One of the most common diseases that we have diagnosed in zebrafish is mycobacteriosis, caused by several Mycobacterium spp. The severity of the disease ranged from severe outbreaks to incidental infections. We conducted an in vivo study to evaluate the pathogenesis of six isolates of Mycobacterium from zebrafish with mycobacteriosis from four research facilities and one wholesale supplier of zebrafish in the United States: Mycobacterium abscessus, Mycobacterium peregrinum, Mycobacterium chelonae (2 isolates), and Mycobacterium marinum. We also included two isolates of M. marinum from other fishes. Fish were exposed by intraperitoneal injection at a target does of 5 x 10(4) bacteria/fish, and were held in static aquaria at 28 degrees C for 8 weeks. Fish were examined by histology and culture, and mortalities were recorded. The M. marinum isolates caused 100% infection and mortality between 30% and 100%. None of the other Mycobacterium species caused significant mortalities, but several of these fish had granulomatous lesions in visceral organs. Mycobacteria were consistently recovered in culture from fish exposed to M. marinum, and from only 9% of fish exposed to the other species. This study suggests that, of the isolates tested, only M. marinum is highly pathogenic and virulent to healthy zebrafish.