Washington University in St. Louis is now home to one of the largest zebrafish facilities in the world.

With its robotic feeding and cleaning systems, it is the world’s most modern, says Lilianna Solnica-Krezel, PhD, professor and head of the Department of Developmental Biology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

This facility will allow large-scale, collaborative projects that would not be possible for individual investigators, helping scientists understand human development and disease, from birth defects and cancer to muscle and nerve disorders.

A common type of minnow, the zebrafish is popular in both scientific research and home aquariums. Zebrafish embryos are transparent and develop outside the body, making them useful for observing growth and development.

“With almost 7,000 tanks, including a 2,000-tank nursery, the facility will allow scientists to perform experiments requiring tens of thousands of fish. The robotic nature of the feeding process will allow large numbers of fish to grow quickly,” says Stephen L. Johnson, PhD, Professor of Genetics.

But, beyond sheer numbers of fish, the facility has other resources available to investigators. The facility also has the capabilities for obtaining, viewing, and manipulating fish embryos.