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.
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
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…
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
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. 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….
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.
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.
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
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).
It’s the morning of January 13th, 2014; time to play a little catch-up.
Back on January 9th, I split the larvae from Spawn #20 from one 10 gallon tank into the 10, plus a 15 gallon BRT on my larviculture racks. When I did the split, I took the opportunity to take a photograph of the babies I moved to the BRT (Black Round Tub). I finally took a moment to do a headcount this morning. First, the unedited shot:
Now, since I scooped all this water out by hand into a clean 5 gallon bucket, in theory EVERY little smudge / smear / blurry little dark spot *should* be a baby clownfish. Remember, you have to keep in mind that the depth of field was pretty narrow on this shot – babies at the bottom of the bucket, or even just a few inches deep, were not captured in-focus. So the headcount is an estimate at best, and I’m going to say it’s probably high, and if it is, it’s high by 20 or so fish, ballparked.
So my rough headcount puts it at 140 babies moving into the BRT. What I don’t know is how many were left behind in the 10 gallon tank!
On Friday, January 10th, the larvae got their first small taste of TDO A. This has been added to the diet daily since then, and they’ve taken to it well. By Sunday evening, 1/12/2014, I noticed the first little whitish-blue spots on the tops of the heads of a few babies, which means only one thing. Metamorphosis has started.
I’ve been sticking with the water changes…they might not get done every day, but they get done at least every other day.
That’s the story of Spawn #20 for now. It could be a very productive run if things go well.
Tonight, after several nights of battling my larval rack, I finally pulled of the split of Spawn #20 into two separate groups. Long story short, I had taken off two BRTs off a shelf that had somehow “Dropped” on the one side. Both BRTs got a full scrubbing followed by a wipedown with hydrogen peroxide. Meanwhile, I spent 2 nights and 3 days banging on the shelf with a rubber mallet until I finally freed up the shelf from the plastic locking mechanisms. Thankfully I saved some of the extra plastic parts that came with the epoxy-coated wire shelves, and was able to reset the shelf height and set the BRTs back up.
Once the larviculture tanks were set back up, it was easy to simply scoop out half of the water and larvae from the 10 gallon tank. I took a photo of the larvae in the bucket so I can count how many I moved into the BRT. Just as I scooped the babies from the 10 gallon into a 5 gallon bucket, I in turn did the same thing to introduce them to an empty, sanatized BRT.
I’ve continued with doing daily water changes on the larvae and have, at this point, dropped the specific gravity from 1.025 down to 1.018. I’m also doing nightly infusions of rotifers that have been enriched for an hour or two with Super Selcon.
In other news, Spawn #21 was put down this evening (1-9-2014) by the Lighting Maroon pair.
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…
I have photos of this spawn stashed away in the camera, but I figured I better get this on the books before I completely forget. Spawn #19 was put down on 12-14. With tons of stuff going on with the holidays, I did a boneheaded thing and pulled the nest on the night of the 19th going into the 20th (because I looked at my phone after Midnight, didn’t realize it was that late, saw the 20th, and said “shoot I gotta pull this tonight!”).
Spawn #19 during H2O2 sanitizing dip.
So the eggs went into a clean tank with all new water after a 15 minute bath on hydrogen peroxide. It was at least 24 hours early, and yet despite that, I had a handful of offspring the next morning…that’s technically 5 days after spawning! A few more offspring hatched out the subsequent night (which would have been 6 days later), and yet after that, the nest died. There has been plenty of RotiGreen Omega and rotifers in the 10 gallon blacked out tank, but by the time I departed for our holidays away, there were maybe only 3 babies I could see alive. Upon returning the day after Xmas (12-26), I could find only one baby in the tank, and by the 27th I could no longer find any larvae. Pulling my hair out.
There is one thing I’m looking at right now – I haven’t had access to wooden airstones for incubation in ages, and Joe Lichtenbert swore by them for direct egg aeration during hatching. I’ve been having all sorts of nest deaths in the Lightning Maroons when putting coarse air directly on them, so I’ve generally tried to get good ambient flow, which works better but not consistently. Well, if it’s my damn airstones I’m going to be really ticked, but my plans are to have wooden airstones on hand very soon, going out of my way to obtain them since most online suppliers have long since dropped them from their offerings.
