Journal of Comparative Physiology B

, Volume 176, Issue 1, pp 17–25

Swimming efficiency and the influence of morphology on swimming costs in fishes

Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s00360-005-0024-0

Cite this article as:
Ohlberger, J., Staaks, G. & Hölker, F. J Comp Physiol B (2006) 176: 17. doi:10.1007/s00360-005-0024-0


Swimming performance is considered a main character determining survival in many aquatic animals. Body morphology highly influences the energetic costs and efficiency of swimming and sets general limits on a species capacity to use habitats and foods. For two cyprinid fishes with different morphological characteristics, carp (Cyprinus carpio L.) and roach (Rutilus rutilus (L.)), optimum swimming speeds (Umc) as well as total and net costs of transport (COT, NCOT) were determined to evaluate differences in their swimming efficiency. Costs of transport and optimum speeds proved to be allometric functions of fish mass. NCOT was higher but Umc was lower in carp, indicating a lower swimming efficiency compared to roach. The differences in swimming costs are attributed to the different ecological demands of the species and could partly be explained by their morphological characteristics. Body fineness ratios were used to quantify the influence of body shape on activity costs. This factor proved to be significantly different between the species, indicating a better streamlining in roach with values closer to the optimum body form for efficient swimming. Net swimming costs were directly related to fish morphology.


Energetic costsFishMorphologyOptimum speedSwimming efficiency



Active metabolic rate (W)


Total cost of transport when swimming at Umc


COT times body weight (N)


Fish mass (kg)


Net cost of transport


Standard metabolic rate (W)


Swimming speed (m s−1)


Swimming speed associated with minimum costs (m s−1)

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland FisheriesBerlinGermany