Animals have developed the means for supporting complex and dynamic consortia of microorganisms during their life cycle. A transcendent view of vertebrate biology therefore requires an understanding of the contributions of these indigenous microbial communities to host development and adult physiology. These contributions are most obvious in the gut, where studies of gnotobiotic mice have disclosed that the microbiota affects a wide range of biological processes, including nutrient processing and absorption, development of the mucosal immune system, angiogenesis, and epithelial renewal. The zebrafish (Danio rerio) provides an opportunity to investigate the molecular mechanisms underlying these interactions through genetic and chemical screens that take advantage of its transparency during larval and juvenile stages. Therefore, we developed methods for producing and rearing germ-free zebrafish through late juvenile stages. DNA microarray comparisons of gene expression in the digestive tracts of 6 days post fertilization germ-free, conventionalized, and conventionally raised zebrafish revealed 212 genes regulated by the microbiota, and 59 responses that are conserved in the mouse intestine, including those involved in stimulation of epithelial proliferation, promotion of nutrient metabolism, and innate immune responses. The microbial ecology of the digestive tracts of conventionally raised and conventionalized zebrafish was characterized by sequencing libraries of bacterial 16S rDNA amplicons. Colonization of germ-free zebrafish with individual members of its microbiota revealed the bacterial species specificity of selected host responses. Together, these studies establish gnotobiotic zebrafish as a useful model for dissecting the molecular foundations of host-microbial interactions in the vertebrate digestive tract.