To date, little is known about bone resorption during skeletal development in teleostean fish with acellular bone. We report here about bone resorption with regard to growth in the tilapia Oreochromis niloticus. Nine skeletal elements obtained from growing juveniles were examined using histological and histochemical methods, and transmission electron microscopy (TEM). Tartrate-resistant acid phosphatase (TRAP) served as a marker for bone resorbing cells (osteoclasts), alkaline phosphatase (ALP) was used to identify osteoblasts, and alizarin staining indicated sites of bone formation. TRAP-activity was located at those skeletal elements where growth requires bone resorption, and at sites of cartilage degeneration. No TRAP-activity was found at those skeletal elements where resorption was not required for growth. The examination of the praeopercular shaft leads to a model of bone enlargement, including bone resorption by TRAP-positive cells located at the endosteal bone surface and bone formation by ALP-positive cells located at the periosteal bone surface. TRAP-positive cells were mononucleated and lacked a ruffled border. They appeared either as cell aggregates (resembling the shape of multinucleated giant cells) or as flat cells (resembling bone lining cells). Problems of osteoclast identification in bony fish are discussed.