Identifying the molecular pathways regulating hematopoietic stem cell (HSC) specification, self-renewal, and expansion remains a fundamental goal of both basic and clinical biology. Here, we analyzed the effects of Notch signaling on HSC number during zebrafish development and adulthood, defining a critical pathway for stem cell specification. The Notch signaling mutant mind bomb displays normal embryonic hematopoiesis but fails to specify adult HSCs. Surprisingly, transient Notch activation during embryogenesis via an inducible transgenic system led to a Runx1-dependent expansion of HSCs in the aorta-gonad-mesonephros (AGM) region. In irradiated adults, Notch activity induced runx1 gene expression and increased multilineage hematopoietic precursor cells approximately threefold in the marrow. This increase was followed by the accelerated recovery of all the mature blood cell lineages. These data define the Notch-Runx pathway as critical for the developmental specification of HSC fate and the subsequent homeostasis of HSC number, thus providing a mechanism for amplifying stem cells in vivo.