Welfare implications of an enrichment program for two species of common aquaria fish

Matthew Burgess


Public and academic interest into the welfare of captive animals is strong, and ever growing (Barrows, 2017). In accordance with this, standards of zoo and aquarium welfare science has thrived within recent years, with considerable resource spent assuring the lives of those in captivity are to an acceptable standard (Damasceno et al, 2017). Despite this, an understanding into the mechanisms which impact welfare, and the theoretical tools to assess it, require further specification (Barrows, 2017). This research assessed the welfare of two common aquaria fish, a population of regal tangs (Paracanthurus hepatus), and a population of yellow tangs (Zebrasoma flavescens). Concerns regarding the welfare of the two species were raised due to the prevalence of aggressive behaviour within the tabt6nk, leading to the application of an enrichment program, manipulating the number of feed locations from a single location to two distinct locations. Coding of behavioural variables indicated the success of the manipulation; however, further systematic replication is required to cement this link. The findings were applied to a framework of evolutionary game theory, culminating in a suggested alteration to the current theoretical tools to aid assessment of welfare.

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