Two in vitro experiments were conducted to analyse the effects of replacing dietary barley grain with wastes of tomato and cucumber fruits and a 1 : 1 tomato : cucumber mixture on rumen fermentation characteristics and microbial abundance. The control (CON) substrate contained 250 g/kg of barley grain on a dry matter (DM) basis, and another 15 substrates were formulated by replacing 50, 100, 150, 200 or 250 g of barley grain/kg with the same amount (DM basis) of tomato or cucumber fruits or 1 : 1 tomato : cucumber mixture. In Expt 1, all substrates were incubated in batch cultures with rumen micro-organisms from goats for 24 h. Increasing amounts of tomato, cucumber and the mixture of both fruits in the substrate increased final pH and gas production, without changes in final ammonia-nitrogen (NH3-N) concentrations, substrate degradability and total volatile fatty acid (VFA) production, indicating that there were no detrimental effects of any waste fruits on rumen fermentation. Therefore, in Expt 2 the substrates including 250 g of waste fruits (T250, C250 and M250 for tomato, cucumber and the mixture of both fruits, respectively) and the CON substrate were incubated in single-flow continuous-culture fermenters for 8 days. Total VFA production did not differ among substrates, but there were differences in VFA profile. Molar proportions of propionate, isobutyrate and isovalerate were lower and acetate : propionate ratio was greater for T250 compared with CON substrate. Fermentation of substrates containing cucumber (C250 and M250) resulted in lower proportions of acetate, isobutyrate and isovalerate and acetate : propionate ratio, but greater butyrate proportions than the CON substrate. Carbohydrate degradability and microbial N synthesis tended to be lower for substrates containing cucumber than for the CON substrate, but there were no differences between CON and T250 substrates. Abundance of total bacteria, Fibrobacter succinogenes and Ruminococcus flavefaciens, fungi, methanogenic archaea and protozoa were similar in fermenters fed T250 and CON substrates, but fermenters fed C250 and M250 substrates had lower abundances of R. flavefaciens, fungi and protozoa than those fed the CON substrate. Results indicated that tomato fruits could replace dietary barley grain up to 250 g/kg of substrate DM without noticeable effects on rumen fermentation and microbial populations, but the inclusion of cucumber fruits at 250 g/kg of substrate DM negatively affected some microbial populations as it tended to reduce microbial N synthesis and changed the VFA profile. More studies are needed to identify the dietary inclusion level of cucumber which produces no detrimental effects on rumen fermentation and microbial growth.