The present study was carried out to investigate whether the dietary histidine requirement to reduce cataract development is higher than that for growth in Atlantic salmon smolts (Salmo salar L.) after seawater transfer and whether dietary vegetable oils contribute to cataractogenesis. Duplicate groups of salmon smolts were fed ten experimental diets with either fish oil (FO) or a vegetable oil (VO) mix replacing 70 % FO and histidine at five target levels (10, 12, 14, 16 and 18 g His/kg diet) for 13 weeks after seawater transfer. The VO diet-fed fish exhibited somewhat inferior growth and feed intakes compared with the FO diet-fed fish, irrespective of the dietary histidine concentration. Both cataract prevalence and severity were negatively correlated with the dietary histidine concentration, while lens N-acetyl-histidine (NAH) concentrations were positively correlated with it. The fatty acid profiles of muscle, heart and lens reflected that of the dietary oils to a descending degree and did not affect the observed cataract development. Muscle, heart and brain histidine concentrations reflected dietary histidine concentrations, while the corresponding tissue imidazole (anserine, carnosine and NAH) concentrations appeared to saturate differently with time. The expression level of liver histidase was not affected by the dietary histidine concentration, while the liver antioxidant response was affected in the VO diet-fed fish on a transcriptional level. The lowest severity of cataracts could be achieved by feeding 13·4 g His/kg feed, independently of the dietary lipid source. However, the present study also suggests that the dietary histidine requirement to minimise the risk of cataract development is 14·4 g His/kg feed.