Krueger, L. D., Thurston, S. E., Kirk, J. et al. 2020. Enrichment preferences of singly housed zebrafish (Danio rerio). JAALAS 59(2), 148–155.
Despite the increasing popularity of zebrafish (Danio rerio) as an animal model, the environmental enrichment preferences of this species have been largely unexplored. We sought to determine the preferences of mature female zebrafish that were singly housed with or without access to one of 10 inanimate forms of enrichment. As a marker of preference, in-tank fish location was observed by video recording. All subjects showed a preference for the front of the tank when caretakers entered the room, demonstrating an effect of human presence on tank location. Among the 10 enrichment items tested, subjects showed the strongest preference for mirrored paper on the side of the tank when compared with the barren half of the tank. Fish also were observed interacting with PVC pipe, marbles, and tulle. Given the preference for enrichment imitating social interaction, we conducted a second study to assess the value of visual exposure of conspecifics in adjacent tanks. The experimental zebrafish were then provided one of 3 conditions—a singly housed neighbor fish, group-housed neighbor fish, or no neighbor fish. All zebrafish housed next to neighboring fish showed a preference to be on the side of the tank nearer to the other fish. Overall, our data indicate that singly housed zebrafish prefer enrichment items that resemble or promote social behaviors. Therefore items such as mirrored paper or housing next to conspecifics should be strongly considered as enrichment strategies for singly housed zebrafish.