Replicate groups of halibut larvae were fed to d 71 post-first feeding (PFF) either the marine copepod, Eurytemora velox, or Artemia nauplii doubly enriched with the marine chromist or golden algae, Schizochytrium sp., (Algamac 2000) and a commercial oil emulsion (SuperSelco). The fatty acid compositions of eyes, brains and livers from larvae fed the two diets were measured, and indices of growth, eye migration and skin pigmentation were recorded along with histological examinations of eye and liver. The docosahexaenoic acid [22:6(n-3); DHA]/eicosapentaenoic acid [20:5(n-3); EPA] ratios in Artemia nauplii enriched with the SuperSelco and Algamac 2000 were 0.4 and 1.0, respectively. The E. velox copepods were divided into two size ranges (125-250 and 250-400 microm) with the smaller size range containing the highest level of (n-3) highly unsaturated fatty acids (HUFA). The DHA/EPA ratios for the two size ranges of copepods were 2.0 and 0.9, respectively. The total lipids of eyes, brains and livers of larvae fed copepods had higher levels of DHA and lower levels of EPA than those of larvae fed enriched Artemia. The percentage of survival of the halibut larvae was significantly higher when copepods rather than enriched Artemia nauplii were fed, but larval specific growth rates did not differ. The indices of eye migration were high and not significantly different in larvae fed the two diets, but the percentage of larvae undergoing successful metamorphosis (complete eye migration and dorsal pigmentation) was higher in larvae fed copepods (40%) than in larvae fed enriched Artemia (4%). The rod/cone ratios in histological sections of the retina were 2.5 +/- 0.7 in larvae fed copepods and 1.3 +/- 0.6 in larvae fed enriched Artemia (P < 0.01). Histological examination of the livers and intestines of the larvae were consistent with better assimilation of lipid from copepods than lipid from Artemia nauplii up to 46 d post-first feeding. Thus, marine copepods are superior to enriched Artemia as food for halibut larvae in terms of survival, eye development and pigmentation, and this superiority can be related to the level of DHA in the feed.