This study evaluated the potential adverse effects of butenolide, a promising antifouling compound, using the marine medaka (Oryzias melastigma), a model fish for marine ecotoxicology. The active ingredient used in the commercial antifoulant SeaNine 211, 4,5-dichloro-2-n-octyl-4-isothiazolin-3-one (DCOIT) was employed as the positive control. Adult marine medaka (4-month-old) were exposed to various concentrations of butenolide or DCOIT for 28 days and then depurated in clean seawater for 14 days (recovery). A suite of sensitive biomarkers, including hepatic oxidative stress, neuronal signal transmission, endocrine disruption, and reproductive function, was used to measure significant biological effects induced by the chemicals. Compared to DCOIT, chronic exposure to butenolide induced a lower extent of oxidative stress in the liver of male and female medaka. Furthermore, butenolide-exposed fish could recover faster from oxidative stress than fish exposed to DCOIT. Regarding neurotransmission, DCOIT significantly inhibited acetylcholinesterase (AChE) activity in the brain of both male and female medaka, whereas this was not significant for butenolide. In addition, plasma estradiol (E2) level was elevated and testosterone (T) level was decreased in male medaka exposed to DCOIT. This greatly imbalanced sex hormones ratio (E2/T) in exposed males, indicating that DCOIT is a potent endocrine disruptive chemical. In contrast, butenolide induced only moderate effects on sex hormone levels in exposed males, which could be gradually recovered during depuration. Moreover, the endocrine disruptive effect induced by butenolide did not affect normal development of offspring. In contrast, DCOIT-exposed fish exhibited a decrease of egg production and impaired reproductive success. Overall, the above findings demonstrated that chronic exposure to butenolide induced transient, reversible biological effect on marine medaka, while DCOIT could impair reproductive success of fish, as evident by clear alterations of the E2/T ratio. The relatively low toxicity of butenolide on marine biota highlights its promising application in the antifouling industry. The present findings also emphasize gender difference in fish susceptibility to chemical treatment (male>female), which is an important consideration for ecological risk assessment. © 2014 Elsevier B.V.