The Lightning Project

The ongoing saga of the PNG Lightning Maroon Clownfish Breeding Project

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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.

It is now a fact – big Lightning Maroon Clownfish hatches are happening in the morning. I went to bed sometime after 4:30 AM on June 1st, and a few hours later, around 8:30, the kids woke me up. So, I went down to look at the BRT – just a handful of larvae.  I checked with a light, none on the bottom…just a very weak hatch.

I greened up the tub with RotiGreen Omega and added 2 gallon’s worth of rotifers from a culture. I turned on the light, left the tile in place.  Around 10:30 AM, I went down again and I now had hundreds of larvae in the BRT.

I pulled the tile and gave it back to the parents…can’t remember if that was an idea raised here, or on Facebook, but it seemed like a good way to go.  I have yet to go back down tonight, but I’ll presumably set up yet another new tank for a hatch tonight and see if we get two solid night’s worth of larvae off this batch.  Things could get interesting.

It’s the night of 5/31 going into 6/1/2014, and right before 2:00 AM (6/1) I pulled the tile for the sanitizing H2O2 (Hydrogen Peroxide) dip. While going through the 15 minute treatment at 4 ML per 0.5 gallons of broodstock water, I wiped out the BRT which was used for Spawn #32 and refilled it with 10 gallons of water from the broodstock tank.  When I went to check on the eggs, with 25 seconds left, I discovered that about 30 larvae had already hatched.

I moved the tile into the BRT with good air flow using a coarse air stone and turned out the lights.  I then spent a little time pipetting some of the larvae from the specimen cup, but I ultimately did not get them all and some had to go down the drain.  I had to wonder – would these larvae be viable long term, or would their exposure to H2O2 burn them up and render them useless.  So I wasn’t overly concerned, and I also didn’t want to add too much of that bath water into the BRT.

I’ll try to check on the hatch again in the next 30-45 minutes…I wonder if they’re going to go really fast, or if it’s in spurts (you may recall my concern over “morning” hatches…)

UPDATE – as of 4:20 AM, a last check of the night after just under 2 hours reveals no further large hatching occurred.  I wonder if they’ll hatch come daylight?  Hard to say…

First, I must go back to 5/25/2014, Sunday night, when I discovered that spawn #33 had been laid.  So hatch should come this Saturday night.

Many people have asked when the next Lightning Maroon Clownfish will be sold.  You may recall last fall that Blue Zoo stated they were going to auction 6, but then only auctioned 3. In short, weather in Duluth got brutally cold and never let up, meaning we never could safely ship.  We had snow on the ground well into MAY this year…60+ days of temps that never made it ABOVE 0F.   In short, Blue Zoo Aquatics is ready to auction more Lightning Maroons.  It is currently me, at the moment, holding up the process (I need to get them the materials). Either way, it’s time to be on alert, and to start watching newsletters and emails and eBay.  I presume as soon as I get my butt in gear, Blue Zoo will be offering them up.

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