Voluntary wheel running has long been known to induce precursor cell proliferation in adult hippocampal neurogenesis in rodents. However, mechanisms that couple activity with the promitotic effect are not yet fully understood. Using tryptophan hydroxylase (TPH) 2 deficient (Tph2-deficient) mice that lack brain serotonin, we explored the relationship between serotonin signaling and exercise-induced neurogenesis. Surprisingly, Tph2-deficient mice exhibit normal baseline hippocampal neurogenesis but impaired activity-induced proliferation. Our data demonstrate that the proproliferative effect of running requires the release of central serotonin in young-adult and aged mice. Lack of brain serotonin further results in alterations at the stage of Sox2-positive precursor cells, suggesting physiological adaptations to changes in serotonin supply to maintain homeostasis in the neurogenic niche. We conclude that serotonin plays a direct and acute regulatory role in activity-dependent hippocampal neurogenesis. The understanding of exercise-induced neurogenesis might offer preventive but also therapeutic opportunities in depression and age-related cognitive decline.