Playing God: GloFish® fluorescent fish FAQ
GloFish® are brilliantly wonderful fish that add color and excitement to any aquarium, whether at home or the office, or in classrooms.
GloFish are similar to other fish, except they have a much brighter disposition. GloFish fluorescent fish are available for purchase in five stunningly beautiful colors: Starfire Red®, Electric Green®, Sunburst Orange®, Cosmic Blue™ and Galactic Purple™.
Today’s GloFish fluorescent fish are bred from the offspring of fluorescent fish that were originally developed several years ago. Each new GloFish fluorescent fish inherits its unique color directly from its parents, maintains the color throughout its life, and passes the color along to its offspring.
Where do GloFish® fluorescent fish come from?
GloFish® fluorescent fish were originally bred to help detect environmental pollutants. By adding a natural fluorescence gene to the fish, scientists hope to one day quickly and easily determine when a waterway is contaminated. The first step in developing a pollution-detecting fish was to create fish that would be fluorescent all the time. Scientists soon realized the public’s interest in sharing the benefits of this research, a process which lead to GloFish® fluorescent fish.
Where does the fluorescent color come from?
The fluorescent color in our fish is produced by a fluorescent protein gene, which creates the beautiful fluorescence that can be seen when looking at the fish. The fluorescent protein genes occur naturally, and are derived from marine organisms.
Do you have to add a fluorescence gene to every fish before it hatches?
No. Today’s GloFish® fluorescent fish are bred from the offspring of fluorescent fish that were originally developed several years ago. Each new GloFish® fluorescent fish inherits its unique color directly from its parents, maintains the color throughout its life, and passes the color along to its offspring.
What are the differences between fluorescent fish and other fish?
Aside from their brilliant color, fluorescent fish are the same as their non-fluorescent counterparts. This includes everything from general care and temperature preferences to growth rate and life expectancy.
Does the fluorescence harm the fish?
No. The fish are as healthy as other fish in every way. Scientists originally developed them several years ago by adding a natural fluorescence gene to the fish eggs before they hatched. Today’s GloFish® fluorescent fish are bred from the offspring of these original fish.
Exactly how is the fluorescent protein gene added to the fish?
Every line of GloFish® fluorescent fish (i.e. Starfire Red®, Electric Green®, Sunburst Orange®, Cosmic Blue™, and Galactic Purple™) starts with a single fish. The general process of developing fluorescent fish, as illustrated in this chart, begins by adding a fluorescence gene to the fish before it hatches from its egg. Once the gene integrates into the genome (i.e., genetic code) of the embryo, the developing fish will be able to pass the fluorescence gene along to its offspring upon maturity. Because of this, the gene only needs to be added to one embryo; from that point forward, all subsequent fluorescent fish are the result of traditional breeding.
Which federal agencies have reviewed these fish?
We have submitted detailed information regarding our fish to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, which has jurisdiction over biotech animals, as set forth here, as they consider the added gene to be an “animal drug”. Consistent with the findings of scientists worldwide, the FDA, working in coordination with the United States Department of Agriculture and United States Fish & Wildlife Service, found no evidence that our fluorescent fish pose any more threat to the environment than their non-fluorescent counterparts. If you would like to read the FDA statement regarding our zebrafish, please click here.
What will happen if a GloFish® fluorescent fish escapes into the waterways?
GloFish® fluorescent fish are tropical fish and are unable to survive in non-tropical environments. Their non-fluorescent counterparts have been sold to aquarium owners worldwide for more than fifty years. Despite all these years of widespread distribution, they are only found in tropical environments. At the same time, please remember that GloFish® fluorescent fish are intended for use as aquarium fish only, and should never be intentionally released into the wild.
What if a GloFish® fluorescent fish is eaten in the wild by another animal?
For an animal in the wild, eating a fluorescent fish is the same as eating any other fish. Their fluorescence is derived from a gene that is already found in nature and is completely safe for the environment. Just as eating a blue fish would not turn a predator blue, eating a fluorescent fish would not make a predator fluoresce.
Can humans eat GloFish®?
GloFish® fluorescent fish, like all ornamental fish, are not intended for human consumption. Accordingly, GloFish should not be eaten.
Do GloFish® fluorescent fish glow?
Fluorescent fish absorb light and then re-emit it. This creates the perception that they are glowing, particularly when shining a black light on the fish in a dark room.
»GloFish® fluorescent fish FAQ
- The Holy Grail of Fluorescent Proteins (scientistatwork.blogs.nytimes.com)
- Test-Tube-to-Table: 11 Up-and-Coming Genetically Engineered Animals (mentalfloss.com)
- The colors of the Brainbow: when science looks like art (chonps.org)
- Introducing The Next Generation Of Genetically-Engineered Animals (businessinsider.com)
- NatGeo :: Fish Glow Green After Genetic Engineering (trushin.wordpress.com)
- Fish Mercury Levels: 1/4 Freshwater Fish Exceed ‘Safe’ Mercury Levels (sott.net)