Screening of anaesthetics in adult zebrafish (Danio rerio) for the induction of euthanasia by overdose

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Zebrafish are often euthanized by overdose of anaesthesia. However, fish may have aversion towards some anaesthetics, and protocol efficacy varies between species. Using wild type adult Danio rerio, we assessed time to loss of opercular beat, righting, and startle reflexes during induction of anaesthetic overdose by either tricaine (0.5 g/L or 1 g/L), benzocaine (1 g/L), 2-phenoxyethanol (3 mL/L), clove oil (0.1%), isoeugenol (540 mg/L), lidocaine hydrochloride (1 g/L), or etomidate (50 mg/L). Initial screening demonstrated that benzocaine and buffered lidocaine hydrochloride achieved the fastest loss of reflexes. The rapid induction times were confirmed when retesting using larger batches of fish. The fastest induction was obtained with 1 g/L lidocaine hydrochloride buffered with 2 g/L NaHCO3, in which all adult zebrafish lost reflexes in less than 2 min. Next, we monitored signs of distress during benzocaine or buffered lidocaine hydrochloride overdose induction. The results indicated that buffered lidocaine hydrochloride caused significantly less aversive behaviors than benzocaine. Finally, we tested several buffers to refine the lidocaine hydrochloride immersion. The most efficient buffer for euthanasia induction using 1g/L lidocaine hydrochloride was 2 g/L NaHCO3 with 50 mL/L 96% ethanol, inducing immobility in less than 10 s and with only 2% of adult zebrafish displaying aversive behaviors during treatment.

Journal details

Journal Biology
Volume 10
Issue number 11
Pages 1133
Available online
Publication date

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