Arctic charr, Salvelinus alpinus (L.), held in fresh water, were fed four experimental diets containing different polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA). In addition, one group fed a diet containing only coconut oil as sole lipid source served as control. The population of aerobic heterotrophic bacteria associated with the epithelial mucosa and the faecalia was estimated using the dilution plate technique. Generally, the population level of adherent bacteria increased along the digestive tract (stomach, small intestine and large intestine). Adherent Gram-negative and Gram-positive bacteria seemed to be present at equal levels in all parts of the alimentary tract. Lactic acid bacteria dominated among the Gram-positive bacteria, and they were detected in all regions of fish fed the PUFA supplemented diets. The frequency of lactic acid bacteria was highest in the digestive tract of fish fed diets with added 7·0% linolenic acid (18:3 n-3) or 4% of a PUFA mix. A lower frequency of lactic acid bacteria was found in fish fed dietary linoleic acid (18:2 n-6), and they were absent or present in low numbers in fish fed the coconut oil diet. It is suggested that dietary fatty acids affect the attachment sites for the gastrointestinal microbiota, possibly by modifying the fatty acid composition of the intestine wall. Numerical taxonomy procedures showed that the lactic acid bacteria Carnobacterium spp. and a Carnobacterium piscicola-like strain were predominant, with smaller numbers of Lactobacillus plantarum, Streptococcus spp. and Leuconostoc mesenteroides present. Seven strains of Carnobacterium spp. were further identified on the basis of 16S rDNA sequence analysis, and all these strains were identified as Carnobacterium piscicola.