Under conditions of food deprivation the lipid fraction of red seabream (Pagrus major) larvae shows patterns of conservation or loss in the profile of fatty acids and lipids. These changes were used for qualitative formulation of the dietary requirements of this species. Red seabream larvae were deprived of food for 5d after hatching. Their lipid was extracted, weighed and analysed by gas-liquid chromatography and iatroscan for the presence of twenty-four fatty acids including n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), four polar lipids (PL) and four neutral lipids (NL). The results show an exponential decline in lipids with food deprivation, from a mean of 27.7 down to 11.8 mg/g wet larvae weight (LW). This loss could mainly be attributed to a decline in NL from 22.4 to 7.7 mg/g LW, in triacylglycerols, from 21 to 1 mg/g LW, and a change in cholesterol, from 1.3 to 4.2 mg/g LW after 5 d of food deprivation. PL declined from 5.3 to 4.1 mg/g LW in this period. The chief components of this fraction were phosphatidyl choline, and phosphatidyl ethanolamine. Among the fatty acids, the chief decline was observed in saturates and monoenes. Carbon chain lengths of 14 to 18 made up 18.2 mg/g LW in hatched larvae, but only 4.8 mg/g LW in larvae which were deprived of food for 5 d after hatching. n-3 PUFA were lost at a slower rate, from 5.4 to 3.5 mg/g LW for the same period, suggesting that they were conserved. Finally, early larvae of red seabream showed a reduced rate of loss of n-6 relative to n-9 fatty acids, suggesting that the latter were used preferentially as an energy source.