The Lightning Project

The ongoing saga of the PNG Lightning Maroon Clownfish Breeding Project

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Spawn #27 came back to my fishroom on 6/20/2014, as Mike Doty has opted to do another run of Lightnings with spawn #36 (update on that as of 6-30, there were only about 10 that made it from Spawn #35 – Mike had some hatching issues this time ’round).

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I took the opportunity to do a headcount on Spawn #27 as I released the group into the BRT – provided I didn’t make any mistakes, the rough split was 28 Lightning Maroons, and 24 White Stripe Maroons.  Out of those 24 White Stripes, I maybe only noticed 3 that had extra markings and would fall into the “Morse Code” notion.

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I should point out that Mike and I discussed his rearing methodologies at great length; you’ll recall that part of the reason for allowing him to rear batches was to see if he could do any better, and my own effort to learn from him and work in collaboration. Say what you will, but the bottom line is that Mike reared spawn #27 with what amounts to a 50% water change weekly.  I can guarantee I was nowhere near that on some runs.  Of course, that’s not the only difference involved here…his methodology was to drain the standalone BRT half way each week, and gradually fill it back up over the course of the week, and then repeat.

It seemed like a very manageable system, and frankly it should be obvious that good base maintenance will get you good results.  There are still some deformed fish, but if I have to be honest, I think he reared a superior batch than the first big one. I’m going to look into segregating them out, as well as stepping up the water changes overall, as that can only help produce superior fish. It’s interesting to note that the sizes do vary immensely within the group, whereas the group of 10 I had going from around the same time is more homogeneous in size and has more patterning, and is comparable in size to these.  It will take a lot of really specialized research to hone in on some of the variables in play, but I look forward to doing that if I’m able.

Mike’s routine is hardly surprising – my breeding of Angelfish relied strongly on 50% weekly water changes, and based on published recommendations, while I took 3-4 months to hit market size doing 50% weekly water changes on growout, if I had stepped it up to 50% daily water changes, I would have cut my growout time down to 6 week!  Think about that.

Mike didn’t have a good hatch over the weekend on Spawn #35; I believe temperature issues were to blame.  Spawn #36 was laid on the afternoon of Thursday, June 26th, 2014.  If all goes according to plan that makes next Wednesday “hatch night”. Spawn #34 was a failure…I had run low on rotifers due to the success of Spawn #33, so by the time span #34 was down to a few fish, I just let it go.  I have yet to rear a single successful batch of Maroons in a standard 10 gallon aquarium – I know it can be done, but it hasn’t worked yet!  And yes, Spawn #33 is doing great, lots of good looking (but still very tiny) babies.

I totally neglected to share this here – Jake Adams came to visit me back at the end of January, 2014, and we recorded an interview that focused heavily on designer clownfish, including the Lightning Maroon.  There’s some great video shot by Jake that you won’t see anywhere else, so dive into ReefBuilders The Show (aka. just “The Show”), episode 2, and enjoy.

 

Let’s start with Spawn #34 – as of Sunday morning, 6/15/2014, there were a lot of dead eggs on the bottom of the tank, but when I gave the eggs the viability test (touch them and see the larvae wiggle inside) they were actually still alive.  I pulled them and placed them in a specimen cup with vigorous aeration – none of them hatched, and through the course of the afternoon they all died and came off the tile.  So spawn #34 has wound up being a bit small, but there are probably still 50-100+ offspring in there. Seeing the larvae live for days behind the initial hatch HAS made me reconsider whether I am perhaps having egg quality issues, and more specifically issues that cause hatching problems.  In talking with fellow breeders like Mitch May (aka. Booyah, a good friend from back home in Chicago), he of course raised the same concern with me, but when we talked diet, that ruled out the problem.  Still, this could be a case-by-case thing, so it’ll be interesting to me to see if I can change this. One of the annecdotes that Joe Licthenbert always instilled upon me was “if you want good eggs, feed the fish eggs”.  Time to call up Rod Buehler of Rod’s Food and see about getting a fresh shipment of Rod’s Eggs up in here!

