The Lightning Project

The ongoing saga of the PNG Lightning Maroon Clownfish Breeding Project

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Back in June, we (I, Blue Zoo Aquatics, and Sea & Reef Aquaculture) announced an unprecedented raffle contribution to the Marine Breeding Initiative (MBI) in recognition of the 5th Annual Marine Breeder’s Workshop, which is coming up quickly on July 19th, 2014, in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. In short, Blue Zoo and I contributed one of my holdback Lightning Maroon Clownfish, Sea & Reef contributed two F1 Morse Code Maroons from unrelated PNG Bloodlines to get one to pair with the Lightning Maroon, and Blue Zoo Aquatics footing the bill to ship the resultant pair to the winner within the continental US after the workshop.

Well, the first hurdle has been seen, and passed. On Wed., June 18th, Soren Hansen of Sea & Reef Aquaculture shipped out two select Morse Code Maroons from Maine, to Duluth, MN. In a turn of events that I think has never happened to me before, poor weather somewhere along the route caused UPS to fail to deliver the package that Thursday. Soren and I were quite anxious to see what was in the box when it finally arrived on Friday, June 20th.


My son, Ethan, was eager to see what was in the box too!


The moment of truth – was it a box of dead fish, or had Soren’s packing stood up to the challenge imposed upon the fish?




Yes, that was Soren just going 2 for 2, successfully shipping fish an extra day without issues. The fish were honestly a little stressed out from the extra time in the bags. Both were placed into a 5 gallon bucket with a fair dosing of ChloramX to neutralize ammonia, and then were drip acclimated to reside a cube that had, for months, held my White Stripe X White Stripe holdback pair.

Initially, I thought I might pair up the smaller one with the holdback Lightning Maroon (MWP3), so for the first few days it was given the freedom to explore the main tank.


Meanwhile, the larger Morse Code Maroon was acting a bit jealously. Every time I walked up to the tank, this was what I saw.


So, I switched things up, and allowed the larger one to be out and about, while placing the smaller one into isolation. Here’s the larger one…



The best part? 24 hours after releasing the larger one, I allowed the Lightning (MWP3) to join him. So far…not a single bit of bickering whatsoever.



They don’t sleep together yet, but they don’t bicker or fight and they are indifferent about each other’s presence. Therefore, it’s hard to say that they’re a bonded pair, but they are 100% on the road to more solid bonding in the days, weeks, and months ahead. So, barring any changes or unforeseen murders, this will be the pair of fish up for raffle at the MBI Workshop!

I don’t think it’s a secret that I like Rod’s Food, and I consider the folks behind Rod’s Food to be friends who I look forward to seeing time and again.  There’s more to it though; so often businesses in the aquarium industry are wrapped up in business, although I gotta be honest in my assessment that it seems companies are doing better in the customer relations department (and I say that from observing company Facebook pages and the stories I hear from fellow aquarists).

So there’s bad customer service, good customer service, but then there’s the companies that still love, and I mean LOVE, what they do and why they do it.  Now, I’m not saying every company needs to do this for every customer at every turn they get, but there are certain times when a company has the opportunity to leave a customer wowed, when they go beyond not because they have to, but simply because they want to.

Rod told me last week he was going to be sending me some samples of some new food to look at while he was recouping from surgery (glad to hear you’re doing well!), and he sent me some other foods he knew I needed (for the record, I do try to BUY his food whenever he’ll let me).  But this post isn’t at all about his food.  This is about that “Wow” factor.  This is about remembering that this is a hobby that’s more fun when we’re engaged with our fellow hobbyists. This is about remembering that our hobby helps us cross the geographic divide; all the more reason to make it a point to connect with online friends and acquaintances both at local club meetings and events, but also to forge and renew friendships with hobbyist from around the globe at events like DFW MACNA this coming September.

