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PLoS One. 2014 Feb 4;9(2):e88030. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0088030. eCollection 2014.

Conditioned place avoidance of zebrafish (Danio rerio) to three chemicals used for euthanasia and anaesthesia.

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Animal Welfare Program, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
Department of Zoology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.


Zebrafish are becoming one of the most used vertebrates in developmental and biomedical research. Fish are commonly killed at the end of an experiment with an overdose of tricaine methanesulfonate (TMS, also known as MS-222), but to date little research has assessed if exposure to this or other agents qualifies as euthanasia (i.e. a "good death"). Alternative agents include metomidate hydrochloride and clove oil. We use a conditioned place avoidance paradigm to compare aversion to TMS, clove oil, and metomidate hydrochloride. Zebrafish (n = 51) were exposed to the different anaesthetics in the initially preferred side of a light/dark box. After exposure to TMS zebrafish spent less time in their previously preferred side; aversion was less pronounced following exposure to metomidate hydrochloride and clove oil. Nine of 17 fish exposed to TMS chose not to re-enter the previously preferred side, versus 2 of 18 and 3 of 16 refusals for metomidate hydrochloride and clove oil, respectively. We conclude that metomidate hydrochloride and clove oil are less aversive than TMS and that these agents be used as humane alternatives to TMS for killing zebrafish.

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