China is sending zebrafish to the Tiangong space station

a small striped fish
A zebra danio, or zebrafish, swims in a tank in a research institute in Wuhan in central China's Hubei province Thursday, April 22, 2021. (Image credit: Feature China/Future Publishing via Getty Images)

China is planning to send zebrafish to its space station in the future. 

The small fish species will be sent into orbit on China's Tiangong space station as part of research into the interaction between fish and microorganisms in a small closed ecosystem, Shanghai-based reported. The experiment will also aid research into bone loss in astronauts.

Zhang Wei, assistant to the commander-in-chief of China's manned space engineering space application system, told Chinese media of the plan during a Space Station Science and Application Project Solicitation Seminar in Beijing on July 10. Further information regarding the timeline of the experiment and its aquatic apparatus was not disclosed.

Related: China's Tiangong space station

It will not be the first time fish have been sent to space. NASA's Aquatic Habitat, or AQH, designed to study how microgravity impacts marine life, was sent to the International Space Station in 2012. It hosted a small school of medaka, a small, freshwater fish native to Japan. 

The Aquatic Habitat, or AQH, a Japanese Space Agency facility that enabled the study of fish aboard the International Space Station.  (Image credit: NASA)

Zebrafish, or Danio rerio, were earlier sent to the Soviet Union's Salyut 5 space station in 1976 aboard the Soyuz 21 mission. Soviet cosmonauts conducting experiments with the fish found that the Zebrafish appeared to modify some of their behaviors in response to living in microgravity.

Sending animals to space meanwhile dates back to 1947, before the Soviet space dog Laika took her much more famous flight on Sputnik 2 in 1957. Laika tragically overheated and died just hours into her flight.

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Andrew Jones
Contributing Writer

Andrew is a freelance space journalist with a focus on reporting on China's rapidly growing space sector. He began writing for in 2019 and writes for SpaceNews, IEEE Spectrum, National Geographic, Sky & Telescope, New Scientist and others. Andrew first caught the space bug when, as a youngster, he saw Voyager images of other worlds in our solar system for the first time. Away from space, Andrew enjoys trail running in the forests of Finland. You can follow him on Twitter @AJ_FI.