GloFish are cool. There, we said it, and now surely the pitchforks and the sickles are coming out as you prepare to burn us at the stake, but hear us out. Two new varieties of GloFish were just announced, the GloFish Sunburst orange and Moonrise red, which are genetically modified versions of the skirt tetra, better known to old school freshy lovers simply as the black tetra, Gymnocorymbus ternetzi.
In many ways, GloFish are not that different from the designer clownfish that are well established in the marine aquarium world. What we call Pearleyes, Picassos, Galaxy and Snowflakes, the Glofish are called Sunburst, Moonrise, Cosmic, Galactic and Electric. Although the techniques used to create Glofish seem inherently different from the selective process used to create mutant clownfish, the end results is the same: an unnatural fish.
For the record, we love all manner of freshwater fish, especially the natural types; we’ll take wild discus, wild angelfish, and natural tetras ober their pidgeon blood, pearlscale and longifn counterparts any day. What we find fascinating about Glofish is that, putting it bluntly, there’s a piece of jellyfish in a zebra danio making it fluoresce. If that isn’t cool science then we don’t know what is. Researchers have already added green fluorescent proteins to cichlids like convicts and angelfish and it’s probably only a matter of time until they do it to clownfish too!
The danger of introducing kids to aquariums with Glofish is that they might get bored with “normal” colored fish with the side effects of learning about genetic modification, transgenics, pigmentation, fluorescence, and the basic physics of light. “Daddy why do the fish glow?” “Mommy, why do they glow different colors?” For our own tanks we are purists all the way but if Glofish can be used to teach kids something cool and interesting, more power to them.