WaterR: A tool for better management and monitoring of rodent fluid intake

Why did we fund this project?

This award aims to refine fluid control and reward practises in behavioural experiments using mice with a home-cage water delivery system.

Fluid can be used as a motivator for mice to encourage the animals to perform experimental tasks. These studies require fluid to be restricted prior to the experiment, which is done on a cage-by-cage basis and often overnight to allow experiments to be performed the next day. Dr Paul Dodson and Dr Riccardo Avvisati have developed WaterR, a system that enables automation of fluid control tailored to each individual mouse. Tailoring fluid control allows monitoring of fluid uptake by each individual animal within a group-housed cage preventing dehydration. The system comprises of readily available parts and costs less than £50 to make.

Paul and Riccardo will use this award to optimise the WaterR system for use with different animal house set-ups. They have partnered with laboratories at the Universities of Bristol, Oxford and Edinburgh as well as University College London and will work with these researchers to make WaterR readily accessible for any laboratory to adopt. The methodology for making WaterR will be released published online to enable wider uptake.

Most rodent behavioural experiments require motivation to encourage animals to learn and perform experimental tasks. In many cases, it is now recognised that motivation driven by restricting access to fluids is the most suitable approach. However, ensuring that motivation is sufficient to meet the scientific aims, without exposing animals to unnecessarily high levels of thirst is difficult and often impractical. Automating the process therefore offers the opportunity to significantly refine current practice. To meet this need, we have developed and established a low-cost device (called WaterR) for automated home-cage water delivery for rodents. The device is simple to make in the lab and can be easily adapted to meet different experimental needs.

This project will refine fluid control practice by enabling the widespread adoption of the automated water delivery device we have developed. To achieve this, we have partnered with ambassador laboratories from four key hubs of in vivo research across the UK (Bristol, Oxford, UCL, and Edinburgh). We will work with these groups to adapt WaterR to make it readily accessible for any group to adopt. We will then produce and release the plans online and run workshops to publicise the device and aid adoption.

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Skills and Knowledge Transfer grant




University of Bristol

Grant reference number


Award date

May 2020 - May 2022

Grant amount