What is the relationship between the level of acute stress and performance on innate behaviour? The diversity of innate behaviours and lack of sufficient data gathered under the same experimental conditions leave this question unresolved. While evidence points to an inverted-U shaped relationship between the level of acute stress and various measures of learning and memory function, it is unknown the extent to which such a non-linear function applies to performance on innate behaviour, which develops without example or practice under natural circumstances. The fundamental prediction of this view is that moderate stress levels will improve performance, while higher levels will not. Testing this proposition has been difficult because it entails an overall effect that must be invariant to the nature of the stressor, the behaviour under scrutiny and the stimulus that drives it. Here, we report new experimental results showing that developing zebrafish (Danio rerio) under moderate but not higher levels of stress improved their performance on instinctive activities driven by visual, hydrodynamic and thermal inputs. Our findings reveal, for the first time, the existence of an inverted-U shaped performance function according to stress level during early development in a series of innate behaviours.