A video teaser

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The curated genetic reference database for fish species
Allowing an unambiguous determination of fisheries products

The AquaGene project in easy language

What is AquaGene?

AquaGene is a digital library for the identification of fish species based on their DNA barcode. DNA is like a unique instruction manual found in every living organism. It tells the body how to grow, work, and look. Every species has a different DNA, making DNA informative for species differentiation.

AquaGene now helps people figure out the species of fish by matching its DNA with a curated reference.

What is special about AquaGene?

  • It stores DNA barcodes of as many fish species as possible.
  • It can tell fish apart, even if they look very similar or have lots of close family members.
  • The website also has pictures of every specimen to check its validity and details about where each fish was found.

Who made AquaGene?

A team of scientists and researchers from Germany created this digital fish DNA library with financial support from the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture. They also collaborated with various project partners worldwide.

Why did they make AquaGene?

Traded fish are sometimes mislabelled, whether by mistake or on purpose. This can be tricky for importers, customs, and consumers. But by checking the DNA of an individual fish against AquaGene, people can know for sure what species of fish it is. It is like making sure you get the right item from a mystery bag.

How does AquaGene work?

Imagine each fish has a special barcode - that is its DNA. AquaGene has a collection of these barcodes. So, when someone has a fish and wants to know the species, they can compare its DNA barcode with those in AquaGene. If there is a match, voila! They have identified the fish.

AquaGene's current collection and future plans

Right now, most of the fish DNA in AquaGene comes from the ocean near West Atlantic and Indian Ocean. But it is planned to add more from other places, especially the ones that are traded in Europe and not found in other DNA libraries.


A genetic database collaboration developed by the Thünen Institute of Fisheries Ecology together with the Max Rubner-Institute - Department of Safety and Quality of Milk and Fish Products and Impetus Bioscience.

Funded by the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture.

Sample collection performed by the Thünen Institute of Fisheries Ecology in cooperation with the University Mohammed V-Agdal (Morocco), the Instituto Nacional de Desenvolvimento das Pescas (Cape Verde), the National Agricultural Research Institute (The Gambia) and the EAF-Nansen Project.

Funded by the Moroccan Ministry of Higher Education, Scientific Research and Formation of Cadres and the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research.


Reinhold Hanel (portrait)
Reinhold Hanel portrait

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Responsible for the content/editorial:
Prof. Dr. Reinhold Hanel

Johann Heinrich von Thünen Institute

Institute of Fisheries Ecology
Herwigstraße 31, 27572 Bremerhaven, Germany
Phone: +49 471 94460 200
Fax: +49 471 94460 199
Email: aquagene@thuenen.de

Johann Heinrich von Thünen Institute
Federal Research Institute for Rural Areas, Forestry and Fisheries
Bundesallee 50, 38116 Braunschweig, Germany
Phone: +49 531 596 1218
Fax: +49 531 596 1099
Email: info@thuenen.de

© 2024 Johann Heinrich von Thünen Institute