Environmental enrichment is known to reduce stereotypical behaviours in a wide range of captive animals, providing clear welfare benefits in many species. However, one of the most significant stressors faced by captive animals is live transport but whether enrichment can alleviate transport stress is unknown. Using behavioural measures as indicators of fish welfare, we investigated whether the addition of environmental enrichment can improve the welfare of ornamental fish during commercial transport. Pairs of bags containing variatus platy (Xiphophorus variatus) were transported by road with or without enrichment (plastic loops) from a UK wholesaler to one of two stores, the first and the last store on a delivery route. Transport time to the first store was short (<4 h) and longer (> 6 h) to the second. Fish behaviour and incidences of mortality, disease and injury were recorded immediately following transport and during a four-week recovery period. Immediately post-transport, significantly fewer occurrences of erratic swimming were observed in the enriched group compared to the control group, and lower levels of chasing were recorded in the enriched group during recovery. This study is the first to demonstrate the behavioural benefits of enrichment during live transport of fishes under commercial conditions.
- Environmental enrichment
- Ornamental fishes