Zebrafish, Danio rerio, are frequently handled during husbandry and experimental procedures in the laboratory, yet little is known about the physiological responses to such stressors. We measured the whole-body cortisol levels of adult zebrafish subjected to net stress and air exposure at intervals over a 24 h period; cortisol recovered to near control levels by about 1 h post-net-stress (PNS). We then measured cortisol at frequent intervals over a 1 h period. Cortisol levels were more than 2-fold higher in net stressed fish at 3 min PNS and continued to increase peaking at 15 min PNS, when cortisol levels were 6-fold greater than the control cortisol. Mean cortisol declined from 15 to 60 min PNS, and at 60 min, net-stressed cortisol was similar to control cortisol. Because the age of fish differed between studies, we examined resting cortisol levels of fish of different ages (3, 7, 13, and 19 months). The resting cortisol values among tanks with the same age fish differed significantly but there was no clear effect of age. Our study is the first to report the response and recovery of cortisol after net handling for laboratory-reared zebrafish. ?? 2009 Elsevier B.V.