So here’s some pictures from what turned out to be the highlight of my day, an “impromptu” baby show for the Lightning Maroon, thrown by my friends at Rod’s Reef, attended by a small, but intimate family gathering where we devoured cupcakes from Swirlz. Amazing how touched and excited I was as a result of this simple gesture from some really great people – Thanks to you all one more time.

I don’t test my water all that often these days – I’ve long since learned that you can assertain a lot of what is going on through observation, and the basics of pH and Temp are constantly monitored.  Still, I do check things once in a while to make sure we’re not too far off track.  Seeing a slight decrease in SPS coloration in the Lighting Maroon’s tank, it made me wonder where the Nitrates and Phosphates were sitting.  With Sanjay Joshi and Tal Sweet due to bet here next weekend, I’d like this tank looking its best.  So might as well use our low-key morning at home (our son has been sick with a 102-103F fever for 4 days now) to do an Easter-morning water test:

pH (Apex) – 8.15
pH (Seachem) – 8.0
Alkalinity (Seachem) – 2.0 meq/L

Looks like my pH probe is starting to drift again and in need of calibration (it could be old enough now that it technically should be replace).  After these  tests, I dosed with C-Balance 2 part, and then later, continued with water tests.

Nitrate (Instant Ocean) – < 10 ppm
Nitrate (Salifert) – 5 ppm
Phosphate (Instant Ocean) 0.4 ppm
Magnesium (Salifert) – 1275 ppm
Calcium (Salifert) – 400 ppm

Meanwhile, I did test the “restarted” display system.  This system to be exact:

Watching the 92 gallon Caribbean Reef

I was surprised to see Nitrates of possibly 25-40 PPM, and Phosphates greater than 1.0.  Glad I recently started running GFO (Granular Ferric Oxide) in both these systems.  I had cut back on the Vodka dosing to the Lightning Maroon’s system, down to 1 drop per day, but maybe 2 drops is my magic number.  Meanwhile, the 450 gallon display system has been getting roughly 10 drops per day of Vodka, and I’ve been waiting for a Two Little Fishies Bio Pellet reactor.  Now seems like the opportune time to add it on.  I may also do some Kalkwasser dosing on the big system.  It will be interesting to see how the different ongoing nutrient management protocols I’ve been employing (in addition to water changes) will play out in the months ahead.

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday weekend and share the optimism that comes with this time of year.

A portrait of the Lightning Maroon by Gary L. Parr

A portrait of the Lightning Maroon by Gary L. Parr

Turnabout is fair play – come here to shoot the Lightning Maroon Clownfish and expected to get shot yourself (granted, I asked for permission to both shoot and post ;) )

Aquarium photography legend Gary L. Parr shoots the Lightning Maroon Clownfish

Aquarium photography legend Gary L. Parr shoots the Lightning Maroon Clownfish

I have to say, Gary was a trooper – our club brought him to Duluth, MN, only to drive him 3 hours west to Bemidji, MN, and then back again.  Throw in delayed flights both ways (Chicago’s fault!).  Still, I have to say, it’s rare that an aquarium speaker gives such a universally accessible presentation – not a single person in that room left without learning something about photography.  I think it’s fair to say that many people were inspired.

If you want an update on the Lightning Maroon Clownfish, this time around I’ll point you to Gary’s post for his thoughts (and some more great Lightning Maroon photography) at - .  If you didn’t already know, Gary is one of the two voices you’ll hear most weeks doing the Reef Threads podcast too.  I haven’t listened to it yet, but I’ve already noted that The Lightning Project is a topic of conversation this week -

For now, I’ll leave you with some rare glimpses of the master at work.  Gary spent most of the morning shooting as Little Miss Lightning wasn’t being very cooperative!  Gives you another look at the Ecoxotic tank too – the Rod’s Food shirt draped over it was to cut down on light spillage.  Enjoy!

Patience…it’s a virtue.

Marc Levenson, photographing the Lightning Maroon Clownfish.

