Growth and maturation in the zebrafish, Danio rerio: a staging tool for teaching and research

Zebrafish. 2014 Aug;11(4):396-406. doi: 10.1089/zeb.2014.0976. Epub 2014 Jun 30.


Zebrafish have been increasingly used as a teaching tool to enhance the learning of many biological concepts from genetics, development, and behavior to the understanding of the local watershed. Traditionally, in both research and teaching, zebrafish work has focused on embryonic stages; however, later stages, from larval through adulthood, are increasingly being examined. Defining developmental stages based on age is a problematic way to assess maturity, because many environmental factors, such as temperature, population density, and water quality, impact growth and maturation. Fish length and characterization of key external morphological traits are considered better markers for maturation state. While a number of staging series exist for zebrafish, here we present a simplified normalization table of post-embryonic maturation well suited to both educational and research use. Specifically, we utilize fish size and four easily identified external morphological traits (pigment pattern, tail fin, anal fin, and dorsal fin morphology) to describe three larval stages, a juvenile stage, and an adult stage. These simplified maturation standards will be a useful tool for both educational and research protocols.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animal Fins / anatomy & histology
  • Animal Fins / growth & development*
  • Animals
  • Environmental Health / education*
  • Pigmentation*
  • Research / trends
  • Zebrafish / anatomy & histology
  • Zebrafish / growth & development
  • Zebrafish / physiology*