Abstract The tolerance and effects of nitrite on ion balance and haematology were investigated in the striped snakehead, Channa striata Bloch 1793, which is an air-breathing fish with reduced gills of importance for aquaculture in South East Asia. C. striata was nitrite tolerant with a 96h LC50 of 4.7mM. Effects of sub-lethal exposures to nitrite (0mM, 1.4mM, and 3.0mM) were determined during a 7-day exposure period. Plasma nitrite increased, but the internal concentration remained well below ambient levels. Extracellular nitrate rose by several mM, indicating that a large proportion of the nitrite taken up was converted to nitrate. Nitrite reacted with erythrocyte haemoglobin (Hb) causing methaemoglobin (metHb) to increase to 30% and nitrosylhaemoglobin (HbNO) to increase to 10% of total Hb. Both metHb and HbNO stabilised after 4 days, and functional Hb levels accordingly never fell below 60% of total Hb. Haematocrit and total Hb were unaffected by nitrite. Although the effects of nitrite exposure seemed minor in terms of plasma nitrite and metHb increases, ion balance was strongly affected. In the high exposure group, total osmolality decreased from 320mOsm to 260mOsm, and plasma sodium from 150mM to 120mM, while plasma chloride fell from 105mM to 60mM and plasma bicarbonate rose from 12mM in controls to 20mM in exposed fish. The extreme changes in ion balance in C. striata are different from the response reported in other fish, and further studies are needed to investigate the mechanism behind the observed changes in regulation.