• diet switch;
  • fish skin;
  • food deprivation;
  • microorganisms;
  • mucous cells

To test the hypothesis that a switch in diet might cause changes in the abundance and composition of mucous-dwelling microorganisms, a short-term experiment was conducted with Atlantic salmon Salmo salar. Fish were fed on three different diets: pelleted S. salar feed, macroinvertebrates or pellets supplemented with an antibiotic. A fourth group of fish was deprived of food throughout the trial. Seven days after manipulating diets, significant differences were found in microbial density and community composition (quantified by different morphologically distinct colonies), particularly between fed and unfed animals. Moreover, food deprivation caused a rapid decrease in the number of epidermal mucous cells of the lateral skin, which may indicate a decrease in mucous secretion and explain differences in the diversity of mucous-dwelling microbiota observed in the fish. This is the first report of an effect of feeding regime on the abundance of microbial communities associated with cutaneous mucus of fishes.