Water pH is an important factor affecting the general water quality as well as quality traits in fishes, and the magnitude of the effect varies among species. The massive and negative effect of acidification of rivers and lakes became evident during the 1960s and 1970s and caused the depletion of fish stocks in several countries in the northern hemisphere. Significant variation in tolerance to acidic water has been documented among salmonid species, and large genetic variation has been identified among strains of brown trout Salmo trutta, brook trout Salvelinus fontinalis and Atlantic salmon Salmo salar. For S. trutta, S. fontinalis and S. salar, there is considerable additive genetic variation in tolerance to acidic water, with heritabilities (h2) ranging from 0·09 to 0·27 for dead eyed-eggs (the period most sensitive to low pH). The main reasons for depletion of freshwater fish stocks are discussed.