A multiplex PCR (m-PCR) method was developed for simultaneous detection of 3 important fish pathogens in warm water aquaculture. The m-PCR to amplify target DNA fragments from Flavobacterium columnare (504 bp), Edwardsiella ictaluri (407 bp) and Aeromonas hydrophila (209 bp) was optimized by adjustment of reaction buffers and a touchdown protocol. The lower detection limit for each of the 3 bacteria was 20 pg of nucleic acid template from each bacteria per m-PCR reaction mixture. The sensitivity threshold for detection of the 3 bacteria in tissues ranged between 3.4 × 102 and 2.5 × 105 cells g-1 of tissue (channel catfish Ictalurus punctatus Rafinesque). The diagnostic sensitivity and specificity of the m-PCR was evaluated with 10 representative isolates of each of the 3 bacteria and 11 other Gram-negative and 2 Gram-positive bacteria that are taxonomically related or ubiquitous in the aquatic environment. Except for a single species (A. salmonicida subsp. salmonicida), each set of primers specifically amplified the target DNA of the cognate species of bacteria. m-PCR was compared with bacteriological culture for identification of bacteria in experimentally infected fish. The m-PCR appears promising for the rapid, sensitive and simultaneous detection of Flavobacterium columnare, E. ictaluri and A. hydrophila in infected fish compared to the time-consuming traditional bacteriological culture techniques. © Inter-Research 2007.