The Lightning Project

The ongoing saga of the PNG Lightning Maroon Clownfish Breeding Project

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It’s been a busy couple weeks around MACNA and I wasn’t even THERE this time! I have to circle back to the last update which left us with Spawn #9′s babies disappearing, and the laying down of Spawn #10 on 8-26-2013.

Well…I did not pulled Spawn #10 as planned on the night of September 2nd – I think folks are right in terms of me getting confused counting nights vs. days; if counting “nights”, 8-26 was the first night, meaning that the 7th night would be 9-1-2013. The pair was going nuts tending the eggs that evening, which tends to indicate a pending hatch. So the eggs were pulled on the evening of 9-1-2013, only 144 hours post spawn.

Lightning Maroon Clownfish Spawn #10, the 7th night (144 hours post spawn)

Lightning Maroon Clownfish Spawn #10, the 7th night (144 hours post spawn)

This worked somewhat well – the next morning there was a hatch of possibly as many as 100 offspring.

Hatch on Spawn #10, the 7th night (144 hours post spawn)

Hatch on Spawn #10, the 7th night (144 hours post spawn)

Hatch on Spawn #10, the 7th night (144 hours post spawn)

Hatch on Spawn #10, the 7th night (144 hours post spawn)

With the bulk of the eggs NOT hatching this night, I opted to move the tile to another spare black round tub so that the next night’s hatch would be separated and any dying / decaying eggs would not pollute the first group.

The next night, there was a very small hatch, and most of the eggs were found dead. I transferred all the larvae I could find (< 10) in with their siblings from the night prior.

Meanwhile, an incident with the 2012 group of Lightning Maroons the week prior resulted in the demise of LM10 on September 4th.

LM10, expired, the postponed results of a beating by its siblings.

LM10, expired, the postponed results of a beating by its siblings.

It’s hard to say exactly what occurred, but several days prior when observing the remaining ‘communally’ grouped offspring, I noticed that both pectoral fins on LM10 had been chewed back – this is a common fin damage the fish inflict upon each other while sparring, and all times prior, segregating the fish has resulted in a quick recovery. For whatever reason, LM10 did not recover, but instead spiralled downhill, going of feed, breathing heavily and ultimately dying. It is my guess that a systemic bacterial infection took hold and made quick work of this fish, but ultimately I’ll never know for sure.

Meanwhile, with the last fish shipping from the Round 2 auctions, it opened up enough holding space to prevent any future murders or problems with aggression. As of 9-4, all the remaining siblings were segregated, whether into the holding cubes or breeder nets placed in the growout system.

Lightning Maroons and White Stripe siblings, all now segregated.

 

Spawn 10, as of 9-4-2013

Spawn 10, as of 9-4-2013

This was pretty much the last look I had ad what had seemed like a promising run for Spawn #10. The next day, on 9-5, the offspring crashed and vanished, and were gone by Friday, the 6th. Water tests revealed nothing conclusive, no elevated ammonia or low pH to blame. Ironically, the the tub that had contained the 2nd night’s hatch from spawn 10, 2 stragglers evaded my attempts to combine them with their siblings, and so tonight, 9-10, there is at least one viable offspring remaining from spawn #10. ONE.

It would seem that the Lightning Maroon pair has finally hit its stride in the sex department, so at least my seemingly never-ending blunders are met with the chance to do better the next time! On 9-4-2013, the pair put down spawn #11.

 

Lightning Maroon Clownfish Spawn #11, laid 9-4-2013

Lightning Maroon Clownfish Spawn #11, laid 9-4-2013

It’s my plan to do things differently this time. I’m going to skip the black round tub (BRT) in favor of the “traditional” 10 gallon aquarium. It is my thought that at least part of my difficulties lie in the lack of access to viewing the offspring from anyplace other than above. This makes it difficult to gauge whether larvae are standing on the bottom, or in midwater, while not visible from above.

The big question tonight – being 9-10, now roughly 144 hours post spawn, do I pull it? I should get some larvae if I pull the nest, but it again may be premature…

One other note – one new fish added to the “inventory” – LM17 is the only offspring to be around so far from 2013.  You can read all about him here.

