Is neem oil harmful to fish and amphibians?

by Sean Cheng
(Hong Kong)

I'm a vivarium /paludarium hobbyist. I am wondering if neem oil is safe to use if fish and frogs are present.

Regards/ Sean

Comments for Is neem oil harmful to fish and amphibians?

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Neem oil and aquatic creatures
by: Birgit

The quick answer:
I don't think neem is safe to use in the restricted, closed environment of a vivarium or paludarium.

The details:
Unfortunately neem is not safe for fish and other aquatic organisms. That doesn't mean you can't use it if fish or frogs are present. It depends on the specific use.

Using it in a vivarium/paludarium would not be safe in my opinion. I don't know what exactly you want to do, so maybe read through the details below and draw your own conclusions.

Neem extracts are not safe for fish. These studies have more information about the exact concentrations that are harmful. (Note that the neem extracts were added directly to the water.)

Continued from above...
by: Birgit

Other studies looked at a range of aquatic organisms, such as mosquito larvae and tadpoles. In some studies the neem compounds were toxic to all tested species, others reported that some organisms were unaffected.

Because of the possible effects of neem on non-target species, neem is unsuitable for control of infectious organisms or insects in water.

(However, the studies also showed that neem extracts are not as toxic as the synthetic insecticides that are currently in use for that purpose!)

The concentration is important. The main reason neem is unsuitable for something like mosquito larvae control is that a high concentration would be needed. (See The toxicity of margosan-O, a product of neem seeds, to selected target and nontarget aquatic invertebrates

There have also been some studies looking at the environmental effect of agricultural/forestry use of neem sprays on neighbouring water bodies. Here is one that concludes that it does not pose any problems:

Ok, have I confused you enough?

What I concluded after reading through a couple of dozen of those studies is this:

Don't use neem in water. Use on land is fine.

The active compounds in neem are not stable in the environment, not at all. So unless you spray directly into a body of water, you should be fine. Agricultural use is fine. Take care near small, shallow and standing bodies of water.

Use in vivariums/paludariums? I would not risk it. No matter how you apply the neem product, chances are it will end up in the water.

Longterm effects of Neem on fish
by: Anonymous

Some of the comments indicate that Neem is harmful to fish. I know that Pyrethrins, though natural and less toxic to vertebrates, are deadly to fish when they wash from land and/or run-off to rivers, ponds, oceans etc. Is Neem in this category, or does it break down more quickly than pyrethrins?

Neem breaks down quickly
by: Birgit

Neem breaks down very quickly when in contact with moisture and under UV light. There is not as much danger from it being washed into streams, unless it happens straight away.

It shouldn't be applied right near water where it could enter the water immediately, or where overspray may hit the water etc., and I certainly would not recommend using it in a confined, moist environment like a vivarium. But during normal use outside there is nothing to worry about.

Spraying NEEM in a garden where frogs are present
by: SJ

In light of everything said above, I suppose I'm still not clear on whether or not NEEM would be toxic to amphibians in my given scenario... I have a small balcony garden and two tree frogs have decided to live there...unfortunately, my plants have been riddled with this whitefly pest and I have to spray with something a little more effective than the safer soap I've been using. How will the NEEM affect the frogs? Thoughts? Thanks.

Little frogs in back yard
by: Linnea

This time of year, early Fall, I'd like to spray the whole patio, raised vege beds and grassy wet areas...but there are numerous, delightful small frogs I am concerned about. I prefer Neem Oil. The soapy sprays I have used are only useful to a point.

Affect on amphibians neem
by: Anonymous

I am looking to use neem oil on mosquito larvae in a small pond with no tadpoles present, however I am afraid that after I use neem on the pond, frogs will lay their eggs there, and if that happens there's no telling how much neem will be left, and from what I have heard, the only harmless creature it hurts is fish, and since it's a confined frog pond, there are no fish. What I want to know is how frogs and tadpoles are affected by neem. I need answers fast, because it will not be long before they hatch.

neem use in water
by: Birgit

If you scroll back up, I linked to a bunch of studies in the answer to the originasl question, in the first and second comment. That is what is known about the issue.
The comment also had my conclusion: Don't use neem in water.
In my opinion there is a good chance it will affect the eggs.

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