Adult brown trout were acclimated for 2–4 weeks to artificial soft water ([Ca2+] 25 micromolar) at neutral pH and at summer (15°C) temperature. During this period they swam against a current of approximately 0.25 m s-1. They then had their dorsal aorta cannulated and were exposed to neutral or sublethal pH (4.5) for 4 days in still water. After 4 days of exposure to sublethal pH, critical swimming speed (Ucrit) was 35 % lower than that for fish at neutral pH. There were significant increases in arterial PCO2 and in blood lactate concentrations at Ucrit compared with the values in resting fish at neutral pH and these led to significant reductions in plasma pH. There were no such changes in fish at sublethal pH. There were no significant changes in intracellular pH (pHi) of red blood cells at Ucrit, probably as a result of increases in the levels of plasma catecholamines. There were significant reductions in pHi of red and white muscle fibres at Ucrit. It is argued that these values were not as low in the white fibres as those seen in previous studies after fish have been chased to exhaustion and, therefore, that the fish in the present study were not completely exhausted, although they would no longer swim at a steady speed. As pHi of the red muscle was the same at Ucrit for fish at neutral and at sublethal pH, it is suggested that Ucrit (fatigue) coincides with a particular pHi of the red muscles and possible mechanisms are discussed.

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