Visible implant elastomer (VIE) was evaluated as a method for individual marking of small perch Perca fluviatilis and common bully Gobiomorphus cotidianus to use in capture–recapture studies. Growth, survival and mark retention was measured in 25 VIE marked and 15 unmarked fish of each species during a 125 day laboratory experiment. Marking had no effect on growth or survival of either species and mark retention in perch was 100%. Common bully mark retention was high for the initial 30 days but decreased to 72% by the end of the experiment. VIE marking provided an excellent method for individual identification of small perch over periods of at least 125 days, but improvements to common bully mark retention are necessary if VIE is to be used in capture–recapture studies >30 days.