Fish facility


Zebrafish Core Facility (ZCF) at IIMCB was established as a base for the FishMed project and other biomedical studies. The state-of-the-art facility includes a water plant, as well as a stand-alone quarantine unit and the main system manufactured by Tecniplast. Currently, in 564 tanks 7000 fish from 46 different zebrafish lines are being kept. More tanks and fish lines will be introduced in the near future. Beside the aquaria room, which is a restricted area, our Zebrafish Core Facility has a laboratory space fully equipped for standard fish work and available to all users. Alongside incubators, microscopes and injectors, the laboratory is also equipped with a needle puller and beveller, suited for production of capillary needles for injection of zebrafish, Drosophila and other organisms.

ZCF at IIMCB holds formal permission to breed zebrafish granted by the District Veterinary Inspectorate (license number 14656251). ZCF is registered as a closed facility that is entitled to keep genetically modified organisms (GMO: 01-101/2012) and use them for FishMed and other projects (authorization 164/2012). All the research activities are carried out in compliance with fundamental ethical principles (authorization 339/2012) and all procedures are implemented in compliance with the relevant European and international guidelines on animal welfare (Directive 2010/63/EU on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes, the guidelines and recommendations of the Federation of European Laboratory Animal Science Associations (FELASA) and the relevant Polish regulations, namely Article 22 of Animal Experiments Act (January 21st, 2005).

Zebrafish (Danio rerio) is a fish of the Cyprinidae (carp) family living in slow-moving or stagnant waters of India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Burma. The adults reach up to 5cm in length and live for five years. This species has been described already in 1822 by Hamilton, but it was only in the 70’s of the twentieth century when prof. George Streisinger from Eugene in the United States introduced the zebrafish as an animal model for the laboratory works. External fertilization, translucent body, large mutant/transgenic collection and availability of various genetic tools make zebrafish an excellent organism to study multiple aspects of human diseases.

ZCF offers a range of services including: breeding (pair crosses and group), feeding and maintenance of a limited number of wild-type, mutant and transgenic lines, rearing of fry, genotyping/phenotyping of lines, sourcing of lines, helping with experimental design, providing technical support and laboratory space dedicated to the zebrafish work. ZCF provides fully trained personnel to maintain the facility as well as to teach and support the users.

Where possible, the facility shall provide sufficient number of eggs/adult fish for all individuals using the facility with priority given to the FishMed workers and other IIMCB employees. The facility will endeavor to provide all the available lines needed by the users as far as possible. If the line is not in stock, the facility will endeavor to source the line from another facility or stock center. Please note that at present, the facility does not offer any fish hotels for the external users. The personnel will be available if users would like to discuss zebrafish biology, husbandry and research or seek a help in solving technical issues.

The cost of the fish and access to ZCF is free of charge for academic users, but the cost of chemicals and equipment needed for a specific project will be charged to the individual user.

We have an isolated culture of zebrafish (Danio rerio) which undergoes veterinary inspection on weekly bases. Water quality is assessed on daily bases and maintained at: pH 7.0, 600 µS, temp. 28°C with 15% water change. Photoperiod is set to 14h light and 10h darkness. Fish are kept in schools with maximal density up to 5 fish per liter of water and fed 4 times a day (diet composes of different dry feeds and artemia).

Principles for more ethical use of animals in testing impose replacement, reduction and refinement for animals used for experimentation. From the perspective of “3R” zebrafish can be used to replace the so-called higher vertebrates (e.g. mice, rats) with an organism at lower level of evolution. Most of the experiments are performed on embryos or larvae in which the nervous system is not fully developed and which are not classified as protected animal yet. Characteristics of zebrafish (size, growth) and the availability of transgenic lines allow for long-term (up to a few days) and simultaneous studies in the same organism (e.g., parallel observations of the behavior of macrophages, neutrophils and tumor cells). This approach helps to reduce the number of animals that are needed to carry out experiments. In addition, the possibility of adding the test substances directly into the water in which the fish are kept eliminates the need of making injection and simplifies procedures. Although zebrafish genome is about half size of the human one, 90% of human genes have their equivalent in fish and mutations in the homologous genes lead to similar phenotypes. Using zebrafish as a model for the study of human diseases seems to be the most reasonable approach. High similarity in genotype/phenotype was used for establishing models of various diseases e.g. tuberculosis or skeletal dysplasia. Zebrafish also contributed toward finding new drugs for e.g. leukemia or melanoma.


Photos by Michał Bazała