Marc Levenson, photographing the Lightning Maroon Clownfish.

I promised something new, so it seems now is a good time to say that once again, the rubbing, cleaning, and courting continue.  However, we still have no eggs.  Despite the ongoing waiting period, it doesn’t prevent aquarists like John Coppolino, and Marc Levenson, both in Duluth to speak at our local club, from being completely enthralled.  In both cases, I think our guests didn’t even make it to their rooms before stopping dead in their tracks to admire our embassador from PNG.

Weekend Update

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We’re seeing ongoing progress in the Lightning Maroon pairing.  More digging, more general surface cleaning, but no eggs yet.  Rod Buehler of Rod’s Food sent along an extra-special care package from Mama Percula to Mrs. Lightning this weekend…some of her secret recipe new “Breeder’s Blend”, aka. “No Candelight Needed”.  Some is getting tested out here, some has gone to another local breeder and we’re going to do an informal trial counting nest sizes to see how feeding this changes them over a few batches.

Rod's Food Breeder's Blend

There’s been some coral issues…I have a couple areas of tissue loss on a few of the smaller Birdsnest frags, and the Aussie Pinks, and Green, Gonioporas, have stopped extending their polyps.  A water test didn’t reveal anything causative…

pH (Seachem) – 8.2
pH (Apex) – 8.38
Total Alkalinity (Seachem) – 2.5 meq/L
Nitrate (Salifert) – 2 ppm
Calcium (Salifert) – 350 ppm
Magnesium (Salifert) – 1155 ppm

Based on the pH descrepency, I recalibrated the pH probe on the Apex Lite…afterwards it came in around 8.25 so we were definitely riding a bit high.  I’d been holding back on the C-Balance 2 part dosing due to elevated pH again, but turns out that probably wasn’t necessary.

Still, a 5 gallon (25%-ish) water change was ordered up.  We’ll see if that doesn’t help just a wee bit.

CORAL Magazine Cover, July/August 2011 Issue

For a second time, the PNG Lightning Maroon Clown Fish has graced the pages of CORAL magazine.  Admittedly, with what’s happened in the last 2 weeks, the article seems a bit outdated…but how could we have known where we’d be 2 months ago?!

I got my copy about a week ago – arguably I’m even more excited about the very interesting articles on breeding Latezonatus (my article, but couldn’t have put it together without the contributions of MANY listed in the credits), accidental hybridization (Julian Sprung) and multiple commentaries on “Designer” Fish.  If you’re into Clownfish, if you’re into Breeding, this is an issue not to be missed.

So last night, I worked on my pairing techniques with the normal White Striped PNG Maroons again.  I took the “female” out of the breeder box and returned her to the main tank, where the male had been recouperating from their last encounter.  All in all, I think things went remarkably better.  Still, after a couple/few hours of interactions, I did once again catch the “female” and return her to the basket for the overnight…didn’t want to come down the next day to a dead male PNG Maroon.  Here’s video of the first 15 minutes of interactions, the male feverishly trying every trick in the book to appease the female.  He managed to do a better job, as there was no heavy aggression or murder attempts this time around, and they even managed to share the anemone at times.  And of course, note how the 6 juvenile perculas are 100% ignored.

Heather Ward's Maroon Lightning Clownfish, copyright 2011, shared with permission

Heather Ward's Maroon Lightning Clownfish, copyright 2011, shared with permission

It’s not every day that you’re go stumble across an artistic rendering of your fish.  Wildlife artist Heather Ward had been looking for a maroon colored animal to incorporate into a piece for a contest, and somehow found the one and only PNG Lightning Maroon Clownfish.  I definitely had to share this rendition here – more on the story can be found at Heather’s Blog.  Good luck with that contest Heather – hopefully the Lightning Maroon is a winner!

Not much else to say, just a short snippet of the Lighting Maroon flirting with a ORA Red Goniopora colony while being bathed in a sliver of afternoon Easter sunlight.

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