The physiological responses of 1- to 2-year-old rainbow trout to low pH are dependent on the environmental calcium concentration. Trout, maintained for 5 days in moderately hard water ([Ca2+] = 1·6–2·7 m-equiv/1) at a mean pH of 4·3, developed a major blood acidosis but exhibited only a minor depression in plasma ion levels. In acidified soft water ([Ca2+] = 0·3 m-equiv/1), only a minor acidosis occurred, but plasma ion levels fell and there were substantially greater mortalities. Lethal bioassays performed on fingerling trout over a range of pH levels (3·0–4·8) revealed an important influence of external [Ca2+] on resistance to acid exposure. Terminal physiological measurements on adult fish succumbing to low pH in soft water indicate the singular importance of iono-regulatory failure as the toxic mechanism of action under these circumstances.

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