The zebrafish (Danio rerio) is a freshwater teleost of the family Cyprinidae that is established as a model organism in many research fields. Here, we define the characteristics that a fish species should have to serve as a model for finfish aquaculture research and argue that the zebrafish fulfils essentially most of them. We first describe several aspects of the biology of the zebrafish including phylogenetic relationships, development and growth and reproduction, both in the wild and under laboratory conditions. Next, we review the work already carried out in zebrafish that is related to different aspects of aquaculture research (reproduction, stress, pathology, toxicology nutrition and growth). We assess critically the areas in which zebrafish still offers further potential as a model organism for aquaculture, which include, but are not limited to, development, immunology, genomics and reproduction. In other areas, however, limitations must be borne in mind and caution must be taken when extrapolating results. This is, for example, the case of some growth studies. Finally, we provide information on resources for research with zebrafish. Current general limitations of work with zebrafish come from the fact that in contrast to other laboratory animal models such as rodents, strict breeding protocols are generally not adopted. Nevertheless, as there is no major obstacle to overcome these limitations and due to its intrinsic advantages, we conclude that the zebrafish is likely to play an increasing role as a model organism in many areas of research for finfish aquaculture.