F.I.S.H. - Fish Indicators of Stress and Health


Our research group tackles questions addressing the biology, health and welfare of fish.

Experimentation: The use of fish in scientific experiments is increasing in the UK with nearly half a million fish reported in 2010. This rise in popularity means that large numbers of fish are subject to experimental procedures that are invasive causing tissue damage that would give rise to the sensation of pain in humans and mammals. To meet ethical standards we must assess the welfare state of an animal and provide pain relief where appropriate and fish are no exception. Fish are often held in barren, impoverished conditions thus we aim to determine whether enrichment improves fish health.

Aquaculture: Stress is a major problem in fish farming affecting growth, immune function, reproduction and economic return. Understanding intraspecific variation in stress allows novel strategies to be investigated that may ameliorate the detrimental effects of stress. Projects investigating how to improve health through improved nutrition can help inform changes to fish diets.

Ornamental Fish: Fish are now the third most popular pet behind cats and dogs yet very little is known regarding their welfare. Ornamental fish for the pet trade can be caught in their natural habitat then transported for up to 3 days in the same water. Deteriorating water quality may mean the fish suffer stress and as this compromises disease resistance can result in fish arriving infected or results in mortality. Fish are also used in beauty treatments with relatively little known regarding their biology or the impact upon their health under spa conditions.

Toxicology: Very large numbers of fish are used in toxicological and ecotoxicological research, as well as in regulatory testing, in order to determine the toxicity of pharmaceutical drug candidates and environmental contaminants. To reduce the use of adult fish, there is a need to devise alternative test methods.  Use of cell culture is one option and use of zebrafish embryos is another, both of which are under active consideration by regulatory agencies.  Second, the methodology for assessing toxic effect needs to be improved and we have chosen to apply modern post-genomic technologies given their increasing cost-effectiveness, and ability to provide unparalleled amounts of data on many responding elements such as genes.

Project Investigators
Professor Andrew Cossins
Dr Lynne Sneddon
Dr Joseph Spencer
Dr Iain Young
Dr Jonathan Buckley
Dr Anthony Deakin