Automatic quantification of juvenile zebrafish aggression

J Neurosci Methods. 2018 Feb 15;296:23-31. doi: 10.1016/j.jneumeth.2017.12.012. Epub 2017 Dec 21.


Background: Although aggression is a common symptom of psychiatric disorders the drugs available to treat it are non-specific and can have unwanted side effects. The zebrafish is an ideal model for aggression research. Zebrafish are small, amenable to genetic and pharmacological manipulation, and agonistic behaviour can be measured reliably.

New method: In this study we have established a novel setup to automatically quantify aggression and locomotion in one-month old juvenile zebrafish, a stage at which fish exhibit adult-like behaviour but are small so that one camera can film several animals.

Results: We have validated our novel software by comparison to manual quantification of behaviour, characterised the aggression of one-month old fish, and demonstrated that we can detect alterations to aggression caused by mutation or drug application.

Comparison with other methods: The ability to record up to 12 juvenile fish allows us to speed up and standardise data acquisition compared to studies of single fish.

Conclusions: This setup appears to be suitable to screen for drugs that decrease zebrafish aggression as a first step toward developing novel treatments for this behaviour.

Keywords: Aggression; Behaviour; Drug treatment; Locomotion; Zebrafish.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Aggression* / drug effects
  • Animals
  • Animals, Genetically Modified
  • Automation, Laboratory / methods*
  • Behavior, Animal* / drug effects
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Ethanol / pharmacology
  • Lithium Carbonate / pharmacology
  • Locomotion / drug effects
  • Locomotion / genetics
  • Motor Activity / drug effects
  • Motor Activity / genetics
  • Mutation
  • Pattern Recognition, Automated / methods*
  • Psychotropic Drugs / pharmacology
  • Random Allocation
  • Receptor, Fibroblast Growth Factor, Type 1 / genetics
  • Software
  • Video Recording
  • Zebrafish Proteins / genetics
  • Zebrafish* / genetics
  • Zebrafish* / growth & development


  • Psychotropic Drugs
  • Zebrafish Proteins
  • fgfr1a protein, zebrafish
  • Lithium Carbonate
  • Ethanol
  • Receptor, Fibroblast Growth Factor, Type 1