This study was carried out to determine the effects of gradual salinity increase on osmoregulatory ability of the Caspian roach Rutilus caspicus, under conditions which mimic stocking conditions of hatchery-raised fish. Initially, 30 juvenile fish (mean ±s.d. 3·20 ± 0·34 g) were transferred to 20 l circular tanks, in which salinities were changed in a stepwise fashion, from 0 to 5, 10 or 15 at 48 h intervals. The fish at salinity 15 were held for an additional 48 h at this salinity. Forty-eight hours after salinity transfer, survival rate, haematocrit, plasma Cl−, Na+ and K+ concentrations, osmolality and gill Na+/K+-ATPase (NKA) activity were measured. The only effect of exposure to 5 was a significant reduction in haematocrit compared to the freshwater control group. Exposure to salinity 10 raised haematocrit, Cl− and Na+ concentrations and osmolality. At 48 h exposure to salinity 15, haematocrit, Cl− and Na+ concentrations and osmolality were significantly higher than freshwater controls, and gill NKA activity was significantly lower, but the effect on NKA was no longer evident at 96 h exposure. There were no effects on survival. These results indicate that R. caspicus juveniles experience an initial non-lethal iono-osmotic perturbation following salinity increase but can adapt to brackish water at salinity 15.