Different populations of the whitespotted rabbitfish, Siganus sutor, were examined for ectoparasites: adults from the Mombasa area (sampled in December 1990) and different age classes (adult, subadult and juveniles) from Gazi Bay (sampled in December 1992 and August 1993). The most common gill parasites were: the monogeneans Pseudohaliotrema sp., Tetrancistrum sigani and Microcotyle mouwoi, the copepods Hatschekia sp., Pseudolepeophtheirus sp. and juvenile Caligidae, and prazina larvae of the isopod Gnathia sp. Adult siganids had a higher parasite load than subadults. Juvenile rabbitfish did not harbour any gill parasites. Temporal differences in the parasite load of subadult rabbitfish were observed for M. mouwoi (highest in the December samples) and for juvenile Caligidae (highest in August). The microhabitat of the 5 most common gill parasites was species specific. Most parasite species showed distinct site preferences with respect to both gill arches and gill sectors, within the gill arches. Niche breadth of the different gill parasite species was independent of the abundance of any of the other species present. However, niche breadths of M. mouwoi, Tetrancistrum sp. and Hatschekia sp. increased with their own abundance. This suggests that interspecific competition for space is low and that intraspecific factors could play an important role in the microhabitat choice of these gill parasites. The hypothesis that niche restriction leads to higher intraspecific contact and an enhancement of chances to mate was tested on 2 monogenean species, Pseudohaliotrema sp. and Tetrancistrum sigani. Their highly aggregated distribution over the gill filaments, leading to increased intraspecific contact, is consistent with the hypothesis.