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Teleost fish are commonly used as model species in laboratory studies of behaviour and ecology. In comparison to other groups of vertebrates used routinely in such studies, however, relatively little attention has been paid to their environmental requirements from a welfare perspective. Fish naturally inhabit a wide variety of aquatic habitats that differ enormously in the range of light environments they provide, and light regime has enormous potential to affect behaviour. Yet the level and quality of illumination (in terms of intensity and wavelength spectrum) provided in experimental studies of fish behaviour is generally designed to maximize ease of recording by the observer. In addition, display or home aquaria provide illumination that maximizes the ‘viewing pleasure’ of the observer, and specialist lighting tubes are available to stimulate rapid plant growth and to ‘show off’ the colours of fish, rather than to provide ‘natural’ light environments. Here we present the results of three studies designed to examine the effects of light intensity, wavelength spectrum and their interactions on the behaviour of a model species commonly used in behavioural studies, the three-spined stickleback Gasterosteus aculeatus. Our aims are to determine whether unnatural light environments, generated by manipulating light intensity and wavelength spectrum, affect behaviour in ways that may lead to concern for the welfare of fish as research animals or pets.