Influence of environmental colors and long-term sex isolation on zebrafish shoaling behavior

Christian Lenzi, Chiara Grasso, Mircea Nicoara, Alexandra Savuca, Alin Ciobica, Gabriel I. Plavan, Stefan A. Strungaru


Paper description:

  • Zebrafish social behavior is mediated by different means of communication (chemical and visual). The potential influence of environmental coloring on the shoaling preference of Danio rerio has not been studied.
  • Sex-related differences were found. Unlike females, male fish shoaled more with another male and less with a potential sexual partner. We did not find a significant influence of environmental coloring on social preference patterns.
  • These results are an addition to the insufficient literature in this research area, which is generally characterized by underestimation of sex-related differences in the zebrafish social behavior.

Abstract: Zebrafish has a complex social behavior and little is known about the role of sexual preference and their environmental social interactions. In this study we investigated the potential influence of environmental colors and shoaling preferences of zebrafish male and female populations, with a focus on visual communication. Males and females were kept for 7 days in gender-isolated tanks, with a specific habitat color for each group: green for males and red for females. After the pre-test period, all the animals were kept separated and 8 noninvasive behavioral tests were conducted in a T-maze, with the application of different visual stimuli. We did not observe any clear influence of environmental coloring on social zebrafish choices. Significant sex-related differences were found in shoaling partner preference (i.e. same sex vs. other sex, one fish vs. three fish) as follows: females showed a tendency to avoid other females and spent more time with males. Male fish did not display a preference between one or three fish stimuli and they shoaled more with another male and less with a potential sexual partner. There was an obvious difference between males and females in responses and selection of shoaling partners.

Received: January 18, 2019; Revised: February 23, 2019; Accepted: March 5, 2019; Published online: March 19, 2019

How to cite this article: Lenzi C, Grasso C, Nicoara M, Savuca A, Ciobica A, Plavan GI, Strungaru SA. Influence of environmental colors and long-term sex isolation on zebrafish shoaling behavior. Arch Biol Sci. 2019;71(2):329-37.


zebrafish; environmental coloring; sexual preferences; shoaling; social behavior

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