Potamodromous teleosts that require migration to reproduce show dysfunctions that block ovulation and spawning while in captivity. To understand the physiological basis of these reproductive dysfunctions, follicle-stimulating hormone b subunit (fshb) and luteinizing hormone b subunit (lhb) gene expression analyses by real-time quantitative PCR, together with measurements of estradiol (E 2), 17α-hydroxyprogesterone (17α-OHP) and 17α,20β-dihydroxy-4-pregnen-3-one (17α,20β-DHP) levels, were carried out throughout the reproductive cycle of the potamodromous Salminus hilarii. The following reproductive stages were evaluated in captive and wild females: previtellogenic (PV), advanced maturation/mature (AM) and regression/spent (REG/SPENT). In the wild females, fshb expression decreased from the PV to the AM stage, and the opposite pattern was detected for E 2, which increased from the PV to the AM stage. fshb was expressed at lower levels in captive than in wild females, and this difference did not change during the reproductive cycle. lhb expression also increased from the PV to the AM stage in both groups, but the wild females at the AM and REG/SPENT stages showed higher lhb expression levels than the captive females. The concentrations of 17α-OHP did not change during the reproductive cycle, and the levels were higher in the captive than in the wild females at all reproductive stages. 17α,20β-DHP levels did not change between wild and captive females. However, in captive females, the transition from PV to AM stage was followed by an increase in 17α,20β-DHP levels. These data indicate that dysfunctions in the gonadotropins and steroids synthesis pathways cause the ovulation failure in captive S. hilarii.