The zebrafish is firmly established as a genetic model for the study of vertebrate blood development. Here we have characterized the blood-forming system of adult zebrafish. Each major blood lineage can be isolated by flow cytometry, and with these lineal profiles, defects in zebrafish blood mutants can be quantified. We developed hematopoietic cell transplantation to study cell autonomy of mutant gene function and to establish a hematopoietic stem cell assay. Hematopoietic cell transplantation can rescue multilineage hematopoiesis in embryonic lethal gata1-/- mutants for over 6 months. Direct visualization of fluorescent donor cells in embryonic recipients allows engraftment and homing events to be imaged in real time. These results provide a cellular context in which to study the genetics of hematopoiesis.