The Lightning Project

The ongoing saga of the PNG Lightning Maroon Clownfish Breeding Project

Browsing Posts in Lighting Maroon Clownfish

I have two posts besides this one I need to make…life has just been hectic as usual. They’ll come.

First, Spawn #24 has been laid.  Sadly, it wasn’t a Valentine’s spawn, it was laid on February 13th, 2014.

Following my extensive water testing of larval tanks to see what the heck was going on, I made the decision to transfer the 5 remaining survivors from Spawn #21 into a tank filled with clean, new but aged saltwater, in another BRT.  So I started that BRT fresh, made sure salinity matched, then moved 2 fish to test it (remember, these fish were in water with apparently very high Nitrite and Ammonia levels according to tests)  When they survived overnight, I moved the remaining 3 (If memory serves correctly there are 3 Lightnings and 2 White Stripes in the mix).  I then turned them onto the larvar rearing system.  No deaths.

Given my role as a Sr. Editor for CORAL Magazine, I’m privy to magazine content sometimes before it is published.  This week I got to review an extremely exciting article I had played a hand in soliciting some months back, and while I can’t give much away, I will say this before I forget.  It is obviously a breeding article, and one of the techniques brought up is that of simply routinely moving fish out of one larval rearing vessel to another as a technique to maintain premium water quality…perhaps easier than doing 99% water changes, and I presume it has other benefits (such as “escaping” the biofilm that develops on a rearing vessel).  I may have to try this technique…whether my problems are due to persistently deteriorating water quality or the development of pathogenic bacteria (eg. Vibrio), this methodology might side step those problems completely.   So be sure to pick up the March/April 2014 issue of CORAL Magazine to see who brought this idea up and in what context…if you’re even remotely interested in fish breeding, this is going to be a knockout issue for you.

Just went downstairs…all but one offspring in Spawn #20 is dead on the bottom.  !#%!#!!@!!

Water test shows completely off the wall parameters…eg. Nitrite at 5 PPM, Ammonia at 0.5 ppm, Nitrate at 40 ppm?!.  Now, whether that’s all the dead fish in the tank, or if that’s the cause, I’m not sure, but I’m thinking cause vs. effect…this must have snuck up on me this week and must have built up rather suddenly.

Since this type of loss has happened so many times now at this stage, I’m admittedly baffled because water quality hasn’t been a problem in prior losses, and yet they all have occurred around this same timeline, so I must be doing something horribly wrong, and water changes should have been keeping this under control (remember, this group got a near 100% water change earlier this week!).  Only 5 days to go from perfect parameter new water to the above?  I’m shocked.  The bioload and feedings simply don’t add up. I’d say I was overfeeding, but I can’t see how that’s the case.  In the past, at this point in time, I’ve normally put the fish onto the system only to watch them all die immediately after.

Looks like I must reevaluate my methods yet again.  Talk about frustrating.

Update – so I’ve been sitting her mulling this over, and here’s the things I recently did – #1 Fed them Brine Nauplii last night.  That seems to be a recurrent theme…feed the babies brine nauplii, have dead babies… #2. I did top off last night.  Is my RO/DI water contaminated? Time to test it…

It’s been a busy January here, with my trip to Cleveland to give some well-received talks at C-SEA followed by a grueling week of fishroom preparation in advance of Reef Builder’s world-reknowned Jake Adams dropping by for a surprise visit and a bit of Q&A at the Lake Superior Marine Aquarium Club’s winter / holiday / new year bash. Of course, the Lightning Maroon breeding and rearing doesn’t stop because life gets in the way, but you better believe the online posts can sometimes drop in priority!

Spawn #20 has progressed, but not without hiccups. You may recall I split this batch between the 10 gallon tank and a 15 gallon BRT (black round tub), earlier this month. This proved to be a wise move. More on that in a second, but I found it extremely interesting to note that the larvae which were moved to the BRT under 24 hour light grew faster and underwent metamorphosis sooner…3-4 days sooner, than the ones left in the 10 gallon tank (which by default gets around an 8 hour dark period).  Just before my trip to Cleveland, I took this shot of the babies in the BRT:

Spawn #20 in the BRT, post metamorphosis, already easily discernable as white stripes or lightnings.

