This brief review summarizes features of the zebrafish, Danio rerio, that make it a suitable model organism for studies of regulatory physiology. The review presents the argument that random mutagenesis screens are a valuable gene-finding strategy to identify genes of functional importance and that their utility, although well established for developmental issues, will extend to a variety of topics of interest to the regulatory physiologist. Particular attention is drawn to the range of functional responses amenable to mutagenesis screens in larval zebrafish. Other virtues of the organism, the range of genomic tools, the potential for innovative optical methods, and the tractability for genetic and other experimental manipulations, are also described. Finally, the review provides examples of functional studies in zebrafish, including studies in sensory neurons, cardiac rhythm disturbances, gastrointestinal function, and studies of the developing kidney, that illustrate potential applications. Because of the relative ease with which combinatorial studies can be performed, the zebrafish may eventually be particularly valuable in understanding the functional interaction between subtle gene defects that cause polygenic disorders.