Fundamental Approaches to the Study of Zebrafish Nutrition

Stephen A. Watts, Mickie Powell, and Louis R. D’Abramo

Stephen A. Watts, PhD, is a professor and Mickie L. Powell, PhD, is an assistant professor in the Department of Biology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Louis R. D’Abramo, PhD, is a professor in the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Aquaculture at Mississippi State University.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to Dr. Stephen A. Watts, Department of Biology, 1300 University Boulevard, The University of Alabama, Birmingham, AL 35294 or email


The value of the zebrafish model has been well established. However, culture variability within and among laboratories remains a concern, particularly as it relates to nutrition. Investigators using rodent models addressed this concern several decades ago and have developed strict nutritional regimes to which their models adhere. These investigators decreased the variability associated with nutrition in most studies by developing standardized reference and open formulation diets. Zebrafish investigators have not embraced this approach. In this article, we address the problems associated with the lack of nutritional information and standardization in the zebrafish research community. Based on the knowledge gained from studies of other animals, including traditional research models, other fish species, domesticated and companion animals, and humans, we have proposed an approach that seeks to standardize nutrition research in zebrafish. We have identified a number of factors for consideration in zebrafish nutrition studies and have suggested a number of proposed outcomes. The long term-goal of nutrition research will be to identify the daily nutritional requirements of the zebrafish and to develop appropriate standardized reference and open formulation diets.

Key Words: diet; experimental feed; ingredient; intake; nutrient; nutrition; zebrafish

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