Farmed salmon feeds have changed from purely marine-based diets with high levels of EPA and DHA in the 1990s to the current 70 % plant-based diets with low levels of these fatty acids (FA). The aim of this study was to establish the impacts of low dietary EPA and DHA levels on performance and tissue integrity of Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar). Atlantic salmon (50 g) in seawater were fed fourteen experimental diets, containing five levels (0, 0·5, 1·0, 1·5 and 2·0 %) of EPA, DHA or a 1:1 EPA+DHA plus control close to a commercial diet, to a final weight of 400 g. Lack of EPA and DHA did not influence mortality, but the n-3-deficient group exhibited moderately slower growth than those fed levels above 0·5 %. The heart and brain conserved EPA and DHA levels better than skeletal muscle, liver, skin and intestine. Decreased EPA and DHA favoured deposition of pro-inflammatory 20 : 4n-6 and 20 : 3n-6 FA in membrane phospholipids in all tissues. When DHA was excluded from diets, 18 : 3n-3 and EPA were to a large extent converted to DHA. Liver, skeletal and cardiac muscle morphology was normal in all groups, with the exception of cytoplasm packed with large or foamy vacuoles and sometimes swollen enterocytes of intestine in both deficient and EPA groups. DHA supplementation supported normal intestinal structure, and 2·0 % EPA+DHA alleviated deficiency symptoms. Thus, EPA and DHA dietary requirements cannot be based exclusively on growth; tissue integrity and fish health also need to be considered.