In situ experiments were run with the seastar Asterias rubens to investigate the influence of epibiosis on predation preferences. Mussels (Mytilus edulis) monospecifically fouled by different epibiont species (the barnacle Balanus improvisus, the red filamentous alga Ceramium strictum, the sponge Halichondria panicea and the hydrozoan Laomedea flexuosa) and macroscopically clean mussels were exposed and seastar predation was monitored by SCUBA. Asterias rubens preferred macroscopical unfouled mussels as prey. Fouling generally reduced predation pressure on the mussel hosts (associational resistance). Barnacles protected mussels less efficiently than hydrozoans or algae. We hypothesize that in top-down controlled communities this influence of epibiosis on predation pressure should affect mussel community patterns. A survey of natural mussel epibiont distribution in the presence or absence of A. rubens showed that the prevalence of differently fouled mussels differed between predation-exposed and predation-protected habitats. Natural mussel-epibiont associations reflected the preferential predation of the major local predators. Additionally, higher epibiotic diversity and evenness could be observed at locations accessible to benthic predators as compared with habitats protected from predation. As blue mussels and seastars are important structuring and controlling elements in the shallow water community of Kiel Fjord, major consequences of epibiosis on the entire system are discussed.