Zebrafish Housing Systems: A Review of Basic Operating Principles and Considerations for Design and Functionality

Christian Lawrence and Timothy Mason

Christian Lawrence, MS, is Aquatic Resources Program Manager, Boston Children’s Hospital. Timothy Mason, MM, is Zebrafish Facility Manager, Institute of Neuroscience, University of Oregon.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to Christian Lawrence, Boston Children’s Hospital, 300 Longwood Avenue, Boston, MA 02115 or email¬†clawrence@enders.tch.harvard.edu.


The strategies for housing zebrafish used in biomedical research have evolved considerably over the past three decades. To keep pace with the rapid expansion and development of the zebrafish model system, the field has generally moved from keeping fish at the level of aquarium hobbyist to that of industrialized, recirculating aquaculture. Numerous commercial system vendors now offer increasingly sophisticated housing systems based on design principles that maximize the number of animals that can be housed in a given space footprint, and they are thus able to support large and diverse research programs. This review is designed to provide managers, lab animal veterinarians, investigators, and other parties responsible for care and use of these animals with a comprehensive overview of the basic operating and design principles of zebrafish housing systems. This information can be used to help plan the construction of new facilities and/or the upgrade and maintenance of existing operations.

Key Words: aquatic life support; recirculating aquaculture; system design; zebrafish (Danio rerio) housing systems

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