.

Are Fish Antibiotics safe and effective for people?

Fish Antibiotics Safety?

It is not surprising that there have been a number of people jumping up in both defense and alarm of fish antibiotics.

Reviewers on many fish supplement sites rave about how much money they saved, and how safe they are…

Not that this should come as a shock but drugs made for animals are not held to the same standards in comparison to those medicines that are specifically made for humans.

“What might seem like a less expensive, easier way to treat an assumed infection can ultimately have very serious negative consequences. Unlike antibiotics for humans or other animals, these medications are completely unregulated by the Food and Drug Administration,” Michael Ganio, ASHP Director of Pharmacy Practice

Companies selling fish antibiotics are treading a legal tightrope as selling antibiotics intended for fish affects both the safety and efficacy of these medicines – for fish and humans.

General Tips for Using Animal Drugs

If you intend to use or if you come across any type of medication whether that’s antibiotics or not, that has been authorized by the FDA for use in animals, will it work for humans as well?

A few things to keep in mind:

  1. Animal dosages may differ from human ones
  2. Check to see whether the medication can be used safely in people

You should be double-sure that the medicine you are about to take will not hurt you. Cause then, what’s the point?

Also, be sure that animal medicine doesn’t go by a different name than the human version.

However, even animal medicines that have the same name as human medicines, they both might not be identical. For instance:

  • FDA regulations for animal and human drugs are determined separately. Fillers, additives, and contaminants that aren’t permitted in human pills may be permitted in animal medicines and used in animal drugs.
  • Medications are manufactured to absorb in the type of animal body they’re approved for. A calf has more than one stomach and a fish is tiny. Are all animal bodies equal? Not likely.

Should I take Antibiotics for Fish?

Ultimately, that’s up to you. However, a word of warning fish antibiotics are not regulated by the FDA. The absence of government regulation in this area is comparable to that of nutritional supplements: there’s no assurance that the pills contain what they’re supposed to, nor that they even work.

“There may be nothing in there—meaning no active ingredient—in the case of a 250-milligram capsule of amoxicillin…[or] It might be just a mound of cornstarch or other inactive substance,” Jim Budde, president of the Society of Veterinary Hospital Pharmacists states.

Then there is the issue of expiration. There is no assurance that medicine is effective beyond its expiration date as it has not been approved by the FDA.

Given all of this, perhaps the most serious risk, even if the antibiotics are legit, is that their efficacy might be decreased. In this case, the medication may not work exactly as it should, it may weaken it only later to have it resurface as an antibiotic-resistant strain.

USP Certified?

Let’s say fish antibiotics actually contain the same antibiotics used for humans, there are concerns about their safety. USP “certified” may appear to be a promising stamp of approval at first—until you look into the details.

The United States Pharmacopoeia USP is a nonprofit organization that has little real regulatory authority – if any. They don’t evaluate whether a medication is effective or safe; instead, they establish criteria for things like storage, purity, and strength.


USP requirements do have criteria that do ensure that medicines are correctly packed, labeled, and stored. For instance:

  • Antibiotics are sensitive to heat, so they must be kept at room temperature. (Keep in mind the transport temperature as well as facility storage conditions.)
  • Antibiotics are susceptible to moisture (This means that they must be kept in airtight containers.)
  • They must be tested to guarantee that the pills aren’t contaminated with germs, mold, or yeast.

So USP certified may be helpful on some level, however, we did not find any antibiotics that were USP certified.

To Take or Not to Take?

All of this is not to suggest that fish antibiotics may not be 100% safe. If you had no other choice (but you usually do in most situations) then perhaps you could consider it

The bottom line is that it would be a gamble. And, as we’ve already established, antibiotics aren’t something you want to gamble with.

If you’re going to store drugs for an emergency and can’t get to a doctor, your best option is to keep some (human) ones on hand so you don’t have to make that choice.

If you can get to a doctor, it’s always preferable over taking antibiotics by yourself. This minimizes the risk of side effects, interactions, and antibiotic resistance. The doctor will also examine whether antibiotics are likely to work for your infection (because it’s viral they won’t) and which sort is the best option.


[1]Why Are Americans Taking Fish Antibiotics?

[2] Sick Americans Are Desperate Enough to Buy Fish Antibiotics.

[3] USP Verified Mark.

Photo credit: Unsplash

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