Time-, dose- and transgenerational effects of fluoxetine on the behavioural responses of zebrafish to a conspecific alarm substance

Asma Al Shuraiqi, Aziz Al-Habsi, Michael J. Barry*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (SciVal)


Despite publication of numerous of papers, the effects of fluoxetine on fish behaviour remains mired in controversy and contradiction. One reason for this controversy is that fluoxetine displays distinct and opposing acute and chronic effects. A second reason is that most studies have been limited to two or at the most three concentrations. To address these deficiencies we exposed adult zebrafish, both single females and shoals consisting of one male and two females, to seven fluoxetine concentrations, ranging from 5 ng/L to 5 μg/L and measured their swimming behaviour, and response to a conspecific alarm substance (CAS) at seven, 14 and 28 days. We also measured the light startle response of unexposed F1 larvae at days seven and 28 post-hatch and the response to CAS at day 28. On day 7 fluoxetine decreased swimming speed at concentrations ≥500 ng/L. After addition of CAS fish exposed to 5, 500 and 1000 ng/L decreased swimming, while fish exposed to 10, 500 and 1000 ng/L significantly increased time motionless. On day 14 only fish exposed to 50 ng/L were significantly slower than controls before addition of CAS, but afterwards fish exposed to 5, 50, 1000 and 5000 ng/L showed significant differences from controls. On day 28 fish exposed to 50 and 5000 ng/L had slower average swimming speeds than controls before addition of CAS. After addition all fish except controls and those exposed to 500 ng/L showed decreased average speed. At seven days post-hatch, F1 larvae whose parents were exposed to 100 ng/L showed significantly higher activity than controls and those exposed to 500 ng/L fluoxetine showed lower activity in the light startle response. This study shows that the effects of fluoxetine vary with time and also in a non-monotonic manner. We suggest that the complex nature of the serotonergic system with multilateral effects at the genomic, biochemical and physiological levels interacting with environmental stimuli result in non-linear dose-response behavioural patterns.

Original languageEnglish
Article number116164
JournalEnvironmental Pollution
Publication statusPublished - Feb 1 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Anxiety
  • Behaviour
  • Pharmaceutical
  • Predator
  • Serotonin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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