Spawn #20 in the BRT, post metamorphosis, already easily discernable as white stripes or lightnings.

During my time at C-SEA, my good friend and fellow clownfish breeder Mike Doty (you may recall he helped hatch and rear the very first Lightnings) was keeping an eye on the fishroom. For no reason, somewhere around the 17th or so, the babies in the 10 gallon just died. Mike can’t explain it, I can’t explain it. We’ve seen this happen before.

Meanwhile the ones in the BRT fared better, but there still have been losses. During one of Mike’s stop overs, he found 7 dead.  This photograph from 1-27-2014:

Lightning Maroon Clownfish Spawn #20 at 1/27/2014

Lightning Maroon Clownfish Spawn #20 at 1/27/2014

Most recently, on the 28th I started a water change, which normally is done with a very slow siphon into a 5 gallon bucket, the intake being placed so that it won’t drain the tank completely. Well…I didn’t have it really clamped down, and so it drained the BRT ompletely. Those babies which were still in a couple mm of water survived the 99.9% water change, but those that were in shallower water – damp, but not submerged – were dead. 21 lost totally due to a preventable accident. The upside is that the fish took a very traumatic, near 100% water change, and yet survived.

Victims of a water change gone awry.  Totally my fault.  Very frustrated over it, but moving on...

Victims of a water change gone awry. Totally my fault. Very frustrated over it, but moving on…

I’m guesstimating another 20-30 still alive. Either way, that shows you the losses through attrition that happen as these fish grow up – I stocked the BRT with 140 larvae.

Spawn #21 – I left Spawn #21 more or less in the hands of Mike to hatch…a handful of offspring had hatched out on the morning of the 17th (pulling the nest on the 16th was 7 days post spawn), and later that afternoon I had to depart for Cleveland. Unfortunately, the tile fell overnight, so come the 18th, instead of Mike finding a bunch of larvae hatched out, he came over to find a dead nest.

The few offspring that did make it from Spawn #21 underwent metamorphosis during Jake’s visit; it was pretty clear to see which were lightnings vs. not by Saturday night (the 25th)….this seems to be a pretty fast time to metamorphosis.  My headcount on offspring from this batch is somewhere around 4-6 post settlement…another very small run.  This photo also from 1/27/2014:

A couple of the survivors in Spawn #21, photographed 1/27/2014

A couple of the survivors in Spawn #21, photographed 1/27/2014

Spawn #22 – on the afternoon of 1/20/2014, the 22nd clutch of eggs was put down by the Lightning Maroon and her mate. Paying a close attention to things, I knew I could be pulling them as early as 6 days post spawn…so 21,22,23,24,24, evening of the 26th being 6 days on. Well, I took a gamble, left a little more ambient room light falling on the eggs, and found that on the morning of the 27th, we still had a nice, solid nest. Come the evening of the 27th, I pulled the tile along with 5 gallons of broodstock water and 5 gallons of new saltwater, and set them up with a wooden airstone incubation. I used a second tile to prevent the tile from falling, as well as to help weigh down and position the wooden airstone under the eggs. (I found my wooden airstones from eBay seller hoolko, who happened to be mentioned on Reef Builders a while back).

Spawn #22 set up and ready for hatching in a 10 gallon tank.

Spawn #22 set up and ready for hatching in a 10 gallon tank.  Note the larvae already hatched!

Within minutes of transferring the nest, I had a few larvae hatch, still in full light.

Newly hatched Lightning Maroon Clownfish offspring swims next to the Seachem Ammonia Alert Badge....

Newly hatched Lightning Maroon Clownfish offspring swims next to the Seachem Ammonia Alert Badge….

I left things go, not feeding or anything else. By the morning of January 28th, I had a few dozen larvae in the tank, but the bulk of the eggs remained unhatched. I weighed my options a bit, and ultimately decided to introduce some rotifers (about 2 gallons worth) but refrained from adding any phytoplantkon. I thought maybe I’d have more hatches later in the day, but come nightfall, nothing had happened. Would this be a botched hatch?

Apparently yes and no. This morning (the 29th) several hundred larvae were present in the tank, but many many more dead eggs were on the bottom. Most of the larvae held tightly to the black back wall of the 10 gallon tank.

Spawn #22 after the large hatch, before cleanup.

Spawn #22 after the large hatch, before cleanup.