And yet, I’ll get another shot at it still. I discovered the latest nest, Spawn #20, when checking out my tanks when I returned home from the holidays. I cannot say for certain, but given that the Lightning Maroon’s ovipositor was still down, I believe that Spawn #20 was laid on 12-26-2013. Based on that timing, the nest was pulled on the evening of 1-1-2014, going into the morning of 1/2/2014. Once again the 10 gallon tank was drained, cleaned, rinsed with freshwater, and set up. This time I used 50% new water, 40% broodstock water, and 5% RODI water to bring the specific gravity down slightly. I did not sanitize the eggs prior to pulling. There was very little orange left in the larvae, which I believe bodes well for my pull occuring at the right time to maximize whatever hatch I get. A small LED flashlight was set up at the far end of the tank to draw hatched larvae away from the heavy aeration – wooden airstones have yet to arrive, so once again I’m pummeling the eggs with coarser bubbles from a glass airstone.
You may recall the “other” pair of wild (F0) White Stripe Maroons I’ve had set up from PNG. I’ve had the pair a long time..they were paired before the Lightning Maroon ever got around to it. By my records, they put down their first spawn on 12-20-2013. Upon returning home today, I checked their nest; just a few unhatched eggs remained, which means that they hatched even FASTER than the Lightning Maroon. I would have had to pull them the late evening of 12-25….just over 5 days post spawn. The other possibility is that the parents ate most of the eggs prematurely, so I’ll have to watch the pair another few times through before I see what their pattern is. But seriously…as little as 120 hours from spawn to hatch?!
I will absolutely raise a batch from this other pair this year, and the reasoning is simple. First, we’ll want to see if by some odd chance they throw out Lightning ( I don’t believe for a second they will). Next, we’ll want to see how many show up with horns and spots and other aberrant, but not “Lightning”, markings. Ultimately, regardless of what we get, this new and completely unrelated line of F1 PNG maroons will be the IDEAL outcross for the F1 Lightning offspring. Instead of the F1 generation of PNG Maroon Clownfish stemming from only 2 foundation fish (which is really not enough), we’ll double the foundation population to 4 fish. According to FAO documentation on conservation breeding of fishes in captivity, this is still too small of a genetic bottleneck, but since I am aware of a couple other breeders who have Lightning Maroons and claim to have unrelated F0 White Stripes to mate them with, we could realistically be on very solid footing for the long term captive viability of the PNG provenance lineage of Maroon Clownfish even if we have no further access to PNG fish for months, years, decades….
I cannot catch a break. Seriously 2013, for all its hard work, has yielded only FOUR (4!!!!) offspring from the Lightning Maroon pair that will grow to be marketable size in 2014!
Spawn #18 was put down on November 28th. This put hatch night as early as Wed, December 4rd, but more likely the 5th, with some possible stragglers on the 6th. The first problem? I was slated to leave town the morning of the 5th and would not return until the morning of the 9th! Thankfully, trusty fellow fish breeder and awesome neighbor Mike Doty was once again on hand to work with the Lightning babies. I was feeling rather confident about that, given that Mike was the guy who reared the big 2012 crop for the first 5 days or so!
I continued to eye the eggs all night on Wed as it transitioned over into Thursday, and at roughly 5 AM Thursday morning none had hatched. I dosed maybe 20-30 ML of Hydrogen Peroxide into the 10 gallon blacked-out larval tank I had used with a prior run, letting it sit for several hours before scrubbing, draining, rinsing, and getting ready for a new clutch. Come 5 AM, I filled the tank with water from the broodstock tank and sanitized the eggs with 4 ML hydrogen peroxide in a half gallon specimen cup for about 15 minutes, before finally setting up the tile with an airstone and calling it a night. I left only 4 hours later.
I heard from Mike that he found some babies, maybe 1/3 of the nest, had indeed hatched out and the rest looked good and would probably hatch Thursday night / Friday morning.
Later, while on a layover in Chicago, came alarming news – Duluth was suffering from a large scale power outage. My normal plan had always been to go rent a generator, but as I was not there to deal with it, after several phone calls and text messages I figured out a battle plan – Frank Wotruba (who has played an integral part in this project and also has a pair of Lightning Maroon offspring) would bring over his generator and set it up to run the central air pump and furnace; he would also take the original wild Lightning Maroon and mate to his house (his power came on fairly quickly).
