The Lightning Project

The ongoing saga of the PNG Lightning Maroon Clownfish Breeding Project

Browsing Posts in Acclimation

After the first round of auctions with Blue Zoo Aquatics, we came to the mutual conclusion that sticking with our original plan, one of drop shipping the fish from here in Duluth to the final recipients, is going to be our preferred route going forward. I had so many direct inquiries asking why I had forced the fish to go through an extra trip to the west coast, and in truth, neither Mark nor myself had originally planned that.  Quite simply, with a brand new daughter who has a penchant for screaming constantly and uncontrollably, it felt as if the only way we’d ever get the ball rolling on sales was to have me make one shipment to Blue Zoo.  It worked, but public sentiment was definitely against the extra trip.

With our decision to stick with drop shipping from Duluth, this means I need to hold, and segregate, most all of the maroons here to ensure that they don’t turn on each other in a murderous rage as fish are removed from the community. This means that all of the Maroons in my holding cubes, the ones that were destined to be distributed as backup pairs, held back for test pairings and breedings here, as well as smaller specimens, all need to be moved out to permit me to segregate the remaining 25 or so fish that we’ll be selling. I’m running out of space.

In an effort to free up holding cubes, I’m pushing to place and pair many of the fish I’ve been holding in segregation. As you’ve probably read in the past, I’ve planned several backup pairs to be spread around the city and country, just in case anything were to ever happen to our home or fishroom. So, this Friday, August 2nd, 2013, another one of those pairs was selected from my holdbacks and placed under the care of the staff at the Great Lakes Aquarium (GLA), our local public aquarium situated on the shores of the Duluth Harbor / St. Louis Bay, Lake Superior.

Great Lakes Aquarium in Duluth, Minnesota. Lake freighter Canadian Transport passing Duluth Aerial Lift Bridge : Photo by Tmajewski.

Great Lakes Aquarium in Duluth, Minnesota. Lake freighter Canadian Transport passing Duluth Aerial Lift Bridge in the background : Photo by Tmajewski, under Public Domain license (THANKS Tmajewksi!)

The Great Lakes Aquarium is mainly a freshwater aquarium (all “permanent” exhibits are freshwater) as the mission is primarily to educate visitors about the waters in our region. As such, it’s fair to say that when we first moved to Duluth, the marine hobbyists I knew didn’t exactly give it a “must see” rating.  I think it took a year and a half before we ever stepped foot in our own public aquarium.

Since that time, I’ve come to grow fond of our local aquarium. The facility is wonderful, the building is beautiful. With a family membership, we can escape there for an hour or a day, and it’s very kid friendly. Ethan loves it (the water table, the treehouse slide, and the bear den are his perenial favorites).

Even though the GLA has suffered budget setbacks and more than one oversight change since it opened in 2000, it’s worth the visit if you’re here. I can only say things continue to improve and yes, more and more saltwater displays are making their way into the aquarium.  Like it or not, I think everyone understands that “Nemo”, “Seahorses” and Otters are a likely larger draw than Largemouth Bass and Rainbow Trout; while the mission is most admirable, it’s difficult to accomplish if people aren’t lining up to see the same fish they caught when fishing the day before.

Ultimately, I look at the Great Lakes Aquarium and see an organization that is growing, refining, and only improving, something I can be ever more proud of to call my home aquarium and an institution that our city should be very proud of and continue to prioritize. Heck, with Sepia bandensis on display from none other than Rich Ross at the Steinhart, and a fledgling new coral reef aquarium as part of the Fire, Ice, and the Rise of Life (see Lake Superior Magazine | Great Lakes Aquarium website) introduction to the history of our region (which happens to include a new Chambered Nautilus exhibit), offerings that will draw the layperson in are on the uptick. There’s plenty of massive envy-inducing Brook Trout still on display, the likes of which I’ll never catch in the wild!

Another view of the Great Lakes Aquarium, now home of a Lightning Maroon Clownfish - Image by Randen Pederson under Create Commons License (thanks Randen!)

Another view of the Great Lakes Aquarium, now home of a Lightning Maroon Clownfish – Image by Randen Pederson under Create Commons License (thanks Randen!)

