The present study investigated (1) the free amino acid (FAA) composition in semen of rainbow trout Oncorhynchus mykiss and carp Cyprinus carpio, (2) enzyme systems involved in amino acid metabolism and (3) the effect of amino acids on sperm viability under in vitro storage conditions. In the seminal plasma of O. mykiss, the main FAAs were arginine, glutamic acid, isoleucine, leucine, methionine and proline, in spermatozoa cysteine, arginine and methionine. In the seminal plasma of C. carpio, the main FAAs were alanine, arginine, cysteine, glutamic acid, histidine, leucine, lysine, methionine and proline, in spermatozoa arginine, glutamic acid, histidine, leucine and lysine. When spermatozoa were incubated for 48 h together with the seminal plasma, the quantitative amino acid pattern changed in both species indicating their metabolism. In spermatozoa and seminal plasma of O. mykiss and C. carpio, the following enzymes were found to be related to amino acid metabolism: transaminases (specific for alanine, aspartate, isoleucine and leucine), decarboxylases (specific for valine and lysine), glutamate dehydrogenase and alpha-keto acid dehydrogenases (substrates: 3-methyl-2-oxovaleric acid and 4-methyl-2-oxovalerate). These data demonstrate that amino acid catabolism by transamination, decarboxylation and oxidative deamination can occur in semen of the two species. Also activity of methionine sulphoxide reductase was detected, an enzyme which reduces methionine sulphoxide to methionine. This reaction plays an important role in antioxidant defence. To determine the effect of FAAs on the sperm viability, C. carpio and O. mykiss spermatozoa were incubated in sperm motility inhibiting saline solution containing different amino acids. Methionine had a positive effect on the sperm viability in both species. Taken together this result with the in vivo occurrence of methionine and of methionine reductase in semen, it can be assumed that this amino acid plays an important role in antioxidant defence. Also isoleucine in O. mykiss and leucine in C. carpio had a positive effect on sperm viability. As seminal plasma and spermatozoa of the two species exhibit enzyme activities to catabolize leucine and isoleucine, they might serve as additional energy resources especially during prolonged incubation and storage periods.