Spawn #35 was laid on Father’s Day afternoon, 6-15-2014 – if all goes as is typical, it should have the first hatch night on the 21st, going into the 22nd.

And finally, it’s been too long since I posted these – updates of the holdback Lightning Maroon Pair, the fish I’ll call MWP1 and MWP2.  They’ve been in the Ecoxotic tank for a while now and are solidly paired.  What I hadn’t really done is take closeup shots to update the pattern progression photos, and wow am I glad I finally did.  There are some big changes in both fish (but it’s been almost 6  months). The largest change I noticed is in the headband of the larger fish, the female I’ll be calling MWP1 and have been using for the pattern progression photos. Where her headband had been mostly solid white for all these years, it has finally seen the first pinpricks of red spotting come through. Knowing how these spots grow and evolve, it is fair to say that her once “boring” headband will now become an intricate latticework of pattern…in another 6 months or a year.

I’ll post the photos in just a second, but here’s the interesting thing.  If it has taken this long for the pattern to get this far, I wonder if the pattern development can be used to gauge the age of their wild mother.   As we’ve seen the pattern evolve, certainly it may hit a point where it truly feels analogous to mom…presuming the fish in my care grow and develop at a similar rate to the wild (a big presumption) then I feel that yes, it could give some insight into mom.  After all, we know that wild-type Onyx Percula offspring can continue to develop coloration and pattern for 3 years in captivity (which is why I never produced any great numbers of them) and now here, with the Lightning, I think my hypothesis that the pattern development takes years is unfolding before our eyes.  Look at the OTHER one, MWP2, the one that for all this time has until recently had solid white flanks.  It too, is finally turning.  I find this incredibly fascinating; if the speed of pattern development cannot be easily improved upon through selective breeding, it could mean that all Lightning Maroons will be a bit of a diamond in the rough.  You may have to buy one and wait for it to develop over time.  I wonder too, will there then be a huge premium placed on older fish, who are showing more well-progressed pattern? I could see this happening given that to this day, a well colored Onyx Percula which may be a year or older, will always fetch more than a partially barred, partially colored up juvenile.

Here’s some photos I shot last night, Father’s Day, June 15th, 2014, of MWP1 and MWP2.

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I also have some other photos and such I need to post…I think I skipped some things over the past few months!

So I discovered a trick last night – if I run my finger over a clownfish nest, the fish inside the eggs will wiggle if alive. So despite having had no appreciable hatch all day, I pulled the tile, sanitized it again with H2O2, and threw it back in the larval tank.  I DID get a few eggs to hatch during the vigorous aeration in the sanitizing dip, so that further told me I was on the right path.

I didn’t get to check the nest until 4 PM today, but sure enough, there were significantly more larvae in the tank.  It required a new strong feeding with rotifers.  I once again tested the eggs…still viable, so I put some ChloramX in the water, and left the tile back in there.  They may not get checked again until tomorrow…

Lots going on in the basement.

Spawn #33 is almost all through meta at this point, so this afternoon I turned on the system water.  It’s sad that I’ve never used my larviculture system as it was meant to be used by design, but hey, finally, I’m doing it right.  The system water is dripping through at a rate of roughly 1-2 drops per second…a very slow flow at this point but it should slowly flush out larviculture water over the next day or two.

Spawn #34, well, I botched it.  I did have more hatch out during the day today, but I discovered tonight that I had neglected to return the heater to the tank after I cleaned it last night. So basically the eggs went from 84F down to room temp, which was probably 76F.  Historically, any time temps go down on eggs, I’ve found it to be a bad thing.  I returned the heater to the tank, made sure it was really greened up, added some rotifers, and will now wait to see if anything else hatches out in the next 24 hours…

I probably don’t keep as meticulous of records as I should, but the blog here allows me to keep decent notes, rather easily and quickly. From that, it’s possible to reconstruct what’s happened over the past 2 years in terms of spawns and their results, leaving perhaps a few gaps or uncertainties.  Here’s a recap, to the best of my records and recollection.

