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Does Providing Hiding Spaces for Zebrafish in Large Groups Reduce Aggressive Behaviour?

Czeszyk, Aleksandra; Burn, Charlotte; Russell, Claire


Aleksandra Czeszyk

Charlotte Burn

Claire Russell


There are extensive studies investigating the effects of enrichment on the welfare and behaviour of commonly used laboratory animals. However, when it comes to zebrafish, Danio rerio, there is limited knowledge available regarding what type of enrichment is beneficial to this species. More evidence needs to be collected to determine if providing refugia has a significant effect on reducing aggressive behaviours seen in laboratory zebrafish, typically housed in groups of 20 - 49. In this study, we observed the frequency of aggressive behaviours of zebrafish in their home tanks when the tanks were barren and enriched with a pup tent, lily pad or artificial plant. The frequency of enrichment use was also recorded. Then, a preference test was performed to see which enrichment the fish would select when given the choice. A significant reduction in aggression was seen with the pup tent and artificial plant (p = 0.0036 and p = 0.0047 respectively). When given the choice, zebrafish had a significant preference for the artificial plant and lily pad (p < 0.0001 for both). This study also revealed that enrichment had no negative effects on water quality when tested over a period of a week. In conclusion, the results indicate that providing refugia reduces the frequency of aggressive behaviours in zebrafish and that their choices are influenced by social context within home tanks. This knowledge can be used to enhance laboratory conditions and to ensure that humane and ethical methods are used in scientific research worldwide to promote animal welfare.


Czeszyk, A., Burn, C., & Russell, C. (in press). Does Providing Hiding Spaces for Zebrafish in Large Groups Reduce Aggressive Behaviour?. The Journal of Young Investigators, 38(5), 43-56.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Oct 10, 2019
Online Publication Date Nov 1, 2020
Deposit Date Mar 31, 2021
Publicly Available Date Mar 31, 2021
Journal Journal of Young Investigators
Print ISSN 1539-4026
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 38
Issue 5
Pages 43-56
Public URL
Publisher URL


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