LM17

So I was gone for only 24 hours….24 HOURS, and I come back to find that the fry from Spawn #8 are gone.  Not sick, not dying, not dead.  GONE.  As in VANISHED.  As in “NO BODIES”.  Honestly I have no clue what’s going on there…it was a small group, probably less than 10, with several lightnings showing.  Realistically, I’m pretty sure something happened, they died, and their tiny corpses rotted away before I even had a chance to notice.

And yet, here we go again – I returned home on 8-26-2013 to find a freshly-laid nest, spawn #10. Looks like September 2nd will be my “pull night” for the larvae, lest I have another failure like I did with Spawn #9. Interestingly, the pair has changed which tile they spawn on.  Wish us all luck!

 

Just some photos…

3 comments

Two photos shot tonight in the fishroom – one is the pair on their latest spawn, and the other is my personal favorite holdback, the one I’m using to document pattern development ;)  Enjoy!

Lightning Maroon Clownfish and it's White Stripe Mate, tending to their 8th spawn.

Lightning Maroon Clownfish and it’s White Stripe Mate, tending to their 8th spawn.

 

Now over a year old, the pattern is still developing on all these clownfish!

 

Torture…

2 comments

Every bit of data I have says “8 days to hatch”. I went back and looked…every spawn I tracked, 8 days. Eg. if a spawn occured on the evening of the 1st, it will hatch after lights out on the night of the 9th. Everything suggests that.

So it’s an incredibly tense evening after MISSING the last spawn. Back on 7-19, they threw down another nest.

The latest Lightning Maroon Spawn, photographed on 7-20-2013

The latest Lightning Maroon Spawn, photographed on 7-20-2013

This is simply torture. The eggs LOOK ready. But all my data says NO, they’re not.  The tank temp is 83F…warmer lately because it’s summer.  Could 7 days be it? Incubation times are definitely temperature sensitive.

I’m torn.  I just went and looked again.  The dilemma is simple.  So long as I don’t KILL the eggs by pulling them too early, the safer bet would be to pull them tonight.  That’s likely what I’ll do…it’d be nice to get another group of Lightnings off the ground.  Even if I’m successful, the offspring from a hatch tonight wouldn’t be at market size until January 2014 (unless I really pushed for crazy fast growth).

Update – 3:30 AM, 7-26-2013 – I pulled the nest with 5 gallons of broodstock water and placed it in a BRT.  I did something I’ve never done before – added 2 ML (40 drops, roughly 8 per gallon) of Methylene Blue  to the water.  This is my standard procedure with freshwater Angelfish (Pterophyllum scalare); a process so bulletproof that if the eggs die, I’m comfortable with the belief that the eggs were bad, NOT the incubation.  Methylene Blue was implicated in my most successful artificial incubation attempt with Pterapongon kauderni, the Banggai Cardinalfish, during my research for the Banggai Rescue Project book, The Banggai Cardinalfish. I have no doubts at this point that using methylene blue in the holding water during hatching can only help things.  We’ll see…

It figures just as I’m starting to contemplate moving the Lightning Maroon Clownfish and her mate out of the basement and back upstairs into a display tank, she goes and throws down a whopping big nest of eggs back on 3-16-2013.  I sat on that news a bit mainly because I’ve been fundamentally too busy to share it; among other things, this has been a month on edge as we are expecting our second child.  At this point, we had labor over a month ago…so every little pain or contraction has me (and my wife) wondering if “this is it”.  For a month.  To say I’m frazzled is an understatement.

But sitting on this news did make for an excellent double-gotcha on this year’s “traditional” Reef Builders Lightning Maroon Clownfish April Fools for 2013.  No, I did not partner with Monsanto to clone the Lightning Maroon.  But those with real keen eyes did notice something they hadn’t seen before – Lightning Maroon eggs in a flowerpot ;)  Curtis Kramer, Brandon Mehlhoff, and “Ted” – kudos to you for your mad powers of observation.

Here’s the spawn from 3-16-2013.

So this “third spawn” from 3-16-2013 hatched out on 3/24.  Here’s a photograph of the next the night before hatching, 3/23/2013.

