Atlantic Salmon Fact File

Salmo Salar

Credit: Hans-Petter Fjeld, CC BY-SA 2.5 <>, via Wikimedia Commons








Wild 3 years

Captive 5 years




Conservation Status


Least Concern

A Tale of Two Waterbodies!

The Atlantic salmon splits its life between rivers and the ocean. Each year the adults perform a migration up rivers where they will spawn their eggs. The young then begin to grow here before moving out in to the ocean as they mature.

Adults feed on a range of smaller fish and invertebrates.

This species is a popular farmed fish and this has led to their stocking in waterbodies across Australia, New Zealand, Chile and Argentina for the production of food.

As climate change rises water temperatures the spawning grounds of these fish may become unsuitable for them to inhabit.

Read on to learn more about these fantastic fish.


What does the Atlantic Salmon look like?

The adult Atlantic salmon is a large silvery fish with blue-black patches along the back. Along their sides they are patterned with black spots.

Their fins and tail are colored a dusky grey color.

When they enter freshwater to spawn they will turn a bronze color. Their scales continue to darken becoming near black by the time they have completed their spawning.

At the end of the body is a large, slightly forked tail which assists them in leaping over objects.

An average Atlantic salmon will measure between 0.7 and 1.5m (2.25-5ft) long. They reach weights of up to 45kg (99lbs).


How does the Atlantic Salmon survive in its habitat?

The muscular body of the Atlantic salmon coupled with its large tail both work to push them over objects that may get in their way as they move along the rivers to their breeding sites.

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What does the Atlantic Salmon eat?

The Atlantic salmon is a carnivore. They feed on small fish and invertebrates.

Learn more about the Atlantic Salmon in this video from NOAA on YouTube


Where do you find the Atlantic Salmon?

As their name suggests these animals ae primarily found in the waters of the Atlantic ocean.

Introductions of the species have occurred for farming purposes in the following countries – Australia, New Zealand, Chile and Argentina.


Where can the Atlantic Salmon survive?

As adults Atlantic salmon are found in oceans where they will move widely while searching out food. They are primarily found in cold water environments and show little tolerance for high temperatures.

Some subpopulations of this species are landlocked and never see the ocean. Instead the oceanic portion of their lifecycle is spent in a large lake.

Juveniles begin their life in clear rivers where the adults have travelled briefly to lay their eggs. They require these rivers to be large with gravel bottoms and cool temperatures.

Atlantic Salmon (Salmo salar)

Credit: Nicolás from seno de reloncaví, Chile, CC BY-SA 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons


How does the Atlantic Salmon produce its young?

The Atlantic salmon will make its way from the sea in to rivers to lay their eggs. Adults return to the same river where they hatched to lay their eggs. To reach the upper portions of the river where they breed they are able to leap over most obstacles in their way. On their journey they rarely feed.

Females will deposit their eggs in hollows in the gravel with a male laying next to her and fertilizing the eggs. While the female is laying her eggs he will drive away any other males which come close. They will repeat this process multiple times over the course of a week.

Their eggs are colored a pale orange color. Each female can deposit up to 7,500 eggs.

Unlike most salmon which only survive for one breeding season this species may return to the ocean and rest for one to two years before breeding again.

Young hatch around April but remain buried in the gravel till their yolk sac is absorbed which may take another month.

Soon after hatching the young begin to hunt for small invertebrates.

They will spend their first year of life in the rivers before moving out to the sea.

Adults first breed at between three and four years old.

Young are known as fry or alevins.


What does the Atlantic Salmon do during its day?

While they are young the Atlantic salmon will live in schools with other fry for protection. They may continue to live in loose aggregations as adults.

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Predators and Threats

What stops the Atlantic Salmon from surviving and thriving?

Large farming operations exist to supply the trade in Atlantic salmon. Within the waters of the United States the species is protect by law and taking of it is prohibited.

A looming threat to this species is climate change. As rivers begin to warm they will become unsuitable for the laying of eggs causing the decline of entire subpopulations.

These fish are regularly targeted by recreational fishers.

Quick facts

They are also known as the landlocked salmon, sea run salmon, black salmon or the fiddler.

Atlantic Salmon (Salmo salar)

Credit: Public Domain


Burnie, D., 2011. Animal. 3rd ed. London: DK

Howard, J., 2019. Encyclopedia of animals. Wide Eyed Editions.

Renzi, V. 1999. "Salmo salar" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed March 06, 2022 at

World Conservation Monitoring Centre. 1996. Salmo salar. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 1996: e.T19855A9026693. Accessed on 06 March 2022.

Oceana. 2022. Atlantic Salmon. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 6 March 2022].

NOAA. 2022. Atlantic Salmon. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 6 March 2022].

VFA. 2022. Atlantic salmon. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 6 March 2022].

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