Stevens, C. H., Reed, B. T., Hawkins, P. 2021. Enrichment for laboratory zebrafish—A review of the evidence and the challenges. Animals 11(3), 698.
Good practice for the housing and care of laboratory zebrafish Danio rerio is an increasingly discussed topic, with focus on appropriate water quality parameters, stocking densities, feeding regimes, anaesthesia and analgesia practices, methods of humane killing, and more. One area of current attention is around the provision of environmental enrichment. Enrichment is accepted as an essential requirement for meeting the behavioural needs and improving the welfare of many laboratory animal species, but in general, provision for zebrafish is minimal. Some of those involved in the care and use of zebrafish suggest there is a ‘lack of evidence’ that enrichment has welfare benefits for this species, or cite a belief that zebrafish do not ‘need’ enrichment. Concerns are also sometimes raised around the practical challenges of providing enrichments, or that they may impact on the science being undertaken. However, there is a growing body of evidence suggesting that various forms of enrichment are preferred by zebrafish over a barren tank, and that enriched conditions can improve welfare by reducing stress and anxiety. This review explores the effects that enrichment can have on zebrafish behaviour, physiology and welfare, and considers the challenges to facilities of providing more enrichment for the zebrafish they house.