Tsang, B., Gerlai, R. T. 2022. Common aquarium plants as an enrichment strategy in zebrafish

An increasing number of laboratories utilize zebrafish as this species is now represented in practically every subfield of biology research. Environmental enrichment has been shown to improve welfare and health of a large number of species of animals studied in laboratories, kept in zoos, or used in agriculture. However, most laboratories keep zebrafish in barren tanks. Artificial and live aquatic plants have been used in a variety of contexts for aquarium fish, and they have also been suggested as a potential enrichment strategy for the zebrafish. However, no systematic studies have been conducted to investigate their beneficial effects in zebrafish husbandry and biology research. In this study, we review some of the potential benefits of using live plants, and argue that systematic analyses for proper choice and use of live plants in zebrafish husbandry are sorely needed. We provide a few examples of aquatic plant species out of the large variety produced for the aquarium hobby that could be adopted to the zebrafish laboratory setting as environmental enrichment. We speculate that once systematic analyses have been conducted, they will show benefits of this ethologically/ecologically relevant enrichment method, one of which will be healthier and less stressed fish leading to increased reproducibility of results in zebrafish research.

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