The effects of solution variations during growth on the perfection of tetragonal lysozyme crystals have been characterized using X-ray topography and high angular and wavevector resolution reciprocal-space scans. X-ray images of crystals grown under nearly uniform conditions show little contrast or evidence of defects, and mosaic widths of these crystals are comparable with those reported for microgravity-grown crystals. Images of crystals for which solution conditions (temperature, pH or salt concentration) are changed after an initial period of uniform growth can show extensive contrast, indicating the presence of disorder. The X-ray mosaic widths of these crystals can be significantly broadened, but their radial widths are at most very slightly broadened, indicating that image contrast is primarily due to mosaicity. Comparison of X-ray images with mosaic scans indicates that regions grown after the change in solution conditions have broader mosaicities and are more disordered; that regions grown immediately after the change tend to have broader mosaicities than subsequent growth regions; and that the pre-change growth region is largely unaffected by solution changes. The observed disorder may arise from solution change-related transient growth instabilities, from transient liquid–liquid phase separation that can occur during the change, and from post-change relaxation of the lattice constant of the pre-change growth regions. These results suggest that solution variations during growth, including those typical of macroseeding, vapor-diffusion growth and other widely used techniques, may be an important source of disorder in some protein crystals.