- locomotor activity
- high-throughput screening assays
- larval zebrafish
- model organism
High-throughput behavioral studies using larval zebrafish often assess locomotor activity to determine the effects of experimental perturbations. However, the results reported by different groups are difficult to compare because there is not a standardized experimental paradigm or measure of locomotor activity. To address this, we investigated the effects that several factors, including the stage of larval development and the physical dimensions (depth and diameter) of the behavioral arena, have on the locomotor activity produced by larval zebrafish. We provide evidence for differences in locomotor activity between larvae at different stages and when recorded in wells of different depths, but not in wells of different diameters. We also show that the variability for most properties of locomotor activity is less for older than younger larvae, which is consistent with previous reports. Finally, we show that conflicting interpretations of activity level can occur when activity is assessed with a single measure of locomotor activity. Thus, we conclude that although a combination of factors should be considered when designing behavioral experiments, the use of older larvae in deep wells will reduce the variability of locomotor activity, and that multiple properties of locomotor activity should be measured to determine activity level.