The Lightning Project

The ongoing saga of the PNG Lightning Maroon Clownfish Breeding Project

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White Stripe Spawn #3 seems to have hatched earlier than expected.  I was looking at the tank on Saturday, 9-13, which would’ve been the day to pull the tile, but the eggs were already gone.  So they may well be on a 5 day schedule?!

Meanwhile, Lightning Maroon Spawn #40 was laid on 9-10-2014.  I’ll be out of town late this week, which means I won’t be able to properly tend to baby lightning maroons.  So this batch, like the last, will be left to hatch and move one.  I believe I’ll be in a good position to deal with Spawn #41 if the fish are back on schedule.

That’s all.

I skipped worrying about the hatch on the last spawn…we simply have too much going on in our lives at the moment to effectively start rearing a batch of clownfish this week.  Meanwhile, on 9/7/2014, the White Stripe Maroons, the unrelated F0 pairing, put down another nest, but small.  I’ve yet to see a really large nest out of these guys, and their spawning is not consistent yet.  I will try to raise this batch so I have outcross material…and down the line I may finally opt to split this pair up to make three foundation lines of Lightnings in my fishroom.

That’s all!

The Lightning Maroon Clownfish at the Great Lakes Aquarium enjoy a brief feature on the homepage of the Duluth News Tribune on the morning of Sept. 7, 2014

The Lightning Maroon Clownfish at the Great Lakes Aquarium enjoy a brief feature on the homepage of the Duluth News Tribune on the morning of Sept. 7, 2014

The Lightning Maroon Clownfish offspring (GL1 and GL2) I donated to the Great Lakes Aquarium in 2013, are now officially on display.

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GL1, the lower fish, foreground, carries the Lightning gene; it’s whit striped mate, above, does not.

Late on Saturday evening, one of my FISHING friends (not to be confused with FISH friends) posted on Facebook that the official story had run online; this Saturday, September 7th, 2014, the Duluth News Tribune is running a story by Alysee Shelton about the Lightning Maroon Clownfish and its mate, which are now on display at the Great Lakes Aquarium here in Duluth, MN. You can ready the story online here for the next coupld days - http://www.duluthnewstribune.com/content/nemo-great-lakes-aquarium-duluth-fish-breeder-shares-lightning-maroon-clownfish-public - Now, I should point out that the article isn’t 100% accurate. As you all know, I like to indulge in a bit of mythbusting (aka. Fact Correcting) here at the Lightning Project…the Duluth News Tribune will “suffer my wrath” (meant very tongue in cheek, affectionately), receiving a healthy dose of disambiguation just like everyone else.

For starters, the fish were actually delivered to the GLA on August 2nd, 2013, which means they were behind the scenes for just over a year before being put on display, not the “6 months” the article mentions. The year behind the scenes is perfectly understandable given that aquarists were VERY busy with the new “Shipwrecks Alive” exhibit that was being put in place in the rotating exhibit hall to replace the “Masters of Disguise” exhibit, which was the replacement for the “Seahorses” exhibits I never got to see…but there’s another reason which I’ll cover in a second.

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I would remind readers that while this article suggests that “[SEASMART] decided to send that fish to Matt Pedersen, an international marine aquarium fish breeder in Duluth.”, that it was actually a) Blue Zoo Aquatics who had the final say in whether I would receive the fish (although my understanding is that all parties felt it was a good move) and b) they didn’t just “send” me the fish…yes, the rumors still persist that I was just “given” the Lightning Maroon!

Jay Walker is a great guy and Operations Manager at the aquarium; I LOVE that QUARANTINE, a practice that too many aquarists skimp on, was mentioned at great lengths in this media coverage and attributed to Walker.  To pull a shortened version of Walker’s comments, “quarantine lasts for a minimum of 30 days, and within this time we do prophylactic treatments for diseases, developing husbandry practices and observations. This process can last for more than 30 days depending on the situation.”  I wish to just elaborate here, that in the case of the Lighting Maroon Clownfish and its normally patterned mate, a BIG part of the actually year-long “quarantine” was the process of size-differentiation leading into successful pairing (“Mating” as the Duluth News Tribune called it in reference to when I first paired the wild fish here in my dining room…and no, not pairing with wine…).  Yes, the GLA didn’t try to accomplish pairing these sibling fish in just a month or two…

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Shelton’s article also glosses over the actuality of numbers a bit, but that’s more due to the brevity of the piece and a word we’re all forced to deal with.  For example, “produced their offspring, classified as lightning maroon clownfish, on June 29, 2012.” As most Lightning Project followers already now, only about 50% of the offspring wind up displaying the mutated phenotype (appearance) and therefore, only about half of them are actually “Lightning” Maroon Clownfish.  I should mention this because one of my worst fears is that someone picks up this story and starts talking about the fish as if they are a NEW SPECIES (which they are certainly NOT). I will also point out a subtle fact that cannot be discerned from the article as written – the GLA only has one Lightning Maroon Clownfish; it is paired with a White Stripe (Normal) sibling. When you get caught up using a word like fish (same when singular or plural) I realized, as I read this piece, that you never can really tell whether you are talking about one, two, or for that matter dozens/hundreds/thousands.

The article went on to state that “Great Lake Aquarium officials believe they are the first aquarium in the world to have these fish.” – I’ll emphatically say that “believe” suggests perhaps more room for doubt than is actually there. When it comes to “firsts” – and for a small public aquarium like the Great Lakes Aquarium, firsts DO matter – I am reasonably confident that they were the first public aquarium to have possession of a Lightning Maroon Clownfish (I could go back and check my records just to be 100% sure). Regardless of that, to the best of my knowledge, I am very confident that they can rightfully claim to have been the first and (to date) only public aquarium in the world to have this unique form on public display. I can say this with reasonable certainty given that I know where all the Lightning Maroons in my fishroom have gone…so unless someone “changed their minds”, I would presume that the Lightning Maroons that were sold in 2013 and 2014 are still in the same breeding programs they were when originally purchased…and not on public display.  Will other aquariums in the future display a Lightning Maroon Clownfish? Perhaps…but I am proud that the GLA stands apart in the world, at least for now.

