A subchronic in situ exposure method for evaluating effects in small-bodied fish at contaminated sites



In situ fish-caging studies at contaminated sites can provide information that is more realistic compared to traditional laboratory-based studies. However, few methods have been developed for exposing sentinel fish species for subchronic durations, and fewer still are optimized for exposing small-bodied fish while maintaining fish health and growth throughout the caging trial. Those methods typically lack a feeding regimen during the fish caging trial. While that may be acceptable or even appropriate for typical short-term toxicity testing, it does limit the duration of the exposure, and may not be suitable when post-caging trials or observations are necessary. Returning healthy fish to the lab following the in situ exposure would be important, for example, in studies designed to examine long-term or multigenerational effects following an in situ exposure. In this article we describe a subchronic method for caging small fish at contaminated sites while maintaining growth and reproductive development. Fathead minnow (Pimephales promelas) were caged in situ for 6 weeks, after which time they were returned to the lab where they were evaluated for health and reproductive performance. Growth and reproductive endpoints revealed no adverse effect on fish due to fish caging and related handling, demonstrating the suitability of our caging and feeding method for long-term caging studies. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Environ Toxicol 29: 54–63, 2014.