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Q & A
Hybrid Fish
Question
I was wondering if it is possible to breed fish that are of different species? Has it ever been done? Is it legal to do/try?
Answer
Various fish species have been crossbred over the years either as pure research or as a matter of routine for aquaculture purposes. In order for cross-breeding to succeed, parent fish have to be somewhat closely related.

A few examples:

  • tiger muskellunge -- a hybrid between muskellunge and northern pike
  • hybrid striped bass -- cross between white bass and striped bass
  • tiger trout -- hybrid between brook trout and brown trout
  • splake -- hybrid between lake trout and brook trout
  • saugeye -- hybrid between walleye and sauger
  • hybrid sunfish -- cross between two sunfish species such as pumpkinseed and redear sunfish

Tiger troutThere are advantages and disadvantages to use of hybrids. Most grow faster (hybrid vigor) than either parent, but some do not fare as well in regards to survival from egg through fry stage. Most are incapable of reproduction, which is often viewed as an advantage. Some are more fitting to certain types of habitat than one of the parents, and some may have better catchability (in terms of angling) than one of the parents.

It is legal to propagate approved hybrid species. Some species are prohibited from being possessed, transported, sold, etc. in Pennsylvania. For others, we do not permit aquaculture operations with such unless said fish are included on permits issued by the PA Department of Agriculture or raised in a closed system. 

For the aquarium hobbyist working on species that are not native to PA, it is legal to raise hybrid fish, as long as the fish and progeny are NOT released into waters of the Commonwealth anywhere in the state. Further, it is illegal to introduce a species into a watershed where it doesn't already exist.

There are also regulations for specific species where it is unlawful to sell, offer for sale, purchase, possess, introduce, import or transport. Some commonly known species include northern snakehead, black carp, silver carp, bighead carp, round goby, tubenose goby, European Rudd, and grass carp/triploid grass carp (unless by permits authorized by the Commission). To assemble a comprehensive list of all species forbidden would be a major undertaking as possibly any species in the world would have to be included, just remember it is illegal to introduce a species into a watershed where it doesn't already exist.

Tiger troutTiger Trout

Commission trout hatcheries have experimented with raising and stocking small numbers of tiger trout to determine if they would grow any faster or more efficiently than other species.

Tiger troutSeveral thousand tigers were raised each year and a few were put in with loads of brook trout to be stocked throughout the Commonwealth. As no biological advantage was found, this practice was discontinued around 2005.

Although biologically possible, wild tiger trout are extremely rare.

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