The serotonin system modulates a wide variety of emotional behaviors and states, including reward processing, anxiety, and social interaction. To reveal the underlying patterns of neural activity, we visualized serotonergic neurons in the dorsal raphe nucleus (DRN5-HT) of mice using miniaturized microscopy during diverse emotional behaviors. We discovered ensembles of cells with highly correlated activity and found that DRN5-HT neurons are preferentially recruited by emotionally salient stimuli as opposed to neutral stimuli. Individual DRN5-HT neurons responded to diverse combinations of salient stimuli, with some preference for valence and sensory modality. Anatomically defined subpopulations projecting to either a reward-related structure (the ventral tegmental area) or an anxiety-related structure (the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis) contained all response types but were enriched in reward- and anxiety-responsive cells, respectively. Our results suggest that the DRN serotonin system responds to emotional salience using ensembles with mixed selectivity and biases in downstream connectivity.