In the past few years there have been many new fish appear on the
market, some like the Botia kubotai are a welcome find, others are not quite so natural. Originally started in the
70’s with the Disco Fish (a glassfish that was dyed multiple colors) these fish have increased in demand. After all
who doesn’t want to see a colorful fish? Many people were mislead by exports as these fish were sold as “painted
glassfish.” That doesn’t sound so bad, why all the fuss?
In reality a “painted glassfish” isn’t really painted
at all, it’s injected with dye. Even that sounds somewhat passable, but here’s the entire process:
The fish is dipped in an acid solution that removes the protective
slime coat (part of the fishes immune system). Next, the fish is injected with semi-fluorescent dye, the needle used would
compare to you getting a flu shot with a needle the size of a number 2 pencil. The fish may also be dipped directly into the
dye in the case of most loaches. Next the fish is placed in an irritant bath in an effort to start regenerating the protective
slime coat. Only 20% of fish survive this initial process, many others will die from disease or have a shortened lifespan
because of this treatment. The high mortality rate, combined with the fact that most dyed fish will lose their unnatural colors
within 8-10 months, hardly makes this whole process seem necessary.
There is a difference between the genetically engineered GloFish and
fish that have been dyed. Both are hot subjects with fish enthusiasts but the difference really is between what is ethical
and what is outright animal abuse. The GloFish are engineered to be luminescent by adding a fluorescent gene, this causes
not physical pain to the fish. The dyeing process as described above if far from painless and kills 800 out of 1000 fish that
undergo this barbaric process.
The GloFish is not available in California which does not allow possession
of any transgenic aquatic life without a special permit.
Dyed fish are available at most Wal-Mart, PetsMart and Petco
stores as well as some smaller retailers.
Here is a list of commonly found dyed fish, this list grows daily
as the number of fish being subjected to this treatment increases as long as public demand increases. It should be noted that
not only are fish abused by this process, but the workers face an increased risk of bladder cancer due to the Benzidine-based
dyes used as well as working conditions that are substandard.