The suppression of background spike activity in the absence of deliberate acoustic stimulation occurs in fibers of the goldfish saccular nerve tuned in the region of 250 Hz. Suppression is most robust in the frequency range between 450 and 1050 Hz, the range of CF for the mid- and high-frequency saccular fibers. Suppression of background activity tends to occur following the suppressor tone offset ('off-suppression'), even though the spike response during the suppressor is below the background rate. This suggests that the suppressor tone is excitatory at the level of the hair cells and their synapses onto saccular afferents. Tones at the low- frequency edge of the suppression region may show net excitation at low intensity levels, and net suppression at higher levels. This suggests that the spike response observed is the result of the relative strengths of excitatory and suppressive effects which operate simultaneously. The magnitude and frequency of best suppression tends to increase with stimulus intensity. A suppressing tone produces transient excitation at onset. In fibers with high levels of spontaneous activity, a spike response 'rebound' often occurs 20 to 50 ms following the suppressing tone offset. These 'on' and 'off' effects are not due to energy 'splatter' in the stimulus domain. Suppression by tones can also be observed in non-spontaneous fibers when the background spike activity is evoked by noise. In these cases, however, off-suppression following a suppressed response and the 'rebound' seldom occurs. Possible sites of suppression are the hair cells and their synapses, the spike-initiation zones of the saccular afferents, and efferent inhibition. The most likely site seems to be the spike-initiation zones of saccular afferents. An important consequence of suppression for hearing is the sharpening of frequency response areas for low frequency fibers, and the partial preservation of frequency analysis in saccular fibers stimulated well above threshold.