The tube dominance apparatus allows for social hierarchy experiments demonstrated with winning in conflict situations.  It has also been shown that these rodents just keep winning. Tube test winners have been observed to also win at other types of social behavior. In addition, social dominance is relative by nature. The same animal can act dominantly over a more subordinate opponent, but also act more submissively against a more dominant one. The Dalila effect is an excessive grooming behavior  that have shown to be closely correlated with winning in the tube dominance test and is closely linked with many other social behaviors(Wang, Kessels, & Hu, 2014).

Our apparatus includes easy to use clear doors to allow start and stop of testing. Sizing available for mice and rats please inquire for custom sizing.

Price & Dimensions


$ 790

  • Length: 30cm.
  • Diameter: 3.5cm.
  • Entry to Door: 13cm.
  • Distance between doors: 4cm


$ 890

  • Length: 48cm.
  • Diameter: 5.5cm.
  • Entry to Door: 20cm.
  • Distance between doors: 8 cm



The tube dominance model is an extensively used task to measure social hierarchy and social dominance in rodents.

Social hierarchy is actively regulated by the Prefrontal cortex (PFC) region of the brain.

Excitatory synapses in dominant mouse are more active in relation to its subordinate counterpart. When the medial prefrontal cortex’s synaptic strength of dominant mice is lessened, the mice became subordinate. On the other hand, when the synaptic strength is enhanced in submissive mouse, the mice ascended the social hierarchy tree.

The tube dominance model quantifies socially dominant behaviors in rodents by determining the social ranks of the subjects under study.

Social domination is operationally defined as winning at points of social conflict. (Hand, J.L, 1986) Such social conflict scenario is mimicked by the dominance tube which scores social dominance in rodents. (Wang, F. et al. 2011)

Dominance tube was developed by G.Lindzey in 1961. Therefore, it is also known as the Lindzey tube. In their model, they determined the social dominance in genetically related mouse strains.

Correlation of Test Tube Ranks

The winners of the dominance test protocol are also dominant in three significant behaviors that are correlated to the test tube ranks. These behaviors support the validity of the dominance tube paradigm as a reliable quantifier of social dominance.

Dalila Effect

Dalila effect is a grooming behavior often observed in rodents, and the most dominant mouse (barber) trims and removes the whiskers of its cage mates. In general, the barber is the winner of the dominance task over its cage mates. (Kalueff, A.V. et al. 2006; Strozik, E. and Festing, M.F, 1981).This specifies that whisker trimming is a behavioral characteristic of dominance.

Proactive wooing

Another behavior that correlates to the test tube rank is the proactive courtship. Male mice that ranked high in dominance task also woo actively (approximately 70 kHz ultrasonic vocalization) during courtship (Nyby, J. et al, 1976), whereas submissive mice depicted almost no ultrasonic vocalization. (de Catanzaro, D, and Ngan,,1983)

Urine Marking

Urine marking is another trait that is common with rodents ranking top in the dominance test tube. The chemical clues in urine indicate territorial boundary and social status in rodents. (Ralls, K 1971)

When dominant-submissive mice are separated by a partition, dominant rodents tend to urinate more often and near the partition separating the group housed counterpart. On the contrary, the subordinate mouse only void urine near the corners. (Desjardins, C. et al, 1973)

Apparatus and Equipment

The dominance test tube consists of a plexiglass tube approx. 17 inches long, and about 1 inch in diameter from inside.

At the end of each side of the tube, a goal box (approx. 4 in. x 4 in. x 2 in.) is present enclosed by a wire cloth top. (G.Lindzey, 1961)

Guillotine doors can be installed at the entrance of each goal box to hold the subordinate mice. A small plexiglass divider is inserted midway where the confrontation takes place.

The diameter of the tube is wide enough for a mature mouse to pass through it rapidly, but not wide enough to allow two mice pass each other in the tube.

Training Protocol

The purpose of the tube dominance test is to evaluate social dominance in rodents in a control vs. disease model/intervention group, by assessing their capacity to defeat the other mouse in the tube.

Pre-training for tube dominance task

The subjects are trained for three consecutive days with five training sessions per day.

The subjects are deprived of food and allowed to run through the entire course of the tube until they reach the goal box to get their reward in the shape of wet mash.

