The innate immune system is the only defence weapon of invertebrates and a fundamental defence mechanism of fish. The innate system also plays an instructive role in the acquired immune response and homeostasis and is therefore equally important in higher vertebrates. The innate system's recognition of non-self and danger signals is served by a limited number of germ-line encoded pattern recognition receptors/proteins, which recognise pathogen associated molecular patterns like bacterial and fungal glycoproteins and lipopolysaccharides and intracellular components released through injury or infection. The innate immune system is divided into physical barriers, cellular and humoral components. Humoral parameters include growth inhibitors, various lytic enzymes and components of the complement pathways, agglutinins and precipitins (opsonins, primarily lectins), natural antibodies, cytokines, chemokines and antibacterial peptides. Several external and internal factors can influence the activity of innate immune parameters. Temperature changes, handling and crowding stress can have suppressive effects on innate parameters, whereas several food additives and immunostimulants can enhance different innate factors. There is limited data available about the ontogenic development of the innate immunological system in fish. Active phagocytes, complement components and enzyme activity, like lysozyme and cathepsins, are present early in the development, before or soon after hatching.