Ecological Problems with Genetically Modified Saltwater Aquarium Fish Ecological Problems with Genetically Modified Saltwater Aquarium Fish

A saltwater aquarium provides a beautiful addition to any home. But you should know if the fish that you put into the aquarium are genetically modified. Genetically modified fish carry a DNA sequence that was produced in a laboratory. Most concerns about genetically modified fish are centered on fish meant for human consumption. There are some concerns however about genetically modified aquarium for other reasons.

Genetically Modified Fish in the Wild

Scientists are concerned that genetically modified fish might accidentally be released into the wild. Problems could arise if they interbreed with wild fish. Another concern is that they could compete with the native fishes for food. Some scientists say that there may not be a reason for such concerns as the genetically modified fish may not be able to survive in the wild and therefore the wild fish would not be affected.


Some scientists recommend that regulators do not simply ban all genetically modified fish but make decisions for each species and type of fish on a case by case basis. Fish in particular are impossible to contain once they are in the wild. They are also able to move from one area to another easily. New regulations will probably focus on the containment of any genetically-modified fish that is approved because genetically modified fish are new and untested animals. Environmentalists argue that we have no way to predict what damage might occur to our ecosystems once they are introduced to the natural environment. Aquarium fish are released into the wild all the time. Sometimes a fish is flushed and survives in the wastewater. Since no government department has taken responsibility for regulating these aquarium fish there has not been enough investigation into the effects they may have.

The GloFish Case

One example of a genetically modified fish is the GloFish. A fluorescent coral gene is inserted in a zebra danio’s DNA. These resulting fish are neon color and glow under a black light. They were originally developed to glow when there were toxins in a water supply. Now they are popular aquarium fish. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) decided not to regulate the GloFish. They released a statement explaining their decision. “Because tropical aquarium fish are not used for food purposes they pose no threat to the food supply. There is no evidence that these genetically engineered zebra danio fish pose any more threat to the environment than their unmodified counterparts which have long been widely sold in United States. In absence of a clear risk to the public health, the FDA finds no reason to regulate these fish.” Some saw this as an unsafe precedent in regards to regulating genetically modified animals. The state of California and the European union have banned the sale of these fish.

The controversy surrounding genetically modified aquarium fish continues. Some scientists say this battle will be won by the consumer who ultimately decides whether to buy the fish or not.

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