Progressive advances using zebrafish as a model organism have provided hematologists with an additional genetic system to study blood cell formation and hematological malignancies. Despite extensive evolutionary divergence between bony fish (teleosts) and mammals, the molecular pathways governing hematopoiesis have been highly conserved. As a result, most (if not all) of the critical hematopoietic transcription factor genes identified in mammals have orthologues in zebrafish. As in other vertebrates, all of the teleost blood lineages are believed to originate from a pool of pluripotent, self-renewing hematopoietic stem cells. Here, we provide a detailed review of the timing, anatomical location, and transcriptional regulation of zebrafish 'primitive' and 'definitive' hematopoiesis as well as discuss a model of T-cell leukemia and recent advances in blood cell transplantation. Given that many of the regulatory genes that control embryonic hematopoiesis have been implicated in oncogenic pathways in adults, an understanding of blood cell ontogeny is likely to provide insights into the pathophysiology of human leukemias.