Lee, C. J., Paull, G. C., Tyler, C. R. 2019. Effects of environmental enrichment on survivorship, growth, sex ratio and behaviour in laboratory maintained zebrafish Danio rerio. Journal of Fish Biology 94(1), 86-95.
Environmental enrichment involves increasing the complexity of a fish's environment in order to improve welfare. Researchers are legally obliged to consider the welfare of laboratory animals and poor welfare may result in less robust data in experimental science. Laboratory zebrafish Danio rerio are usually kept in bare aquaria for ease of husbandry and, despite being a well-studied species, little is known about how laboratory housing affects their welfare. This study shows that environmental enrichment, in the form of the addition of gravel substratum and plants into the tank, affects survivorship, growth and behaviour in laboratory-maintained D. rerio. Larvae reared in enriched tanks had significantly higher survivorship compared with larvae reared in bare tanks. Effects of the tank conditions on growth were more variable. Females from enriched tanks had a higher body condition than females maintained in bare tanks, but intriguingly this was not the case for males, where the only difference was a more variable body condition in males maintained in bare tanks. Sex ratio in the rearing tanks did not differ between treatments. Resource monopolisation was higher for fish in enriched tanks than for those in bare tanks. Fish from enriched tanks displayed lower levels of behaviours associated with anxiety compared with fish from bare tanks when placed into a novel environment. Thus, this study demonstrates differences in welfare for D. rerio maintained under different environmental conditions with enhancements in welfare more commonly associated with tank enrichment.