The zebrafish (Danio rerio) is a widely used model for developmental biology, neurobiology, toxicology, and genetic disease. Recently, the zebrafish has been recognized as a valuable model for infectious disease and immunity. In this study the pathogenesis and inflammatory cytokine response of zebrafish to experimental Edwardsiella tarda infection was characterized. In challenge experiments, zebrafish embryos were susceptible to infection by immersion. Adult fish were susceptible to challenge by intraperitoneal (ip) injection but not static immersion unless the epithelial layer was perturbed by scraping prior to exposure. To determine if E. tarda infection induces a typical acute inflammatory response, mRNA expression levels of interleukin-1beta (IL-1beta) and tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNFalpha) were assessed by quantitative real-time PCR. The expression levels of IL-1beta and TNFalpha were significantly upregulated in infected zebrafish embryos and adults. The methods developed in this study will be particularly valuable for targeted gene disruption studies of host immune components and in zebrafish genetic screens.