Physical enrichment research for captive fish: time to focus on the DETAILS

Nick A.R. Jones*, Mike M. Webster, Anne Gro Vea Salvanes

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
1 Downloads (Pure)


Growing research effort has shown that physical enrichment (PE) can improve fish welfare and research validity. However, the inclusion of PE does not always result in positive effects and conflicting findings have highlighted the many nuances involved. Effects are known to depend on species and life stage tested, but effects may also vary with differences in the specific items used as enrichment between and within studies. Reporting fine-scale characteristics of items used as enrichment in studies may help to reveal these factors. We conducted a survey of PE-focused studies published in the last 5 years to examine the current state of methodological reporting. The survey results suggest that some aspects of enrichment are not adequately detailed. For example, the amount and dimensions of objects used as enrichment were frequently omitted. Similarly, the ecological relevance, or other justification, for enrichment items was frequently not made explicit. Focusing on ecologically relevant aspects of PE and increasing the level of detail reported in studies may benefit future work and we propose a framework with the acronym DETAILS (Dimensions, Ecological rationale, Timing of enrichment, Amount, Inputs, Lighting and Social environment). We outline the potential importance of each of the elements of this framework with the hope it may aid in the level of reporting and standardization across studies, ultimately aiding the search for more beneficial types of PE and the development of our understanding and ability to improve the welfare of captive fish and promote more biologically relevant behaviour.
Original languageEnglish
Article number14773
Pages (from-to)704-725
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Fish Biology
Issue number3
Early online date4 May 2021
Publication statusPublished - 20 Sept 2021


  • Environmental complexity
  • Environmental enrichment
  • Fish husbandry
  • Fish welfare
  • Structural complexity
  • Structural enrichment


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