dos Santos Gauy, A. C., Bolognesi, M. C., Gonçalves-de-Freitas, E. 2022. Long-term body tactile stimulation reduces aggression and improves productive performance in Nile tilapia groups. Scientific Reports 12(1), 20239.
One concern of the Anthropocene is the effects of human activities on animal welfare, revealing the urgency to mitigate impacts of rearing environments. Body tactile stimulation (TS), like massage therapy, has emerged as an enrichment method to counteract stress and anxiety in vertebrates. In the current study, we evaluated the effects of long-term TS on four-member groups of male Nile tilapia, a worldwide reared species whose socially aggressive behavior is an essential source of stress. We placed a rectangular PVC frame fitted with vertical plastic sticks sided with silicone bristles in the center of aquarium to enable the fish to receive body TS when passing through the bristles. A similar apparatus without bristles was used as the control. Fish subjected to TS for 21 days showed a gradual lowering of overt fights over time, but with no reduction in cortisol or androgen levels. Nevertheless, TS improved the specific growth rate, maintained balanced length/weight gain, and increased feed efficiency, probably owing to the lowered energy expenditure during fights. Thus, we show for the first time that long-term TS provided by a simple device can be used as a tool to improve the welfare and productive performance of territorial fish.