The Piracema Canal is a complex 10-km fish pass system that climbs 120m to connect the Paran?? River to the Itaipu Reservoir along the Brazil-Paraguay border. The canal was constructed to allow migratory fishes to reach suitable habitats for reproduction and feeding in tributaries upstream from the reservoir. The Piracema Canal attracted 17 of the 19 long-distance migratory species that have been recorded in the Paran?? River Basin and Paraguay-Paran?? Basin. However, the incidence of migratory fish decreased from downstream to upstream, with the pattern of decrease depending on species. Overall, 0.5% of the migratory fish that entered the Piracema Canal and segment 1, eventually were able to reach segment 5 and potentially Itaipu Reservoir. Ascension rate was examined relative to various physical attributes of canal segments; maximum water velocity emerged as the most influential variable affecting fish passage. Water velocity may be manipulated by controlling water discharge, and by re-engineering critical sections of the canal. Because the Itaipu Reservoir flooded a set of falls that separated two distinct biogeographical regions, facilitating fish movements through the Piracema Canal into the Itaipu Reservoir presents a management dilemma that requires deliberation in the context of the fish assemblages rather than on selected migratory species. ?? 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.