Low phosphorous (P) feeds in aquaculture are recommended to reduce eutrophication of water systems. However, the feed should be adequate for normal growth and intact immune defence. Influence of low dietary P supply on non-specific and specific immune defence of European whitefish (Coregonus lavaretus) was studied in two trials. For Trial 1, a semi-purified, low-P diet was formulated and supplied with 0, 2.5, 5.0, 7.5, or 10.0 g P kg(-1)to obtain a P gradient of 4.4-14.9 g kg(-1)diet. Diets were fed to four replicate groups of fingerling whitefish for 42 days in a flow-through, freshwater system maintained at 15 degrees C. Fish fed with the P-unsupplemented diet had significantly lower plasma immunoglobulin M (IgM) levels than fish fed with the P-fortified diets (means 2.53 vs. 3.19 mg ml(-1); P=0.047). Plasma lysozyme activity did not differ between fish fed with the P-unsupplemented diet and fish fed with the P-fortified diets (means 21.8 vs. 25.5 U ml(-1); P=0.107). For Trial 2, fish were acclimated for 49 days by feeding the lowest or highest dietary P contents, and thereafter immunised with a single intraperitoneal injection of a novel antigen, bovine gamma globulin (BGG). A clear antibody response against BGG was elicited but the antibody levels did not differ between fish fed low-P or high-P contents. Similar to Trial 1, plasma IgM was lower in fish fed low-P diets, and low-P diet did not influence plasma lysozyme activity. In both trials the growth of fish, having received low-P diet, was significantly lowered. It is concluded that P deficiency has only minor effects on the immune parameters in whitefish, and the practical aquafeed with P contents sufficient for normal growth does not compromise immune functions of this species.