Guidelines for the Use of Fishes in Research

7. Laboratory Activities


Working with live fishes under laboratory conditions requires attention to many details concerning the requirements for, and limits of tolerance of, the particular species under study. Acceptable physical facilities and an adequate supply of water with good quality must be provided, even if the fishes are to be held for only short periods of time. Although fish may tolerate marginal facilities and conditions for a few hours or even several days, holding them under less than optimal conditions will affect the results of the research. Standards for humane treatment of animals must also be maintained, regardless of the length of time that the fishes are held.

The reader should note that some content of section 7 is not restricted to laboratory activities, but may be applicable to field situations, as well.

Prior to bringing fishes into a laboratory, facilities and plans should be in place to ensure that the fish cannot escape, especially species not native to the watershed, and that the introduced fishes can be isolated physically from fishes already present. Each holding unit should have its own set of nets and other equipment. Facilities and equipment used for previous studies should be disinfected prior to use in new studies, typically with a chlorinated disinfectant or another disinfectant such as Virkon® Aquatic ( If the introduced fishes may carry disease agents, especially pathogens or parasites that are not endemic to the area, quarantine-level facilities should be used. The level of quarantine required will vary with the seriousness of the known or suspected disease agent (see section 2.5 Fish Health Management: Control of Pathogens and Parasites).

Individual fish with suspected ill health should be quarantined from the others so as to negate the potential for spread of potential disease agents. Such fish should be evaluated by an individual with expertise in fish diseases (fish pathologist or veterinarian), and the proper therapeutant should be applied as directed. Providing guidance for the treatment of specific diseases is beyond the scope of this document. The investigator is strongly urged to establish a working relationship with individuals with expertise in fish health with whom they may consult.