Whether it’s wowing nature lovers, brightening a fish tank or aiding scientific research, fluorescent fish are dazzling and valuable.
The original zebrafish (named so given their stripes reminiscent of a zebra) is native to India and Bangladesh. In the late 1990s they began evolving thanks to scientists at the National University of Singapore who were working with a gene originally extracted from a jellyfish. According to the team’s study, when the “gene constructs were introduced into zebrafish … they emit green fluorescence under a blue light or ultraviolet light.”
This resulted in new varieties of ornamental fish that developed different fluorescence patterns (e.g. skin and muscle fluorescence. They were originally developed by scientists with the ultimate prospect of it detecting pollution by selectively fluorescing when in environmental toxins and are now helpful in biological research.
The National University of Singapore scientists later furthered this work with the development of red fluorescent zebrafish by adding genes from sea coral, and with the addition of a different variant of the jellyfish gene, developed a zebrafish that’s a fluorescent orange/yellow.
Today, there are about 200 species of naturally occurring fluorescent fish, scientists have found; this bright trait is now naturally widespread in fish lines.
These fluorescent fish have become popular additions to fish tanks. They’re sold in most pet stores nationwide, including locally at One Stop Country Pet Supply in Keene.
“We’ve had a lot of interest in things like this with everyone at home, quarantined and social distancing,” said Matt Davis, who works with the fish at One Stop.
He noted they’ve been a staple at pet stores for years. Calling them albino version of fish, he said they’re typically found deep in the ocean. In addition to their use in biological research, the fluorescent coloring of these fish also serve as a defense mechanism, often confusing predators.
The coloring of fluorescent varieties has been further enhanced via genetic engineering. Patented as GloFish, these ornamental pets are now sold in fluorescent red, green, orange/yellow, blue, pink and purple. They’re now popular ornamental fish, although they were originally developed many years ago simply for biological research.
One Stop has always made it a point to not sell the newly modified variations, instead sticking with those “modified by nature.”
“We [One Stop] are not involved with any kind of fish infusion or genetically modified practices,” Davis said. “We don’t do that, and we never would.”
For more information about fluorescent fish at One Stop, and how they can naturally brighten fish tanks, contact One Stop Country Pet Supply’s Keene location at (603) 352-9200.