Natural preference of zebrafish (Danio rerio) for a dark environment

Braz J Med Biol Res. 1999 Dec;32(12):1551-3. doi: 10.1590/s0100-879x1999001200016.


The zebrafish (Danio rerio) has been used as a model in neuroscience but knowledge about its behavior is limited. The aim of this study was to determine the preference of this fish species for a dark or light environment. Initially we used a place preference test and in a second experiment we applied an exit latency test. A two-chamber aquarium was used for the preference test. The aquarium consisted of a black chamber and a white chamber. In the first experiment the animal was placed in the aquarium and the time spent in the two compartments was recorded for 10 min. More time was spent in the black compartment (Wilcoxon matched-pairs signed-rank test, T = 7, N1 = N2 = 18, P = 0.0001). In the second experiment the animal was placed in the black or white compartment and the time it took to go from the initial compartment to the opposite one was recorded. The test lasted a maximum of 10 min. The results showed that the animal spent more time to go from the black to the white compartment (Mann-Whitney rank sum test, T = 48, N1 = 9, N2 = 8, P<0.0230). These data suggest that this fish species has a natural preference for a dark environment and this characteristic can be very useful for the development of new behavioral paradigms for fish.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal*
  • Darkness*
  • Lighting
  • Zebrafish / physiology*