1. The chief objective of the present study was to develop a functional model for the daily change in the total energy content of a brown trout, Salmo trutta , (equivalent to growth when positive) in relation to the difference between energy intake (energy content of food) and energy losses (metabolism + losses in faeces and excretory products). Energy budgets for individual fish were obtained in earlier experiments with 210 hatchery trout (live weight = 11–270 g) kept at fairly constant temperatures (mean values ranging from 3.6 to 20.4 °C), but without strict control of temperature or oxygen, and in later experiments, with 252 trout (1–300 g) bred from wild parents and kept at five constant temperatures (5, 10, 13, 15 and 18 °C) and 100% oxygen saturation. Each trout was fed a fixed ration of shrimps, Gammarus pulex, the ration level varying between zero and maximum.
2. Energy intake (CIN, cal day−−1) was measured directly and expressed as a proportion (p) of the maximum energy intake (C, cal day−−1), the latter being estimated from a model developed earlier. In a new model, energy losses (CQ, cal day−−1) were expressed as a function of temperature, fish weight and ration level. This model was continuous over the 3.6–20.4 °C range, had twelve fitted parameters and was an excellent fit to the data for the 462 trout (P < 0.001, R2 = 0.9970). In an extended model, the weight exponent for energy losses was not assumed equal to that for energy intake, the difference between the two exponents being very small, but significant, with a slight improvement in the fit of the model (R2 increased to 0.9972).
3. The limits of model use were discussed. An example of its utility was to elucidate the complex relationships between both positive (growth) and negative daily changes in the total energy content of the trout, and temperature, fish size and variable energy intake. The model has raised several questions for future work, including the effect of increasing energy intake by a change of diet from invertebrates to fish or fish pellets, and a comparison of growth models based on weight or energy changes.