I took the opportunity to first siphon off all the dead eggs (and dead larvae) on the bottom before tinting the tank with 50 drops of RotiGreen Omega.

Spawn #22 after cleaning up the larval tank.

Spawn #22 after cleaning up the larval tank.

I gave the rotifers their morning feeding of RotiGrow Plus, and later this evening they’ll get the next infusion of rotifers. I’m thinking I will once again work on a system of water changes, lowering salinity, and 24 hour lighting, to grow this batch, and as I discovered, I will once again at minimum split the batch early on.

The Holdback F1 Lightning Maroon Clownfish Pair

So I finally pulled the trigger on pairing up my holdbacks.  The Ecoxotic cube had been up and running for a while with a single holdback Lightning in it, so I swapped the fish and simply added in my Lightnings as a pair (they had formerly been neighbors, side by side) on 1/21/2014.

Initially, things went very well.  Here’s some video the day after, 1/22/2014.

Unfortunately, things didn’t continue down this blissful path.  A few days later, the larger fish turned on the smaller fish, damaging a few fins and forcing me to segregate the fish around 1/25/2014.  Currently, it is the larger, “future female” Lightning Maroon who resides in a drilled specimen cup.

Future pair of F1 Lightning Maroon Clownfish

Future pair of F1 Lightning Maroon Clownfish

The Holdback White Stripe Maroon F1 Pair

I should mention that somewhere in January I shuffled some fish around and introduced my two F1 PNG White Stripe holdbacks to each other as well.  The pairing has gone so-so.  They are not paired, but they continue to share their tank, the smaller fish cowering in a protected area but not otherwise excessively abused.  I’ll try to snag some photos at some point.  This will be a very important pairing to breed, as it will help definitively answer the question as to whether the “white stripe” siblings carry any special genetics (and it will prove or disprove the presence of a recessive Lightning gene).

The hatch of Spawn #20

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Well honestly, I just don’t know what I did that caused this one to be so much better than any prior to date, but somehow the stars aligned and I wound up with something like 1000 baby Lightning Maroons.  And the best part is that I am HERE and able to care for the fish well through metamorphosis.  God help me if I screw this one up (which is a real possibility given so many babies in a 10 gallon tank…I *may* wind up splitting the batch).

As you may recall, I pulled the next on the night of 1/1/2014 going into 1/2/2014.  I re-read all of Wilkerson’s text just to see if I had missed ANYTHING that could be helpful, and one line may have been the difference.

“If in doubt, err on the side of too much aeration” – Joyce Wilkerson, Page 190, Clownfishes, third printing (2003)

Well, I took that to heart and didn’t dial back my slintered glass airstone…I just let the thing rip faster than I felt comfortable.  And that might have been the ticket…it “feels” like that’s the only variable I really changed.  That said, I didn’t sanitize the eggs this time, and I started the tank with a mixture of new water and broodstock water vs. all straight one or the other.

In any case, I got the kind of hatch I get most every time with other clownfish species, so maybe I really just need to be more aggressive with my aeration?  I’ll obviously follow the same pattern on the next batch and see if it repeats.  A whole 2 years almost to dial in on the best hatching protocol…damn…you’d think I was a newb at this.  Who knows…

The Hatch of Spawn #20

The Hatch of Spawn #20

Lots of updates with no photos, so why not take a moment and remember what we all really enjoy – seeing these fish grow up.

First up, my one-ventral-finned holdback so I can keep tracking developing photos of the pattern on this fish.

Before I left on my fishing trip last week, I took the liberty to move one of the last summer offspring up into a vacant cube on the cube system, thinking that would free things up for another batch of clowns at some point.  I thought it was big enough to NOT go through the holes.

You might remember LM17…

Well LM17 now has a buddy, which I will now dub LM18

At the moment, LM18 appears to be just about “perfect” as a clownfish.  I discovered LM17 and LM18 cohabiting earlier this week, perhaps Monday (it’s now Friday) and opted to take the ‘wait and see’ approach.  So far not a nick or scratch.  I moved all neighboring fish in the cube system as far away from this “pair” as was possible to help foster whatever pair-bond might form between these two fish.  Might be seeing these two offered as a bonded pair sometime in 2014….

For the moment, here’s more of LM18.

