The zebrafish Danio rerio, is an important model organism in developmental genetics, neurophysiology and biomedicine, but little is known about its natural ecology and behaviour. It is a small, shoaling cyprinid, native to the flood-plains of the Indian subcontinent, where it is found in shallow, slow-flowing waters. Zebrafish are group spawners and egg scatterers, although females are choosy with respect to sites for oviposition and males defend territories around such sites. Laboratory studies of zebrafish behaviour have encompassed shoaling, foraging, reproduction, sensory perception and learning. These studies are reviewed in relation to the suitability of the zebrafish as a model for studies on cognition and learning, development, behavioural and evolutionary ecology, and behavioural genetics.