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Frankenfish

Commercial breeders of tropical fish have adopted many of the scientific breakthroughs in genetic manipulation, and have come up with quite a few fish that exist nowhere in nature. Some folks deride these fish, and call them Frankenfish.

Posted: August 11, 2010

By David Lass

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Commercial breeders of tropical fish have adopted many of the scientific breakthroughs in genetic manipulation, and have come up with quite a few fish that exist nowhere in nature. Some folks deride these fish, and call them “Frankenfish.” I have a different opinion. I applaud what these fish breeders have been doing in coming up with new aquarium fish (as long as we are not talking about painted, dyed or tattooed aquarium fish).

Probably the best-known, genetically manipulated fish is the “GloFish,” which is a plain old zebra danio that has had genes from a coelenterate spliced into its genes. This makes for “fluorescent” fish in bright colors, including red, green and yellow. The breeding and distribution of GloFish is controlled by license in the U.S., and presumably, the fish are sterile, as I do not know of anyone who has bred them.

Other genetically-new aquarium fish include hybrids of two different species of fish. The most-recognized hybrid is the “parrot” cichlid. In addition, new hybrids of large catfish (red tailed, shovelnose, etc.), recently became available. The hybrid parrot cichlids are, unfortunately, often dyed and/or tattooed, but the unblemished ones in different natural colors are quite nice. The catfish hybrids are smaller than either of their parents and they are interesting-looking fish.

When it comes to genetically manipulated aquarium fish or a hybrid of two species of fish, a number of “purists” out there find them repulsive. These fish hobbyists believe that nothing like this should be done to fish. This is, to my way of thinking, a pretty silly position to take. I see very little difference between physically playing with the genes of fish and selectively breeding for certain traits. And when it comes to hybrid fish, hobbyists should be aware that swordtails, platys and mollies all originally come from hybrids, and surely no one would want to exclude those fish from the fishkeeping hobby.

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Reader Comments

Damsel    San Antonio, TX

1/21/2011 9:35:47 PM

I am unable to resist the blood red parrots.I think they are adorable. They always look like they're smiling, they are very interactive, and they can't fin nip because their mouths don't close.They will however bully some fish by ramming them ,so you have to make sure their tankmates are compatable. I have 3 large ones in my 150 gal rescue tank and they really are the stars of the tank!

Jon    GJ, CO

8/26/2010 4:59:29 PM

I've seen the red ones spawn, and produce fry.

Linay    Deleware, OH

8/23/2010 3:44:27 PM

I had some Glo-fish in my 28gal aquarium, and as with zebra danios they breed, I wasn't trying to breed them so I didn't have a ton of luck since I wasn't doing so. my normal zebras had fry, then a couple times bred with the glo ones. I had once a pink-red one and another a yellow colored ones. not to long after they had the colored ones I gave my danios to a friend though.

Diana    Lawndale, CA

8/14/2010 10:03:46 PM

As long as it doesn't harm the fish, Hybrids are okay. It gives choices to those who are adventurous. It also makes you think by seeing all the fish variation. If it does harm the environment or the fish, then its bad. I just don't like when they dye the fish or mutilate them. That, I am against!

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