During training sessions, the direction of the mice is also alternated and the time is recorded to reach the goal box on each session.

Evaluation of social hierarchy and social dominance

On the test day, the mice are introduced to the goal box concurrently at the entrances of the tube. When the subjects reach the center of the apparatus, the plexiglass divider is removed, and the confrontation takes place.

The procedure is continued until one mouse forces the other to retreat to the goal box with the all the four feet inside it.

The mouse’s goal box and the order of the opponent are rotated systematically on consecutive days.

The test procedure is repeated for five days with three matches per day. The subjects are completely deprived of food during all the test trails.


The original version of the dominance test tube is a manually handed apparatus. (G.Lindzey, 1961)

A great number of modifications are made to the test tube. A significant modification is made by Wouter E, van den Berg 2014.

They automated the apparatus. Their apparatus consists of a clear fiberglass tube approx. 50 cm long and 2.5 cm in diameter from inside. The tube is connected to a clear fiberglass box approx. 12 x 8 cm on each side enclosed with clear fiberglass doors. The box can be opened or closed with the aid of a manual lid.

An air valve is present at the rear end of the box approx. 1 cm above the base. Additionally, an opaque fiberglass divider is placed in the center.

The activation of each air valve and the positioning of each door are fully automated and regulated independently in real-time for automated tracking with infrared photo-detectors.

Sample Data

Two sample graphs, one depicting the win percentage and the other correlating Dominant-Subordinate behaviors in control versus medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) lesion group (Fig.1b) can be visualized.

Match win % graph represents the match win percentages over the course of a round-robin tournament for the pool of five mice. Fig.1a

Strengths & Limitations


This protocol depicts exceptional stability and transitivity to either genetically different strains of mice or closely related cage mates from the identical strain. (Wang, F. et al, 2011)

The test tube may be more natural, less interfering, and also present less stress in the mouse when compared with social defeat based paradigms.

Understanding the concept of neuronal circuits of dominance hierarchy may provide ample data regarding the development of therapies for social stress related clinical phenomena.


Lack of test training and stabilization of ranks are the possible variations that may alter the results of the test. Therefore, in order to ensure cogency, test protocols must be standardized.

Factors other than dominance may also add to the outcome of each individual dominance assay. Thus, it is best to consider two dominance assay based on different sensory/motor aspects to diminish ambiguity.

Summary and Key Points

The tube dominance task is a renowned protocol used to assess social hierarchy and social dominance in rodents.

Dalila Effect, proactive wooing, and urine marking behaviors correlate the test tube ranks.

The apparatus consists of a plexiglass tube, and a small plexiglass divider is placed in the center.

A significant modification of the apparatus is the automation of the equipment.


Hand, J.L. Resolution of social conflicts – dominance, egalitarianism, spheres of dominance, and game-theory. Q. Rev. Biol. 61, 201–220 (1986)

Lindzey, G. et al. Social dominance in inbred mouse strains. Nature 191, 474–476 (1961)

Wang, F. et al. Bidirectional control of social hierarchy by synaptic efficacy in medial prefrontal cortex. Science 334, 693–697 (2011)

Kalueff, A.V. et al. Hair barbering in mice: implications for neurobehavioural research. Behav. Processes 71,8–15 (2006)

Strozik, E. and Festing, M.F. Whisker trimming in mice. Lab. Anim. 15, 309–312 (1981)

Nyby, J. et al. Social status and ultrasonic vocalizations of male mice. Behav. Biol. 18, 285–289 (1976)

de Catanzaro, D. and Ngan, Dominance in intermale encounters and subsequent sexual success in mice. J. Comp. Psychol. 97, 269–278 (1983)

Ralls, K. Mammalian scent marking. Science 171, 443–449 (1971)

Desjardins, C. et al. Social rank in house mice: differentiation revealed by ultraviolet visualization of urinary marking patterns. Science 182, 939–941 (1973)

Van den Berg, Wouter E, Sander Lamballais, and Steven A Kushner. “Sex-Specific Mechanism of Social Hierarchy in Mice.” Neuropsychopharmacology 40.6 (2015): 1364–1372.

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Request a Tube Dominance Test