By 3/27, it appeared that most babies were gone, but “no worries” I thought.  Why?  Because that evening, Lightning and her mate threw down another big nest that night, 3/27/2013.  That is the spawn I included pictures of on our April 1st, 2013, prank.

I pulled spawn #4 on the evening of 4/3 (technically wee hours of 4/4/2013 – my fishroom lights go off at 2:30 AM these days); the eggs went into a black round tub with 5 gallons of the water from the broodstock aquarium. Of course, it appears I jumped the gun as they didn’t hatch overnight and were still intact on 4/4/2013.  The bulk of the hatch occurred on the night of 4/5/13 leading into the next morning, although many babies and eggs were found dead yet upon the evening of 4-6, there were still apparently very viable unhatched eggs.  So a hatch potentially spread out over 3 nights?

As of today, 4/10/2013, there were maybe 5 larvae swimming around in the BRT.  If this was any other clownfish, I’d probably skip trying to rear them and just wait for my next run.

Admittedly, I am frustrated by this – my Onyx Percula pair has always had split hatches, and it seems that now the Lightning Maroon is as well and even my newly spawning Fire Clown pair (Amphiprion ephippium) is doing so as well.  The mortality following hatch is drastically high right now; it could be how I’m hatching them in the BRT.  There must be something about my husbandry or technique causing this, but I’m not sure what it is.  Off to ask the experts…

And sadly, the result of this is that there are STILL only a handful of Lightning Maroon offspring that will be put up for sale – even if I got a massive run at this point, it wouldn’t be until fall or winter that they’d be market size.  But there is hope.  As of 10:30 PM on 4/10/2013…yet another nest laid (Spawn #5).  I’ll be blunt; given that we could have a newborn baby in the house any day now, the odds are good that I’ll totally botch or not even get to spawn #5.  So for now, scant few, if any additional lightnings on the horizon beyond what I’ve already raised!

This does raise one burning question – do I move the pair back upstairs and risk putting them off their stride, simply to have them back on battery backups and such, or do I place a pairing of their offspring upstairs.  No easy call there…

Lightning Maroon Clownfish - Copyright Matt Pedersen 2012Last Wednesday, December 5th, I was surprised and saddened to find a few dead Lightning Maroons in the larviculture system.  The mortalities were restricted specifically to the large aggregate group.  Many of you may be aware that Maroon clownfish are notoriously nasty to each other, so much so that some breeders have said that in white strip variants (which would include our Lightning Maroons) they can rear hundreds of fish and find only FIVE that are sellable. I had been planning for months now to segregate all the fish into individual containers, but each time I look at the fish, they seem happy, and the damage to their fins is less and less noticable.  In other words, up until December 5th, the fish themselves had given me no reason to separate them!

Well, the losses could have been from aggression, or they could have been from too many fish being in the same amount of space.   Perhaps the flow of water into their tank had been disrupted for a time.  Ultimately, I’m simply not sure what caused the losses.  One of the most interesting things I’ve noticed about the Lightning Maroons growing out is that the ones kept together have grown FASTER than the fish I separated out into individual containers.  The ones kept together are also more bold and outgoing.

Since I have a massive 200 gallon+ growout system here, designed specifically to grow fish out, I opted to MOVE all the Lightning Maroon offspring together into a 33 gallon breeder on the system.  I took this opportunity to do a headcount – of course now I cannot remember, but I think within the group, I counted around 48 fish (keep in mind I’ve given away 2 so far, and I fond out I missed 3 in the bucket, plus I have 14 in the cube runs, and I lost at least 3 + I had one jump along the way).  So my guestimate of 60-70 fish may have been very close.

At this point, the fish are getting “big”.  I had hoped to be selling some at this point, but we simply haven’t gotten there yet and holiday shipping traffic means that it is exceptionally risky to ship fish this time of year.  Better to wait.  So at this point, we probably won’t be selling any of these until after the first of the year.  Honestly, I’d LOVE to send them out sooner, but it’s just not in the cards!

In the meantime, you can enjoy some new photos!

First, some shots of my favorite and a bonus shot of one of the “runty” ones.

