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The effect of flow turbulence on the swimming speed was studied in perch (Perca fluviatilis) with different body length. The critical flow rate was used as an index of fish swimming performance. The longer was the fish, the higher turbulence was required to decrease the critical flow rate. The mechanism of turbulence impact on fish locomotion relied on the vortex structure of the flow. The torque produced by hydrodynamic forces in a vortex favors fish overturn and loss of balance. Such effect of turbulence was observed when the sizes of the vortex and fish body were similar. The fish uses the pectoral fins to restore the balance, which increases their hydraulic resistance and, together with energy expenditure for spatial balance control, decreases the swimming speed.