nl en

Fish species in animal experimentation



Daily coordinator for questions and administrative issues: G.C. van der Velden MSc


The course aims to provide knowledge that is essential for understanding the humane use and care of fish as laboratory animals and for the quality of research using fish species. This course is obligatory before starting an internship that involves handling or experimental use of fish species. One part of the course is a general introduction about the specific responsibilities (both legal and moral) of a scientist, as the central person in the design and conduct of animal experiments, for the management of the study and the welfare of the animals used. Legal and ethical frameworks for the use of laboratory animals will be discussed. Common laboratory species will be introduced, including some features of anatomy and physiology. Information required for ethical review, the choice of animal species, the origin of the animals, animal housing and husbandry, environmental conditions, humane endpoints, whether or not induction of a disease is needed, and the methods for anesthesia or humane killing are discussed. This general introduction to laboratory animal science is complemented by a specific theoretical and practical program on the use of fish as experimental animals. The program will cover different research areas using fish species, including, biomedical research, developmental research, behavioral research, ecotoxicology, aquaculture-related research and wildlife studies. An overview will be given about commonly used fish species in these research areas, and, in particular, a strong emphasis will be placed on the use of zebrafish for biomedical research. In a series of lectures, the course participants will be introduced to fish development, anatomy and physiology, the immune system, disease modelling and drug screening, recognition of discomfort, stress and pain, disease symptoms and health monitoring, anesthesia/euthanasia methods, genetic modification, behavioral research, experiments with fish in the wild. Finally, an introduction will be given about zebrafish facility management and husbandry.

Learning goals

After completion of the course, students can:

  • reproduce and discuss the ethical and legal considerations that apply to experiments on fish in the laboratory or in the wild.

  • categorize and evaluate the levels of discomfort, stress and pain in fish experiments.

  • name procedures for analgesia, anesthesia and euthanasia and assess when to apply humane endpoints.

  • explain the purpose of the essential requirements of a laboratory fish facility and the procedures for water quality control, husbandry and handling of fish.

  • recognize and describe common symptoms of fish disease and explain the procedures for disease prevention and health monitoring.

  • reproduce the basic characteristics of fish development, anatomy, physiology and the immune system and can explain how these features affect the results of an animal study.

  • name the commonly used fish species in animal experimentation and give examples of their use in behavioral research, biomedical research, toxicology, aquaculture research and research in the wild.

  • explain the basic techniques that are used for genetic modification in fish species.


13 February 2023 – 24 February 2023
13 February 2023: General introduction to animal experimentation.
This is a one-day program led by J.B. Prins with lectures and discussions. Participants already in the possession of an article 9 certificate can apply for exemption from this part of the course.
14-17 February 2023: species-specific fish course theory.
This is a 4-day program with lectures and practical assignments. Depending on the number of participants additional practical sessions may be organized in between 21-23 February 2023.
24 February 2023: exam.

Mode of instruction

The course consists of a lecture program and practical assignments in the zebrafish facility.
The general introduction part also contains an ethical review session.

Assessment method

The final grade is based on a written examination (75%) and a written assignment (25%). Minimum grade for each component is 5.6.
Attendance to all lectures and the practical is compulsory in order to receive the certificate.

Inspection and feedback on the examination

By individual appointment



Reading list

General introduction on animal experimentation:

  • Central Authority for Scientific Procedures on Animals

  • Directive 2010/63/EUon the protection of animals used for scientific purposes

  • Directive 2010/63/EU, working documents

  • Dutch Experiments on Animals Act

  • Humane Endpoints

  • Dutch Society for the Replacement of Animal Testing

  • Stichting informatie dierproeven


Via Usis

Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Prospective students website for more information on how to apply.