So when it came time to think about a public aquarium where I could place a Lightning Maroon for public viewing, I certainly had options.  I grew up with the Shedd and still have acquaintances who work there.  No doubt, many of my other friends who work at and run public aquariums would have welcomed the contribution, east coast or west, north or south. Ultimately though, my humble home of Duluth, Minnesota, is where the Lightning Project took place.  It’s where a single wild variant spawns and tends here eggs, and where her progeny have grown up and in turn been sent back into the aquarium hobby. As much as the Lightning Project is a PNG story, a SEASMART story, a Pacific Aquafarms story, a Blue Zoo Aquatics story, or a Matt Pedersen story, it is also now a Duluth story.

We’ll probably never have a MACNA in Duluth, MN.  Heck, we’re lucky to get 10 people to a meeting of the Lake Superior Marine Aquarium Club (LSMAC). For a small city that’s welcomed me and my family with kindness and support, it is only fitting that I give back to the home I hope I never have to leave. There really was only one choice, and having had the help of folks like aquarium staffers Barb and Heidi earlier in this project (they actually were here and witnessed the spawning of the first successful offspring, the fish they are now holding), the Great Lakes Aquarium truly was the only and best choice. I’m really glad they accepted my offer.

The details of my donation to the aquarium are simple.  The fish were provided freely (obviously) and the only stipulations were these. 1st, if the aquarium for some reason could no longer house the fish, that they be returned to me, and 2nd, the eggs are mine if I need them.  In other words, they are a backup pair for my fishroom and another avenue of genetic diversity to help keep mutliple F1 pairs out there in production, which in turn keeps the genetics diverse in the greater population.  The more F1 fish we have producing F2 fish, the better we are from a big-picture standpoint.

The Fish Donated to the Great Lakes Aquarium

In short, I hand delivered 1 Lightning Maroon, and one White Stripe Maroon sibling, to the Great Lakes Aquarium this afternoon.  I’ve added to them to the offspring catalog and assigned them the ID’s GL1 and GL2 (I’m sure someone, somewhere, will name these fish more fitting names!)  Here’s their photos (and links to their individual pages)

GL1 - a F1 PNG Lightning Maroon Clownfish donated to the Great Lakes Aquarium in Duluth, MN, USA

GL1 – a F1 PNG Lightning Maroon Clownfish donated to the Great Lakes Aquarium in Duluth, MN, USA

MORE on Lightning Maroon GL1

GL2 - a F1 PNG White Stripe Maroon Clownfish donated to the Great Lakes Aquarium in Duluth, MN, USA

GL2 – a F1 PNG White Stripe Maroon Clownfish donated to the Great Lakes Aquarium in Duluth, MN, USA

MORE on White Stripe Maroon GL2

How to strike the Great Lakes Aquarium with Lightning

The actual mechanics of ensuring the Great Lakes Aquarium was the recipient of a Lightning strike were fairly mundane.  Fish were bagged…

GL2, reading for bagging

GL2, reading for bagging

GL1, also reading for bagging

Even though it's a 15 minute drive, the fish are bagged with oxygen and placed in a shipping styro.  Nothing but the best...

Even though it’s a 15 minute drive, the fish are bagged with oxygen and placed in a shipping styro. Nothing but the best…

…and simply driven to the aquarium.  Just about as stress free a trip as they could ask for.

I gotta say, I kinda felt like Santa once I got there. I have never seen gossip travel so fast through a workplace; it seems like anyone who COULD get away and sneak a peek, did just that!

GL1 and GL2 floating for acclimation in the behind-the-scenes quarantine tank where they will be conditioned and paired before going on display.

GL1 and GL2 floating for acclimation in the behind-the-scenes quarantine tank where they will be conditioned and paired before going on display.

Of course, I think Jadell (will withhold her last name for privacy) was both the happiest and most stressed, as I believe it is she is the one who manages the marine exhibits (including the fantastic Seahorse breeding) and has been put in charge of the Aquarium’s Lightning Maroon and mate.  She hides her nervous terror well behind that beaming smile. Don’t worry Jadell, I know that feeling; I knew it when their parents first showed up here.

