The effect of ration on acclimation to environmental acidity in rainbow trout

Ian J. Morgan, Jacqueline J. Dockray, Leela M. D'Cruz, Chris M. Wood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Freshwater salmonids exposed to low environmental pH typically suffer a net loss of ions, primarily Na+ and Cl-, across the gills, resulting in reduced plasma and tissue ion concentrations. However, in recent experiments in our laboratory, juvenile rainbow trout, Oncorhynchus mykiss, fed a ration of 1% body weight d-1 or greater showed no ionoregulatory disturbance during chronic, sublethal acidification. This raised the possibility that these fish had acclimated to low pH in that they would be better able to withstand further, more severe acidification than fish that had no prior experience of acid conditions: previous studies had concluded that such acclimation does not occur. This hypothesis was tested by measuring unidirectional ion fluxes during a 24 h acute acid challenge (pH 4.2) in juvenile rainbow trout that had previously been exposed to either ambient pH 6.2 (naive fish) or sublethal low pH 5.2 (acid pre-exposed fish) for 90 days, and fed a ration of either 1.0 or 0.25% d-1 (wet basis). No mortalities were observed during the acute acid challenge in the fish fed the higher ration and no differences between the two groups in the response of Na+ fluxes were observed. Sodium influx in both groups was significantly inhibited throughout the challenge and Na+ net flux was significantly stimulated over the first 6 h. Prior to the acute acid challenge, the fish fed the lower ration that had previously been exposed to pH 5.2 had significantly lower plasma ion concentrations than those fish previously exposed to pH 6.2. Both groups suffered mortalities; those of the naive fish (22% by 24 h) being markedly lower than those of the acid pre-exposed fish (68% by 24h). However, there were no significant differences in either Na+ or Cl- fluxes between the two groups of fish during the acid challenge: both showed significant inhibition of ion influxes and significantly greater net ion losses, resulting in reduced plasma ion concentrations. These results indicate that rainbow trout are unable to acclimate to environmental acidification irrespective of the availability of dietary salts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)67-74
Number of pages8
JournalEnvironmental Biology of Fishes
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2000


  • Cl
  • Ionoregulation
  • Na
  • Oncorhynchus mykiss
  • PH
  • Salmonid fish

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology


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