Fluorescent cichlids produced in Taiwan

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Taiwan's Council of Agriculture unveiled last week that it has successfully bred transgenic Convict cichlids (Amatitlania nigrofasciata) and Angelfish (Pterophyllum scalare) that fluoresce, in collaboration with the Academia Sinica (Taiwan's national research academy).

This achievement is the culmination of seven years’ efforts and represents the largest genetically modified aquarium fishes created to date, after the Glofish™ Zebra danio (Danio rerio) and the fluorescent Medaka (Oryzias latipes).

The latter has been authorised for sale in Taiwan as aquarium fish since 2003.

According to Dr Chih-Yi Chen, who headed the research team from the Institute of Cellular and Organismic Biology of the Academia Sinica that produced the transgenic fish, producing the transgenic cichlids required more effort because of fewer controls over spawning of the Convict cichlids compared to the smaller fishes previously used.

Researchers had to wait by the tank for the fishes to spawn so that the gene fragments could be microinjected into the Convict cichlid eggs.

A greater hurdle was faced in producing the fluorescent angelfish, since microinjection of the gene fragments could not be used here.

In this case, electroporation (making the cell membrane more permeable by applying an electric field to it) had to be carried out instead.

The transgenic Convict cichlids have been bred true to the fifth generation at present (no information on the angelfish was given), and the technology has already been transferred to private companies with an eye to commercial production.  

However, approximately one more year of field tests is needed (scheduled for completion at the end of 2011) to ensure that the cichlids would not have adverse effects on the natural environment.

The fluorescent cichlids are expected to hit the ornamental fish market as early as 2012, with a projected value (of production) of at least 60 million dollars annually.

The species will be illegal to sell or import into the UK due to our legislation covering genetically modified organisms.