Arctic charr Salvelinus alpinus of the Hólar strain (mean ± s.e. body mass = 152·1 ± 3·1 g) were reared at four different salinity regimes at a constant temperature of 7·4° C. Two groups were given a three-month acclimation in salinity 18 before the salinity was increased to either 25 or 29 (groups called A25 and A29), and two groups were reared in salinities 25 or 29 over the full experimental period of 409 days (groups called F25 and F29). In the first 3 months, the A25 and A29 groups had the highest growth rates. By October 2011, there were no significant differences (two-way nested ANOVA, P > 0·05) in the mean body masses among A25, F25 and F29 (c. 1450 g), whereas A29 had a lower mean mass (1282 g). The growth in the last period from October 2011 to January 2012 was reduced by sexual maturation in the highest salinity regimes (A29 and F29), whereas fish in groups A25 and F25 showed high growth throughout the study. Males in all salinity groups had higher growth rates than females for the most part of the study, but the divergence between the sexes was most pronounced in the highest salinity regimes. All salinity groups showed distinct changes in Na+, K+-ATPase activity, with high activity in spring and summer, and lower activity in the autumn. Plasma sodium (Na+) levels were stable indicating that none of the experimental groups had problems in maintaining hydromineral balance during the study. While plasma leptin levels were not affected by salinity regimes, it was noted that these levels were 13–30% higher in fish with empty guts compared with those having food in their gut at the time of sampling. This suggests a link between leptin levels and food intake, indicating that this hormone may play a role in food intake and energy allocation in fishes.