In fish, LSD disrupts the normal patterns of swimming. When Betta splendens, the Siamese fighting fish, is placed in 100 mL fresh spring water containing 1 ug/mL LSD, it moves to the surface of the water, in a nose-up, tail-down position. Swimming movements are reduced, and the fish remains physically immobilized in statue-like positions for many hours. Another effect was the darkening of he basic body color of Betta, which fades slowly as recovery occurred. Abramson and colleagues noted that juvenile fish were more sensitive to color changes than adults (Abramson,H.A. 1954).
Six behaviors were identified for LSD-intoxicated Bettas.
1a. Backward movements.
1b. Head up, and the body is suspended in the vertical plane. In the maximum stage of narcosis the snout is kept at the surface. As effects begin to wear off, the fish sink slowly below the surface until after 6 hours it might take a position 2 inches below the surface.
1c. "Cartesian diver" effect. Treated fish sink or rise very slowly in a near-vertical plane without visible body movement except by means of pectoral fins.
1d. Treated fish exhibit kinking in their body conformation.
1e. "Trancelike" effect.
1f. Slow and deliberate movements, as compared with the typical swift and sudden movements of normal fish.
Just how arbitrary are these descriptions? In Cold Spring Harbor, 1956, four judges, two zoology majors, and two physiology majors in their senior year of college spent approximately 8 hours observing fish in water containing LSD. Only one response was measured on a given trial. As shown in the table below, there was a significant amount of agreement between judges about the 'quiescent state' parameter (J. Arbit, 1957). There was much agreement overall, suggesting that these behaviors are unique to LSD-intoxicated fish.
The fish surfacing reaction has been studied in other species of fish. The figure below shows the LSD surfacing curve for goldfish. There is a time- and dose-dependent effect. In water containing 0.5 ug/mL LSD, about 95% of the fish showed a nose-up, tail-down reaction within 20 minutes (H. A. Abramson, 1979). The surfacing reaction was less pronounced in water containing 0.2 ug/mL or 0.1 ug/mL LSD, with less fish being affected less rapidly.
Some of the largest fish studied were carp. Control fish spend over 90% of their time at the bottom of the tank, as shown on the right (below). After 45 minutes in water containing 2 ug/mL LSD, carp spent more time at the surface (left) (H. A. Abramson, 1962).
R. Chessick checked the effects of LSD on guppy (Lebistes reticulatus), and white cloud (Tanichthys albonubes). The effect common to all species included darkening of body color and less spontaneous activity (R. D. Chessick, 1964).
ABRAMSON H. A. and L. T. EVANS (1954). Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD 25). II. psychobiological effects on the siamese fighting fish. Science 120, 990-991. DOI:10.1126/science.120.3128.990
ARBIT J. (1957). Effects of LSD-25 upon betta splendens: Reliability of a bioassay technique. Journal of Applied Physiology 10, 317-318.
Abramson H. A., H. H. Gettner, M. P. Hewitt and G. Dean (1962). Effect of lysergic acid diethylamide on the surfacing behaviour of large carp. Nature 193, 320-321. DOI:10.1038/193320a0
CHESSICK R. D., J. KRONHOLM, M. BECK and G. MAIER (1964). Effect of pretreatment with tryptamine, tryptophan and dopa on LSD reaction in tropical fish. Psychopharmacologia 5, 390-392. DOI:10.1007/BF00441449
Abramson H. A., H. H. Gettner, P. A. Carone, A. Rolo, and L. Krinsky (1979). The intracranial injection of drug in goldfish. I: Hallucinogens and their antagonism to smooth muscle activity. The Journal of asthma research 16, 55-61.