The fish caught the eye of Taikong, a worldwide supplier of fish food and equipment. Tsai agreed to share his genetic expertise with Taikong in exchange for research funding. Willis Fang, Taikong’s president, coined the name “Night Pearls” and thought the glowing fish would be a hit among fish enthusiasts. He began plans to market the fish with special black-lit fish tanks, fluorescent food pellets and glowing coral. The fish were available this May in Taipei for about US$17 each.
While the fish have striking colors, reaction from pet dealers has been mixed. “If they can actually do this, it will be the greatest thing since popped corn,” Nevin Bailey, manager at San Diego-based Aquariumfish.net, told The Wall Street Journal this May. The reaction in Europe, where resistance to genetically modified organisms is high, is notably different. “Fish shops in the UK won’t touch them with a barge pole,” the editor of Today’s Fishkeeper, Derek Lambert, told The Observer. “There’s a very strong anti-genetic-engineered-fish feeling in the UK.”
Tsai says that more than 90% of the fish are sterilized, however, and says there should be no concern about the fish polluting natural populations. But marine researchers say there is still a chance that this could happen. Regardless, market reaction to the fish could determine whether they’re just the first of many modified pets. Laboratories around the world have produced partially fluorescent pigs, mice and insects, and scientists are already working on cats that don’t produce allergens.