The effect of sustained hypercapnia on the acid-base balance and gill ventilation in rainbow trout, Salmo gairdneri, was studied. The response to an increase in PICO2 from 0.3 to 5.2 mm Hg was a five-fold increase in gill ventilation volume and a slight increase in breathing frequency. There was a concomitant rise in PACO2 and an immediate fall in pHa. If PICO2 was maintained at 5.2 mm Hg for several days, ventilation volume gradually returned to the initial, prehypercapnic level within three days. Arterial pH also returned to the initial level within 2-3 days. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that under these conditions fish regulate pH via HCO3/C1 exchange across the gills rather than by changes in ventilation and subsequent adjustment of PACO2. A reduction in environmental pH causes a reduction in pHa but only a slow gradual increase in VG. Injections of HC1 or NaHCO3 into the blood have opposite effects on pHa but both cause a marked increase in VG. It is concluded that a rise in PACO2 results in a rise in VG and that changes in pH in blood or water have little direct effect on VG in rainbow trout. Possible location for receptors involved in this reflex response are discussed.