Spawn #34 – small hatch
Spawn #33 – now settled, probably 50-100 fish so long as I don’t screw it up.
Spawn #32 – all died
Spawn #31 – failed collection
spawn #30 = 10 or so alive, all in BRT, looking good
spawn #29 – failed hatch
spawn #28 – mostly failed hatch, all dead
spawn #27 = all at Mike’s – many alive (50+) and looking great
spawn #26 = all dead
spawn #25 = hatch failure?
spawn #24 = hatch failure
spawn #23 = not pulled
spawn #22 = all dead
spawn #21 = was 5 (3L 2WS), the 3L disappeared, found one in the sump, of the two remaining white stripes; perc killed them down to 1, and the survivor is in really rough shape as of today.
spawn #20 = no survivors
spawn #19 = no survivors
spawn #18 = no survivors
spawn #17 = no survirors
spawn #16 = no survirors
spawn #15 = By Nov 28th only 2 alive – I never did account for them, but I presume these were a couple that randomly “went missing” (it seems that many fish wind up going down a certain screened drain pipe)
spawn #14 = 2 lightnings and 1 White Stripe – I remember culling a batch quite heavily, and I’m assuming what is still here (LM19, LM20, WS17) are from that batch.; 10-24-13
spawn #13 = I have it noted as , hatched 9-30 (this might also be LM18, but it seems too small to have made it in with LM17 by the time I first documented it)
spawn #12 = no survivors
Spawn #11 = failed
Spawn #10 = ? (8-16-2013) – 1 survivor went in with fire clowns, LM18; based on other timelines, this is most likely where LM18 came from, because he was younger than LM19 and LM20
Spawn #9 = failed
spawn #8 = vanished (failed)
spawn #7 – failed hatch
spawn #6 = missed hatch
spawn #4 = (4-5-2014) – LM17 came from this clutch.
spawn #3 = no dice.
spawn #2 = where all the 2012 crop came from
Spawn #1 = they ate it…

 

As of 11 AM, it’s a small hatch on Spawn #34.  I added a little RotiGreen Omega to help keep the fish off the walls, and will check a bit later to see if the hatch has improved during the day.

Spawn #33 – Starting midday on 6/9, the first larvae started showing signs of metamorphosis and settlement; white spots on the heads of the Lightnings are among the first signs; most are through meta today.

Spawn #34 – Tonight is the scheduled hatch night; I used the 4 ml H2O2 / 0.5 gallon broodstock water as a 15 minute bath before placing them in a 10 gallon; 5 gallons of broodstock water and a coarse air feed going over the nest; they’ll sit for the night and I’ll be sure to check them in the AM.  Will there be a morning hatch yet again?

I made a rare 8 PM trek down into the fishroom tonight (6/4/2014) and discovered the Lightning Maroon and her mate putting down Spawn #34. Based on how things are going, next Tuesday night should be the pull night.

My attempt to get a second night’s hatch out of Spawn #33 utterly failed. I did place the tile back with the parents come morning, and I went through the egg sanitizing protocol (with H2O2) for another 15 minute bath. I saw ONE larvae hatch out…a total dud.  My plan for the next spawn will be to pull the tile and 20 gallons out of the broodstock tank (BIG water change); 10 gallons each will go into two BRTs, and then I’ll simply move the tile from the first night’s hatch into the 2nd BRT for the 2nd night, sticking with the egg sanitizing protocol (as it seems to be helping?)

Those larvae that are alive from Spawn #33 are doing reasonably well..they are plowing through rotifers at an alarming rate; I’m adding in new saltwater along with RO/DI Water daily, as well as small feedings of TDO A to supplement for what I think might be a rotifer shortage. Low doses of ChloramX and RotiGreen Omega continue to be pulsed in as well.

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