Lightning Maroon Clownfish - Copyright Matt Pedersen 2012

Lightning Maroon Clownfish - Copyright Matt Pedersen 2012

Lightning Maroon Clownfish - Copyright Matt Pedersen 2012

Lightning Maroon Clownfish - Copyright Matt Pedersen 2012

I’ve also gone back and updated the “month by month” progression post showing the pattern development on my favorite one.

And finally, some shots of the group of juveniles in the growout system…it has a bit of a cloudy water issue, which is odd because it has a massive skimmer and a sock filter…I’m thinking it’s biopellet related and make take it offline to see if that remedies the situation. If not, water changes are in the forecast!

Lightning Maroon Clownfish - Copyright Matt Pedersen 2012

Lightning Maroon Clownfish - Copyright Matt Pedersen 2012

Lightning Maroon Clownfish - Copyright Matt Pedersen 2012

Lightning Maroon Clownfish - Copyright Matt Pedersen 2012

So we’ve all but forgotten about the original Lightning Maroon, so I figured it was time to first step back and see how she’s faring.  Sadly, the Baytril-laced feeds do not appear to have had any effect.  About 18 days ago, we switched from the Repashy Gel to soaking Spectrum Thera Pellets with 0.05 ML of the injectable Baytril and approximately 0.15 ML of Brightwell’s MaxAmino, which seems to encourage a highly strong feeding response and probably serves to mask the flavor of the antibiotic.  This got us back on track from a dosing standpoint; while there were a few days where the fish completely refused food (generally on days where I’ve scraped the algae off the glass), most days see better than 90% being consumed.  Despite this success in treating, the Lightning Maroon has had more pop eye, more recurring mouth problems, and is currently showing signs of both mouth and fin rot.  There is little more demotivating than this.

Still, the babies are doing great, although there is a widening size disparity which seems to correlate to how aggressive and dominating a baby can be.  I pulled out two specimens to photograph today, and they somewhat show the extremes of the range.  This also happens to be, at least in the Lightning side, one of the individuals showing the heaviest white coverage, with the headstripe connected to the midstripe and the midstripe to the tailstripe, on both sides.  This is a 1/4 gallon (small) specimen cup (to give you a frame of reference).  Sadly, it appears as though the pelvic fins may have already been badly damaged in the fighting of the offspring…I have dozens of breeder nets on hand now to implement plans to start separating out these fish.

More photos, these from 7-27-2012:

Lightning Maroon Clownfish F1 Offspring

Lightning Maroon Clownfish F1 Offspring

Lightning Maroon Clownfish F1 Offspring

Lightning Maroon Clownfish F1 Offspring

Lightning Maroon Clownfish F1 Offspring

Lightning Maroon Clownfish F1 Offspring

Lightning Maroon Clownfish F1 Offspring

Lightning Maroon Clownfish F1 Offspring

Lightning Maroon Clownfish F1 Offspring

Lightning Maroon Clownfish F1 Offspring

Lightning Maroon Clownfish F1 Offspring

Lightning Maroon Clownfish F1 Offspring

Lightning Maroon Clownfish F1 Offspring

Lightning Maroon Clownfish F1 Offspring

Lightning Maroon Clownfish F1 Offspring

Lightning Maroon Clownfish F1 Offspring

The next batch of images, these from 7-20-2012:

Lightning Maroon Clownfish F1 Offspring

Lightning Maroon Clownfish F1 Offspring

Lightning Maroon Clownfish F1 Offspring

Lightning Maroon Clownfish F1 Offspring

Lightning Maroon Clownfish F1 Offspring

Lightning Maroon Clownfish F1 Offspring

Lightning Maroon Clownfish F1 Offspring

Lightning Maroon Clownfish F1 Offspring

Lightning Maroon Clownfish F1 Offspring

The next batch of photos from a day later, on 7-18-2012:

Lightning Maroon Clownfish, F1 Offspring / Babies

Lightning Maroon Clownfish, F1 Offspring / Babies

Lightning Maroon Clownfish, F1 Offspring / Babies

Lightning Maroon Clownfish, F1 Offspring / Babies

Lightning Maroon Clownfish, F1 Offspring / Babies

Lightning Maroon Clownfish, F1 Offspring / Babies

Lightning Maroon Clownfish, F1 Offspring / Babies

Lightning Maroon Clownfish, F1 Offspring / Babies

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