The forced swimming test (FST) is a widely used behavioral screen in rodents that is both sensitive and selective for clinically effective antidepressant drugs. However, antidepressant drugs produce changes in the FST within 24 hr of treatment, in contrast to weeks required for the recovery from clinical depression, and high doses seem to be required to produce effects in most animal tests. This study examined behavioral effects in the FST after subacute and chronic treatment with low doses (1-5 mg/kg) of antidepressant drugs to determine whether chronic treatment produced behavioral effects at doses that were ineffective after subacute treatment. The antidepressants studied were desipramine, a selective norepinephrine uptake inhibitor, and fluoxetine, a selective serotonin uptake inhibitor. The results indicated that low doses of desipramine and fluoxetine produced different behavioral patterns in the FST, but only after chronic administration. The results strengthen the validity of the FST as a behavioral screen for antidepressant drugs with features similar to an animal model of depression.