Gallas-Lopes, M., Benvenutti, R., Donzelli, N. I. Z. et al. 2023. A systematic review of the impact of environmental enrichment in zebrafish. Lab Animal 52(12), 332-343.

Environmental enrichment (EE) consists of a series of interventions carried out in the home environment to promote greater exposure to sensory stimuli and mimic the natural habitat of laboratory-housed animals, providing environments closer to those found in nature. Some studies have shown the positive effects of EE in zebrafish housed in a laboratory environment. However, this evidence is still recent and accompanied by contradictory results. Furthermore, there is great variability in the protocols applied and in the conditions of the tests, tanks and materials used to generate an enriched environment. This substantial variability can bring many uncertainties to the development of future studies and hinder the reproducibility and replicability of research. Here, in this context, we carried out a systematic review of the literature, aiming to provide an overview of the EE protocols used in zebrafish research. The literature search was performed in PubMed, Scopus and Web of Science and the studies were selected on the basis of predefined inclusion/exclusion criteria. A total of 901 articles were identified in the databases, and 27 of those studies were included in this review. We conducted data extraction and risk-of-bias analysis in the included studies. Among these studies, the effect of EE was evaluated in two different ways: (1) for animal welfare and (2) as an intervention to prevent behavioral, biochemical, molecular, developmental and breeding dysfunctions. Although the EE protocols in zebrafish presented a series of experimental differences, the results showed that the benefits of the EE for zebrafish were consistent. According to the results described here, the use of EE in the zebrafish home tank improves welfare and may reduce sources of bias in scientific research. However, it is still necessary to develop standardized protocols to improve the application of EE in scientific studies using zebrafish.

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