Natural transformation is a major mechanism of horizontal gene transfer in bacteria. By incorporating exogenous DNA elements into chromosomes, bacteria are able to acquire new traits that can enhance their fitness in different environments. Within the past decade, numerous studies have revealed that natural transformation is prevalent among members of the Vibrionaceae, including the pathogen Vibrio cholerae. Four environmental factors: (i) nutrient limitation, (ii) availability of extracellular nucleosides, (iii) high cell density and (iv) the presence of chitin, promote genetic competence and natural transformation in Vibrio cholerae by co-ordinating expression of the regulators CRP, CytR, HapR and TfoX respectively. Studies of other Vibrionaceae members highlight the general importance of natural transformation within this bacterial family.