Pristine River Habitat - Image found at

Atlantic Salmon alternate habitats. This has to do with the salmon's unique life cycle. Depending on the location of the river that the salmon is born in, it may spend between one and four years there before it migrates to the ocean.
It will stay in the ocean and feed until it is time to reproduce.

Atlantic Salmon are generally found in rivers and tributaries that lead into the Atlantic Ocean...go figure ;) The Atlantic Ocean is where Atlantic Salmon spend majority of their time feeding and growing.  The ocean has a much better supply of nutritious food than many of the rivers. When the salmon migrate back to the rivers to reproduce, they do not eat at all.

Rivers need to have very gravelly bottoms to support young salmon.  The rivers are the nesting and birthing grounds for Atlantic Salmon.  A gravelly bottom provides a place for the female salmon to dig her nest, or redd, and is a safe place for the young salmon to hide and feed during the critical stages of life.


Image Provided by Gilbert van Ryckevorsel

Water temperatures between 4˚ and 12˚C are preferred by the salmon.  The lethal limit for a salmon habitat is -.7˚C on the low end and 27.8˚C on the high end. 

Salmon Travel Routes - Image Found at

The map above shows the different traveling routes of Atlantic Salmon.  Salmon swim as far north as Ungava Bay in northern Quebec and as far south at the Connecticut River.  In the past, high numbers of salmon were found in rivers that empty into Lake Ontario.  On the eastern side on the Atlantic Ocean, salmon swim as far northeast as the Pechora River near the Ural Mountains of Europe and as far south as the border between Portugal and Spain (Atlantic Salmon Federation).

Salmon in Ocean Habitat - Image Courtesy of Hans-Petter Fjeld - Young Salmon in River Habitat - Image Courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service






Photo by Hans-Petter Fjeld

Most Atlantic Salmon adaptations pertain to their habitat and means of feeding.  The sleek design of a salmon allows it to quickly escape predators and also be an efficient predator itself. The lateral line (visible where the color of the fish changes from dark, towards the dorsal fin, to light ,towards the pelvic fin) of a salmon serves one important purpose.  It a major sensory tool. The lateral lines allows the salmon to detect movement of other fish and water currents.  Being able to detect water currents is very important for the salmon because it needs to be able to tell which way is up stream and which way is down stream to migrate the correct direction.

The other highly notable adaptation in salmon is their gills.  Atlantic Salmon have four sets of gills with specialized cells that allow them to migrate between salt and fresh water.  The four sets also allow for efficient dissolving of oxygen.


Let's find out what types of FOOD are available for Salmo salar in these habitats!


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Site Designed by Lauren Webb - Last Updated: 4.15.09
University of Wisconsin - La Crosse
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