Oocyte development has been divided into five stages in the zebrafish Brachydanio rerio, based on morphological criteria and on physiological and biochemical events. In stage I (primary growth stage), oocytes reside in nests with other oocytes (Stage IA) and then within a definitive follicle (Stage IB), where they greatly increase in size. In stage II (cortical alveolus stage), oocytes are distinguished by the appearance of variably sized cortical alveoli and the vitelline envelope becomes prominent. In stage III (vitellogenesis), yolk proteins appear in oocytes and yolk bodies with crystalline yolk accrue during this major growth stage. Ooctes develop the capacity to respond in vitro to the steroid 17α, 20β-dihydroxy-4-pregnen-3-one (DHP) by undergoing oocyte maturation. In stage IV (oocyte maturation), oocytes increase slightly in size, become translucent, and their yolk becomes non-crystalline as they undergo final meiotic maturation in vivo (and in response to DHP in vitro). In stage V (mature egg), eggs (approx. 0.75 mm) are ovulated into the ovarian lumen and are capable of fertilization. This staging series lays the foundation for future studies on the cellular processes occurring during oocyte development in zebrafish and should be useful for experimentation that requires an understanding of stage-specific events. © 1993 Wiley-Liss, Inc.