In this review we provide an overview of the components of the spermatozoa playing an important role in reproductive success beyond fertilization, showing the relationship between the integrity of the diverse elements and the development of a healthy offspring. The present knowledge about fish sperm chromatin organization, epigenetic modifications of DNA and histones and sperm-borne RNAs, essential in controlling embryo development, is summarized, pointing out the possibility of using specific genes or transcripts as biomarkers of sperm quality. Data about commercial species are reported when available and more detailed information about zebrafish sperm is presented.
Considering the implications that the integrity of sperm genome and epigenome has on the preservation of a proper genotype and phenotype in the progeny, the methods applied for the study of chromatin damage and for the study of transcriptome are described. Moreover we discuss some injuring agents affecting paternal information, from the presence of contaminants in the aquatic environment, to the reproductive practices applied in fish farming. The consequences of fertilizing with damaged spermatozoa, as well as the zygotic ability to repair damage are also reviewed.