Aquatic Toxicology

Behavioral consequences of dietary exposure to crude oil extracts in the Siamese fighting fish (Betta splendens)

Publication date: February 2019

Source: Aquatic Toxicology, Volume 207

Author(s): Naim M. Bautista, Tanushri Pothini, Kelly Meng, Warren W. Burggren


Uptake by fishes of crude oil and its polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) components occurs via gills, dietary intake, or diffusion through the skin. Dietary exposure to crude oil and its components is environmentally relevant, and induces physiological and morphological disruptions in fish. However, the impacts of crude oil on fish social and reproductive behaviors and thus the possible influences on reproductive success are poorly understood. As a part of their intraspecific interactions, male Siamese fighting fish (Betta splendens) exhibit highly stereotypic behavioral and territorial displays. This makes this species a tractable model for testing crude oil effects on behavior. After 2 weeks of acclimation at 29 °C, male adult betta fish were divided into three groups and fed for 4 weeks with food spiked with water (control), low oil concentrations or high oil concentrations (∑Total PAH concentrations 340, 3960 or 8820 ng/g dw, respectively) to determine subsequent alterations in behavioral displays. Compared with control fish, the aggressive display of “opercular flaring” was significantly increased (P < 0.03, n = 14–16) in oil-exposed fish. Bubble nest building, as well as testis and brain mass, were significantly reduced in treated fish (P < 0.05). Hematocrit of treated groups was increased significantly (P < 0.02) from 21% in control fish to ∼27% in both oil exposure groups. Dietary exposure over a 4-week period to low, relevant levels of crude oil thus leads to an increase in aggressive behavioral displays, a decrease in reproductive activity and additional morphological changes.