Zebrafish responds differentially to a robotic fish of varying aspect ratio, tail beat frequency, noise, and color

Nicole Abaid, Tiziana Bartolini, Simone Macrì, Maurizio Porfiri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this paper, we present a bioinspired robotic fish designed to modulate the behavior of live fish. Specifically, we experimentally study the response of zebrafish to a robotic fish of varying size, color pattern, tail beat frequency, and acoustic signature in a canonical preference test. In this dichotomous experimental protocol, focal fish residing in the center focal compartment of a three-chambered test tank are confronted with pairs of competing stimuli, including various robots and the empty compartment, and their position is observed over time to measure preference. Fish behavior is classified into three main locomotory patterns to further dissect the complex behavior of zebrafish interacting with robots. A total of twelve experimental conditions is studied to isolate the effect of different elements of the robot design and provide general techniques for enhancing the attraction of zebrafish. We find that matching the aspect ratio and the visual appearance of the robotic fish with the target species increases the attraction experienced by zebrafish. We also find that the robot's tail beat frequency does not play a dominant role on fish attraction, suggesting that this parameter could be optimized based on engineering needs rather than biological cues. On the other hand, we find that varying the aspect ratio and coloration of the robot strongly influences fish preference.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)545-553
Number of pages9
JournalBehavioural Brain Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 1 2012


  • Biologically-inspired robotics
  • Danio rerio
  • Preference test
  • Robotic fish
  • Visual stimulus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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