To determine the optimum indispensable (I) amino acid (AA) balance in Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar L.) fry, a single protocol established for the pig was adapted. The balance was calculated from the reduction in N gain after replacing about 45% of a single IAA by a mixture of dispensable AA in isonitrogenous diets. We confirmed that the mixture of AA simulating the AA pattern of cod-meal protein and gelatine (46:3, w/w) was used with the same efficiency as cod-meal protein and gelatine. From the deletion experiment an optimum balance between the IAA was derived. Expressed relative to lysine=100, the optimal balance was: arginine 76 (se 0·2), histidine 28 (se 2·2), methionine+cystine 64 (se 1·7), phenylalanine + tyrosine 105 (se 1·6), threonine 51 (se 2·4), tryptophan 14 (se 0·7), valine 59 (se 1·7). No estimates were made for isoleucine and leucine. Expressed as g/16g N, the optimal balance was: arginine 4·0 (se 0·0), histidine 1·5 (se 0·1), lysine 5·3 (se 0·2), methionine+cystine 3·4 (se 0·1), phenylaline+tyrosine 5·6 (se 0·1), threonine 2·7 (se 0·1), tryptophan 0·7 (se 0·0), valine 3·1 (se 0·1). This AA composition is close to that of the Atlantic salmon whole-body, but using it as an estimation of the IAA requirements may lead to an overestimation of the branched-chain AA requirements and an underestimation of aromatic and S-containing AA requirements. The results are discussed in accordance with the key assumptions associated with the model used (broken-line model, IAA efficiencies and maintenance requirements).