So honestly, having been cut off from the newbie crack trapthat is Reef Central by the dealer itself years ago, I’m at times unfamiliar with all the personalities associated with it.  RC, with it’s huge marketshare in the “online reef community” department, is one of those places where folks at times make a name for themselves (whether inadvertently or intentionally).  There are many talented people out there who I simply do not know because I no longer spend one iota of time on Reef Central.
One such “RC” personality that I had zero familiarity with before this week is Boomer.  Boomer happens to be a local, and it turns out we share many of the same acquaintances.  Anyone who can share a humorous anecdote about himself, Christine Williams, and a MACNA, well, if you’re willing to admit how close you came to making a fool out of yourself and to laugh about it later, you’re good in my book.
At any rate, Jim Grassinger (The Filter Guys, another local here in Duluth MN) knew Boomer was back in town, and when he saw things going south with the female PNG Maroon, suggested that Boomer have a look (per Jim, Boomer is, hands down, our area’s expert on marine fish disease, although I think Boomer’s more widely known as an expert on the topic of chemistry in general).  To make a long story short, I got on the phone with Boomer on Friday and I think we had to “feel each other out”.  Boomer had only skimmed the blog (reading the whole thing is probably already a monumental task) and had picked up on my musings, confusing some of my “thoughts” as being actual actions I had taken along the way.  Once we had cleared up what I had and had not done, things were much easier to talk about.
Well finally this afternoon, Boomer got to make a house call after our club ( meeting.  And here’s where I get to actually talking about the status of the Lighting Maroon project.  Boomer of course was insistent on catching a good glimpse of the Lighting Maroon…a tiny finger poke was all it took to get him out of the RBTA to show off.  Let’s just say Boomer approved and after a close visual inspection, signed off on the fish being in perfect condition.  From MY standpoint, the fish is not yet “perfect”.  I would argue that the Lighting Maroon is taking too much time buried in the Red Bubble Tip Anemone, not willing to dart out to grab food as it drifts to the bottom of the net.  Overall, I want a more aggressive, settled in fish.  Health wise, appears perfect.  Deportment wise, a bit too timid for my tastes at this time.  Clearly not 100% happy with his new, confined home, but I think taking some solace in having 3 anemones.
After that, Boomer got down and gave the female PNG Maroon a good close look.  I’m paraphrasing of course, but again, here’s the jist.  Boomer expected to see a Maroon Clownfish suffering from Brooklynella, with mucus and skin sloughing off.  Boomer remarked on the cloudy right eye, which my friends is a NEW development today…was not there yesterday and something I had noticed this morning.  The cloudy eye lends further credence to my concerns about visual impairment, and in fact, it would seem that the Maroon only “strikes food” it can see with its left eye, but only at the last second.  Blindness, whether full or partial, is a legitimate concern at this point.
Boomer’s prognosis was perhaps more optimistic than my own.  Even though the female barely ate anything today, he felt the fish was on the path to recovery yet again, and WOULD recover if I stayed the course of treatment I’m on now.
Me, I’m not so sure.  While Boomer may be right about “recovery”, it could still be that I wind up with a battle weary, half blind Maroon Clown that is past its prime.  This fish may not have enough left to make a good candidate for broodstock.  I’m not writing this fish off at this point, but I am continuing to ask Mark Martin to plan on setting aside a couple more PNG Maroons to ship in a few week’s time.
Which brings me to the last closing thoughts for the time being.  Specifically, concerns about trying to pair up another PNG Maroon.  First Joe Lichtenbert, and then John Witt, both emailed to suggest that I find an Aquacultured Maroon Clown female to pair with this fish.  And I’m not writing off that suggestion.  The reality is that leaving the fish in solitude raises concerns about it turning female.  That concern might be unfounded based on the premise that reproductively speaking, it is better to remain a male if you are single.  That way, you are better positioned to accept and mate with whatever fish mother nature throws your way in the wild.  That makes a good theory, but I can’t say if it’s actually what would happen.  It’s like saying a female Anthias or Wrasse won’t turn male unless a female is present.  I don’t know that to be true or false, but I wouldn’t risk it.
Nevertheless, pairing with an Aquacultured Female would present the following considerations.  It’s NOT a PNG Maroon, and that goes against one of my personal project goals (which is maintaining a PNG bloodline).  Breeders are quick to point out that THIS is in fact a temporary setback, and would not be a total failure, and they’re right.  There are upsides.  The upsides include not risking disease exposure, at least not at the level another WC clownfish might present if paired prematurely (rest assured, any WC Maroon would go through the same QT period as these guys already did, if not more so).  The other upside is that providing a female Maroon would enforce another objective, which is to keep the fish MALE.  And in this, perhaps it’s a trump card over the other concerns.  Is it more important at this point to keep the PNG Bloodlines intact, or to keep the Lightning Maroon a male?
Arguably, I would say it’s more important to keep the fish a male.  I haven’t quite figured out how this would work, but I THINK I know where I can get a well established Maroon Clown, a large one.  I’d have to move my fire clowns out of the tank, and give the female Maroon free reign of the SPS tank, and I would probably leave the male in the net.  I *think* I could pull this off, and as an insurance measure this might be a wise plan.
The other, somewhat more “outlandish” idea, is to print out a picture of a female Maroon, simply a LARGE SIZED image really, and stick it right outside the breeder net on the glass.  I will probably do this ASAP.  While it lacks the direct phyisical contact, it may in fact be just enough psychological pressure to keep the Lightning Maroon “male” until a real female can be thrown into the mix again.
Finally, before I forget, I do need to mention that while late today, the female’s tank was given another 5 gallon water change and a late treatment with Maracyn SW.  There are a few more days of treatment expected.  I am still strongly considering a “plan b” for her as well.