In contrast to mammals, teleost fish are able to regrow severed long-range projection axons in the central nervous system (CNS), leading to recovery of function. The optic projection in teleost fish is used to study neuron-intrinsic and environmental molecular factors that determine successful axon regrowth and navigation through a complex CNS pathway back to original targets. Here we review evidence for regeneration-specific regulation and robust expression of growth- and pathfinding-associated genes in regenerating retinal ganglion cell (RGC) axons of adult fish. The environment of the CNS in fish appears to contain few inhibitory molecules and at the same time a number of promoting molecules for axon regrowth. Finally, some environmental cues that are used as guidance cues for developing RGC axons are also present in continuously growing adult animals. These molecules may serve as guidance cues for the precise navigation of axons from newly generated RGCs in adult animals as well as of regenerating RGC axons after a lesion. The application of new molecular techniques especially to adult zebrafish, is likely to produce new insights into successful axonal regeneration in the CNS of fish and the absence thereof in mammals. © 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.