A factorial experiment involving eight diets and three feeding periods was conducted to determine the minimal level of dietary phosphorus required to maintain survival, growth, and processing characteristics of post-juvenile rainbow trout. Trout were reared to an average size of 200, 300, or 400 g using a commercial feed (1.20% P), then allotted by triplicate groups of nine fish to one of seven experimental diets containing logarithmic increments of dietary phosphorus (0.15%%, 0.21%, 0.30%, 0.42%, 0.60%, 0.85%, and 1.20% P) or a commercial trout feed (1.20% P). At an average weight of 550 g, fish were transported to a commercial processing plant, mechanically filleted, and evaluated for quality. Fish survival and weight gain increased quadratically with increased dietary phosphorus for fish started on treatment at 200 and 300 g, but were similar among all fish started at 400 g. Phosphorus retention decreased with increasing dietary phosphorus level, from approximately 88% in groups fed diets containing 0.21% phosphorus to between 23% and 32% in groups fed diets containing 0.85% phosphorus. Calculated phosphorus losses increased as dietary phosphorus levels increased, from a low of approximately 0.4 g phosphorus kg-1 fish weight gain to between 9.5 and 13 g phosphorus kg-1 fish weight gain at the highest dietary phosphorus level. Dietary phosphorus did not affect carcass moisture, protein, lipid, or ash, but carcass phosphorus increased with increased dietary phosphorus among fish started on treatment at 200 and 300 g. There were no differences among any treatment group in carcass dressing or finishing percentage, or visual or textural appeal. The results indicate that available phosphorus levels can be reduced in rainbow trout diets to 0.60% at 200 g, to 0.30% at 300 g, or to 0.15% at 400 g live weight without loss in production or product quality in fish harvested at 550 g. Using these phase-feeding strategies would reduce the amount of phosphorus fed to the fish over the production cycle by 25%, and the amount lost to the environment by 12.5% for fish starting at 300 or 400 g. ?? 2004 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.