Video of the pair – proof it happened:

Stumbled across this post last week and figured I’d share it here – Brandon Mehlhoff shared some updates on LM15 and its PNG mate over on Reef2Reef.  I snagged one of his videos showing the pair here:

Go see more over about Brandon’s Lightning Maroon on Reef2Reef.com!

On a whim I checked eBay tonight, and there it was, the first auction of the next 6 fish to be sold by Blue Zoo Aquatics.  They have kicked things off with Lightning Maroon #5 (LM5) – here’s a link to the LM5 Lightning Maroon Clownfish auction on eBay.

From reading the auction description, it sounds like Blue Zoo will be offering 3 fish now (not sure which three) and three fish after the Thanksgiving holiday, but well before Christmas.  This will leave roughly 4 fish here yet to be sold, retained as backups should anything go awry with winter shipping. All of the Lightning Maroon offspring on hand were recently updated with new photos in the inventory.

If all goes well (and it should) then those last 4 will probably be sold in early 2014, with more babies (presumably mainly from spawns #14 and #15) to come by late spring at the earliest. Definitely not getting hundreds or thousands of these fish, which means that until some of my supportive winners get their pairs going, it’s going to be a very limited variant for the near future.

I finally go to shot some photos last week (October 14th), and among them are updates of the holdback pair.  I’ve also updated the “Lightning Maroon Pattern Progression” post to show how it continues to evolve. Here’s the latest:

Blue Zoo Aquatics has listed the next 8 offspring from the Lightning Maroon Clownfish, dubbed the “Amazing 8″. The auction is live on eBay at this time – you can view all the auctions quickly via Blue Zoo Aquatics’ eBay items listing.

The first auction started Saturday night, 9/14/2013, with LM7.  As of this evening, 7 of the 8 are up, with the last fish, LM12, due to start the morning of 9/18/2013 (just a few hours from now).

LM12 - the last fish to be listed for the Round 3 Auctions

LM12 – the last fish to be listed for the Round 3 Auctions, listing the morning of 9/18/13

Here’s a snapshot of the auctions this very early morning at around 3 AM central time:

LM7 – currently $660.00

WS9 – currently $102.50

WS15 – currently $100.00

LM3 – currently $660.00

WS6 – currently $202.50

WS16 – currently $5.50

WS14 – currently $0.99!

LM12 -to be listed soon…

The other interesting part I have to mention is that this group will remove a large portion of the remaining offspring I’ll have available to sell.  10 fish in the inventory remain, although I have two more Lightning holdbacks I could opt to part with or might use for other purposes, and if all goes well the one sole survivor of Spawn #10, a baby lightning, could play a future role here too.

Fish that will likely be in some future auctions include WS4, WS7, LM6. LM9, WS11, LM11, WS13, LM13, LM14, LM17.

I should point out that if you want a white stripe offspring, there won’t be many chances left and you might want to secure your fish this time.  I may need to select one or two of the remaining four for my own breeding purposes; either way after round #3, there simply wont’ be much left in the way of White Stripe siblings (I still believe that the most promising pairing to produce more Lightning Maroons will be a Lightning crossed with it’s White Stripe sibling, which I think will yield 50/50 results just like their parents).

 

It’s delightful to see that the Lightning Maroon pair has finally settled into a spawning routine.  No sooner had I botched spawn #11, and they go put down spawn #12.  On an interesting side note, I discovered what apparently happened with Spawn #10 – about a week after the larvae had all vanished, I took a look at the black round tub that was sitting there, now empty.  It was absolutely OVERRUN with hyrdoid medusas.  I’m not sure how hydroids got into the mix; the other BRT, which contains a single now post-settlement juvenile Lightning Maroon baby (so cute) has not had any hydroid issues crop up.  I’ll have to drain and sterilize the BRTs before using them for Spawn #12.

Spawn #12 was laid on September 15th, 2013.  This means, based on our current “144 hours” to hatch rate, means I need to pull the eggs as early as this coming Saturday night, September 21st.  This is spawn number #12, photographed 24 hours after being laid.

Lightning Maroon Clownfish Spawn #12

Lightning Maroon Clownfish Spawn #12

Lightning Maroon Clownfish Spawn #12

Lightning Maroon Clownfish Spawn #12

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