Most bacteria have one chromosome but some have more than one, as is common in eukaryotes. How multiple chromosomes are maintained in bacteria remains largely obscure. Here we have examined the behaviour of the two Vibrio cholerae chromosomes as a function of growth rate. At slow growth rates, both chromosomes were maintained at copy numbers of one to two per cell. Increasing the growth rate by nutritional shift-up amplified the origin-proximal DNA of the larger chromosome (chrI) to four copies per cell, but not that of the smaller chrII. The latter was amplified when its specific initiator was supplied in excess or a specific negative regulator was deleted. The growth rate-insensitive behaviour of chrII, whose origin is similar to origins of members of a major class of plasmids, was shared by some but not all of several representative plasmids tested in V. cholerae. Also, unlike plasmid replication, chrII replication is known to be initiated at a specific stage of the cell cycle. Raising chrII copy number decreased growth rate, suggesting that this chromosome might serve as a repository for necessary but potentially deleterious genes.