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I am truly delighted that the fish are on display, in the capable hands of the aquarists at the GLA. And yes, anyone who feels the current retail pricing is just too much to spend on a fish, you can now see one for the price of admission at a unique public aquarium on the shores of St. Louis Bay on Lake Superior. My special thanks for Alysee Shelton for taking the time to craft her article for the Duluth News Tribune – in a few hours I hope to see it in print!

After a lot of downtime, the Lightning Maroon Clownfish F0 pair settled back in and put down a SMALL nest yesterday, in the afternoon of 8-30-2014.  This after a couple tile house collapses and such, combined with a diet change, which put them off for a few weeks.  Basically, I accidentally thawed the Shrimp/Scallop mix I had been making, and have yet to find the time to remake it, so the fish have been only on pellets (Thera A from Spectrum and Ocean Nutrition Formula 1).  Seems pretty apparent to me what happened here…

A couple weeks ago Lorel Dandava-Oli posted a very interesting comment on The Lightning Project’s website.  Dandava happens to be a Marine Aquarium Fisheries Officer-National Fisheries Authority in PNG. Her husband, Darren Oli, is the proprietor of Paradise Aquariums, established in 2012, which is perhaps best described as a service company which provides aquarium installation and maintenance for commercial clients, mainly businesses and hotels in the area.

What caught my (and other’s) attention was when Dandava wrote in, “we’ve had several maroons coming in with similar patterns which I believe has the genetic trait to the lightning clown. Currently I have a mating pair with the similar patterns in my tank.”

Of course, I had to clamor and beg for images.  Dandava went through a lot of hassle to get us two cell phone images (no small feat coming out of PNG) and I’ve done my best to clean ‘em up and sharpen them so you can see the interesting wild White Stripes that are swimming in Dandava’s tank.

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After reviewing the images, this was my response to Lorel Dandava.

“The pair you have looks like a pairing of a traditional, default “wild type” 3-striped White Stripe Maroon Clownfish, typical for PNG.  The 2nd fish appears to be what some have called a “Lightning Precursor”..in my opinion this is probably one of the more intricate examples of the form that we’re currently calling “Morse Code” ( a mixture of dots and dashes) which are somewhat routinely found in PNG waters.  While we have seen some of these fish that at first glance look like they could have something “lightning” floating around in their genes, I think that’s a bit of wishful thinking.
Sadly, I think I can report that you probably won’t see any Lightning type offspring from this pair. The main reason I come to this conclusion is that Soren Hansen of Sea & Reef Aquaculture is breeding with similar wild-collected PNG “Morse Code” Maroons, and he does not get any Lightning progeny from that pairing.  He does, however, get more of the spotted and striped “Morse Code” phenotype.  I don’t know whether he has one, or two, Morse Codes paired together.
I don’t think Morse Code is directly related [to Lightning] – if it was, then I would have presumably seen either a) nothing but Morse Codes in the F1 generation, or b) all the non-lightning offspring I reared would have been morse codes.  Neither happened.
It is possible that this “Morse Code” may be yet a second genetic mutation found in PNG Maroon Clownfish, but we lack enough supportive data for that at the moment. However, we do see a similar type of striping and spotting in the Gold Stripe Maroon Clownfish from Sumatra, and that has proven to have some genetic component and is now produced by multiple parties in the trade and sold as “Goldflake”.  It would make sense to see the same basic aberration in these sister forms (I believe Gold Stripes are a distinct species, but currently they are considered the same as White Stripe Maroons).”
Of course, it bears repeating that most all of these thoughts is a hunch…none of us have done enough test matings, and collected enough data, to answer these genetic questions with certainty.  Meanwhile, we can say with some reasonable certainty that Dandava’s pair should produce a lot of interesting Morse-Code type maroons, and that in itself is of interest as we continue to unravel the genetic mysteries of PNG’s unique white stripe Maroon Clownfish.

 

The tile house collapsed over the weekend, and upon restoring it, the Lightning Maroon and her mate promptly ate all the eggs, which suggests they were dead from lack of parental care / circulation (the tile wasn’t completely down, the eggs did not appear to be smashed).  That’s all for Spawn #38

I discovered spawn #38 around 10 PM on 7-28-2014.  Typical big orange spawn on the sloped ceiling tile.

Sadly, I should have done this the DAY it happened, because now I’ve totally forgotten.  But sometime last week (I think Wednesday or Thursday), the 2nd wild (F0) pair of PNG White Stripes that I have on hand put down a nest, and for the first time it’s “on the tile”.  I should also mention that the last spawn of the Lightning Maroons did indeed hatch while I was away speaking at the MBI Workshop; what’s interesting is that according to Mike, the hatch may have come a “day early” again.

OMG Lightning Maroons

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A lesson to you all – beware of freakishly tall men in straw hats brandishing video cameras.

OMG Lightning Maroons

Come see ^ THIS GUY ^ give an epically animated talk this weekend at the 2014 Marine Breeder’s Workshop.  Yes. It has Lightning Maroons in it.

Thanks Kevin Erickson. That is all.

Spawn #37 is laid

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It felt like this one took a long time to happen; spawn #37 was laid this afternoon by the Lightning Maroon Clownfish and her white stripe mate, 7-12-2014.

That is all…

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