Differences in Spatio-Temporal Behavior of Zebrafish in the Open Tank Paradigm after a Short-Period Confinement into Dark and Bright Environments

<div><p>The open tank paradigm, also known as novel tank diving test, is a protocol used to evaluate the zebrafish behavior. Several characteristics have been described for this species, including scototaxis, which is the natural preference for dark environments in detriment of bright ones. However, there is no evidence regarding the influence of “natural stimuli” in zebrafish subjected to novelty-based paradigms. In this report, we evaluated the spatio-temporal exploratory activity of the short-fin zebrafish phenotype in the open tank after a short-period confinement into dark/bright environments. A total of 44 animals were individually confined during a 10-min single session into one of three environments: black-painted, white-painted, and transparent cylinders (dark, bright, and transparent groups). Fish were further subjected to the novel tank test and their exploratory profile was recorded during a 15-min trial. The results demonstrated that zebrafish increased their vertical exploratory activity during the first 6-min, where the bright group spent more time and travelled a higher distance in the top area. Interestingly, all behavioral parameters measured for the dark group were similar to the transparent one. These data were confirmed by automated analysis of track and occupancy plots and also demonstrated that zebrafish display a classical homebase formation in the bottom area of the tank. A detailed spatio-temporal study of zebrafish exploratory behavior and the construction of representative ethograms showed that the experimental groups presented significant differences in the first 3-min vs. last 3-min of test. Although the main factors involved in these behavioral responses still remain ambiguous and require further investigation, the current report describes an alternative methodological approach for assessing the zebrafish behavior after a forced exposure to different environments. Additionally, the analysis of ethologically-relevant patterns across time could be a potential phenotyping tool to evaluate the zebrafish exploratory profile in the open tank task.</p> </div>