Carbonic anhydrase (CA) activities in gills and venous blood, acid-base balance, and haematological variables were studied during environmental hypercapnia in rainbow trout (Salmo gairdneri). Batches of 8-10 fish were exposed to about 3 or 13 mmHg Pco2 in flow-through tests of various duration from 4 h to 80 days. After initial acidosis, blood pH rose above pre-experimental values. At 3 mmHg it became normal again within 21 days, while at 13 mmHg the overshoot lasted for 80 days. In fish acclimated for 3 weeks or more to 13 mmHg Pco2, blood HCO-3 increased four to five times while plasma Cl- levels were lower and K+ higher. Na+ levels did not show any consistent trend associated with exposure to hypercapnia. After an initial acidaemia, Hct, Hb, and RBC remained relatively constant. Patterns of change in CA activity differed between gills and erythrocytes. Initially, blood CA decreased at both Pco2 levels. It then began rising after about 3 weeks and tended to reach pre-experimental values by 80 day's hypercapnia. At 13 mmHg Pco2, gill CA increased to twice the pre-experimental level. Compared with blood CA, gill CA appeared to be more specifically involved in fish acclimation to hypercapnia, which demands an increase in blood bicarbonate to provide a sufficient buffering capacity. Increased CA indicates that the gill enzyme may play a more important role than blood CA in acid-base regulation in fish during hypercapnia.