Résumé: In teleosts, the regulation of hydromineral balance has a direct impact on several physiological functions, biochemical processes, and can influence behaviour, distribution and survival. As European sea bass Dicentrarchus labrax undertake seasonal migrations from seawater (SW) to brackish, estuarine and fresh water (FW) in their habitat, this study investigates their capacity to tolerate fresh water and explores intraspecific variations in physiological responses. Juvenile D. labrax were transferred from SW to FW at various ages. Freshwater-tolerant and non-tolerant phenotypes were discriminated according to behavioural and morphological characteristics. About 30% of the fish exposed to FW were identified as freshwater intolerant following FW challenges performed at different ages. Interestingly, intolerant fish exhibited the same phenotypic traits: erratic swimming, lower speed, isolation from the shoal and darker colour. Freshwater-intolerant fish were also characterised by a significant lower blood osmolality compared to tolerant fish, and significantly lower Na+/K+-ATPase alpha 1a expression in the posterior kidney. An imbalance in ion regulatory mechanisms was further confirmed by a blood Na+/Cl- ratio imbalance observed in some freshwater-intolerant fish. The analysis of glucocorticoid and mineralocorticoid receptor expression levels in gills and kidney revealed significant differences between freshwater-intolerant and -tolerant fish in both organs, suggesting differential stress-related responses. This study clearly shows an intraspecific difference in the responses following FW transfer with a decreased renal ion uptake capacity as a major cause for freshwater intolerance.