Thankfully our power came on relatively quickly too…was maybe only out for a couple hours. Relieved, I went on my trip and didn’t give it much thought.
Of course, come Saturday, more bad news. Somewhere along the way, my rotifers had crashed, so Mike was left without any quantity of food to offer. This, combined with the power outage, sealed the fate of Spawn #18; no babies were found by Saturday.
But the bad news continued, as Mike hadn’t noticed that the GCFIs that line the perimeter of the room were all tripped. This is something I was personally aware of; any time the power so much as flickers these things trip. Well…I didn’t think to mention it to Mike during the power outage, so basically while the perimeter tanks had AIR running in them (and those with sponge filters had some active filtration), any tank relying on powered filtration was without. Mike had noticed it come Friday and reset them, but this brought out the next flaw in my system.
Ordinarily, I have a pretty balanced load on my electrical systems, but I’ve come to find that if the tanks get chilled, when bringing the power back on ALL the heaters go on and STAY on. This demand winds up being too much for the circuit, and ultimately it trips the circuit breaker in a few, or several, minutes. Despite removing 500 watts of heaters outright, and downsizing 3 more from 250 to 100 (another 450 watt savings), apparently the reduction of 900 watts was still not enough to prevent this failure. So come Saturday, once again Mike discovered all the tanks not running, and every time he tried to reset the circuit it would trip. More or less, the perimeter tanks, which includes the BROODSTOCK LIGHTNING MAROON’s TANK, had gone without power for over 48 hours. For all the “safety” that these GCFIs are supposed to bring, in the end, I think I will be removing them from my fishroom (or at least trying to find ones that don’t TRIP simply because the power flickers); so far they have only served to cause PROBLEMS rather than to actually do anything beneficial…well…maybe they helped the one time I dropped a light into a tank.
The solution was to actually forego the heaters by shutting down their power strips. Since I revamped the HVAC system of the house this summer to “heat the basement” as an independent zone, I simply instructed Mike to raise the heat from 78F to somethign closer to 82F and leave it be. Upon returning home, I found most things in good shape, although a heavily stocked guppy tank is experiencing loses, and one of my cubes appears to have lost my spawning Centropyge argi pair (I think 7 years old now?) and the other tank inhabitants (although two white stripe lightning maroon offspring that were in breeder nets appear OK?). I’ve skipped feedings on the perimeter tanks, as well as dosed them with Dr. Tim’s ‘One and Only’ which I’ve found to be an exemplary biological filtration kickstarter. I’ll have to water water chemistry now to make sure that I don’t run into problems; hopefully we’re past the worst of it.
2 AM Thanksgiving morning and I’m closing out the fishroom. All but 2 of the babies from Spawn #15 are dead on the bottom of the 10 gallon tank. No warning, only hours earlier everything was fine. I moved the two still alive (one white stripe, one lightning) to an empty tank on the larviculture system. Since there is no pathway in for pathogens, it could only be something related to water chemistry or the introduction of food; the ammonia alert badge remains showing that everything is just fine. No rhyme or reason. Hoping the other two a) make it and b) aren’t going to introduce some pathogen into the larviculture system (I really don’t think they are, but you never know). Could be that something like Vibrio just cropped up and whacked the tank…no clue.
In the chaos of preparing for our club’s fundraising table at the TCMAS Frag Swap last night, I was going on 3 hours sleep, up until 3 AM bagging donated corals and such. Somehow along the way I got it in my head that the Lightning Maroons were due to be pulled Saturday night. So when I got back tonight and went to pull the tile, surprise..no eggs. Only now when I sat down to type this did I recheck my counts and realize that last night was the proper night to pull based on how they’ve been hatching recently. Yup, totally botched it, but we raised a LOT of money for the club today with the help and contributions of all our members. So not a total loss, but yeah…boneheaded move.
I should also update on Spawn #16, which is no more and has left me scratching my head. Perhaps 30-50 fish made it through settlement, at which point I turned on the larval system at a slow drip to bring them online. Apparently that was a bad move – the next morning all but two offspring were dead, and those died a short while later. Meanwhile Spawn #15 is going strong.