Cube law, condition factor and weight–length relationships: history, meta-analysis and recommendations


Author's address: Rainer Froese, Leibniz Institute of Marine Sciences IfM-GEOMAR, Düsternbrooker Weg 20, D-24105 Kiel, Germany.


This study presents a historical review, a meta-analysis, and recommendations for users about weight–length relationships, condition factors and relative weight equations. The historical review traces the developments of the respective concepts. The meta-analysis explores 3929 weight–length relationships of the type W = aLb for 1773 species of fishes. It shows that 82% of the variance in a plot of log a over b can be explained by allometric versus isometric growth patterns and by different body shapes of the respective species. Across species median b = 3.03 is significantly larger than 3.0, thus indicating a tendency towards slightly positive-allometric growth (increase in relative body thickness or plumpness) in most fishes. The expected range of 2.5 < b < 3.5 is confirmed. Mean estimates of b outside this range are often based on only one or two weight–length relationships per species. However, true cases of strong allometric growth do exist and three examples are given. Within species, a plot of log a vs b can be used to detect outliers in weight–length relationships. An equation to calculate mean condition factors from weight–length relationships is given as Kmean = 100aLb−3. Relative weight Wrm = 100W/(amLbm) can be used for comparing the condition of individuals across populations, where am is the geometric mean of a and bm is the mean of b across all available weight–length relationships for a given species. Twelve recommendations for proper use and presentation of weight–length relationships, condition factors and relative weight are given.