The diploid rainbow trout Oncorhynchus mykiss reached sexual maturity 3 years after hatching and its oogenesis underwent four stages, which were oogonia, primary oocyte, secondary oocyte and egg. Reproductive development and hormone changes of 4 to 35 month-old female O. mykiss were investigated using histological and radioimmunoassay methods in order to provide a theoretical and practical basis for the use of triploid female O. mykiss. The oogonium of the triploid female could develop into the oocytes of the prophase with abortion occurring later; the oogonium was surrounded by stroma cells to form the oogonium cluster and the gonads showed a virilescent tendency when the oogonium clusters were gradually replaced by spermatogenic-like cytocysts. After 13 months, amounts of gonadotropic hormone (GtH-I, GtH-II) and oestradiol (17-E2) in triploid females were lower than in diploid fish at corresponding time periods, but the amounts of testosterone (T) increased consistently after 21 months and were more than in diploid fish in the corresponding time periods (P > 0·05). The infertility of triploid females resulted from meiosis failure, which caused developmental abortion of oocytes and oogonium formed cytocysts before the prophase oocytes. The cytocyst formation was due to the lack of the normal interaction of ovum and follicular cells, the development of follicular cells producing steroids were inhibited, the arylate path from T to 17-E2 was interrupted, concentration of 17-E2 decreased and concentration of T increased in the blood, the content of vitellogenin (Vg) decreased in the liver with a low 17-E2 and high T caused to ovaries to show a tendency to be virilescent.