Jadell, you'll do great, I know you will!

Jadell, you’ll do great, I know you will!  And no worries, there are more if you need ‘em.

No word on when we’ll have these fish paired and ready for display, but I think it’s going to take 3 to 6 months before a solid pairing can be created using segregation and forced size differentiation to ensure that the Lightning Maroon grows faster and larger than the White Stripe sibling.

When ready, Jadell has told me that this middle aquarium is due to be the new, revamped home for the pair.

The aquarium in the center is the currently planned new display home for the Lightning Maroon and her mate, when the time comes.

You can be sure that I’ll continue to watch this pair and post an update when there’s some news!  You may never get to come into my house to see the original Lightning Maroon, but for the price of admission, someday soon you’ll be able to see one in person at the Great Lakes Aquarium.

A big shipment of fish, including PNG Maroon Clownfish from the Papua New Guinea SEASMART program landed on my doorstep the morning of July 1st, 2010.  As you likely know, it’s been a bit of a dance to get fish ready for shipment as well as conditions being right to receive a shipment!  I’m glad Mark Martin stuck with it, and as usual, it was a great, well packed shipment from Blue Zoo Aquatics.

Blue Zoo Shipment - Open the Box..

Blue Zoo Shipment - ...take off the cover...

...take off the cover...

...take out the kit and pull back the paper...

...and open up the bag to reveal the fish!

I had a standing order with Mark for 4 ‘juvies’ and 1 large female.  While large females are hard to come by, Mark found something else to send me.  Ultimately, I received 5 fresh new PNG Maroons in this shipment.  All have gone into regular tanks, not really “QT” parsay….2 share a 10 that’s been empty forever, 2 share a 30+ gallon tank, and 1 is in a breeder net in a 20 long that houses an Allardi and a couple damsels.  I have yet another empty tank set up if i need it…but for now, it’s “quarantine” with a “wait and see” approach.  As usual, all the new arrivals were temperature acclimated and then drip acclimated.

Floating a Little Maroon Clownfish to equalize bag water temp with the tank temperature.

Drip Acclimation of 2 PNG Maroon Clownfish - the specimen cup has holes in it, and is used to keep the fish from killing each other while drip acclimating.

So I had limited time tonight, but I tried to snag some photos of the new arrivals.

A juvenile/male PNG Maroon in a breeder net.

Another small PNG Maroon Clownfish, this time in a drilled specimen cup.

So, the 4 small PNG Maroons were easily 1.5″, possibly 2″, and they all pretty much looked like the above.  But remember, I said Mark sent me 5 maroons.  What was that 5th “surprise” PNG Maroon?

I’m just going to let that “simmer” with you all for a little while.  I have my own thoughts that I’ll share soon enough…

So, I just wrapped up the drip acclimation…bucket water was at 1.024/25, close enough.  Hand moved the fish into the breeder net and watched it for a minute or two.  The fish is PRISTINE, not a mark on it.  It brushed up against the smaller BTAs (Bubble Tip Anemones) and showed no signs of getting stung (i.e. no sticky tentacles observed).  No heavy breating, in every aspect acting like a healthy clownfish.  I want to say that the entire acclimation process took around 2.5 to 3 hours to go from 1.012 to 1.025 on a drip.  Water in the bucket was significantly cooler by a couple degrees, even after placing the drip bucket on a styrofoam box lid to insulate it from the ground.  I have kept the room lights on to allow the fish a little while to adjust to its new surroundings.

So as promised in my prior post, here’s some pictures relevant to this evening’s events.

Net Breeder containing 3 Bubble Tip Anemones

The future net breeder home of the Lightning Maroon

Now, I know some folks see that picture and are taken aback.  Really?  Isn’t such a small confined space cruel?  Well, ask my other clowns…

Fire Clown in a RBTA in a Breeder Net

Can you see the Sumatran Fire Clown?

Sumatran Fire Clownfish, Amphiprion ephippium, in a Red Bubble Tip Anemone

Yup, that's the "spare", smallest of 3 Sumatran Fire Clownfish (Amphiprion ephippium) living in a breeder net. The larger 2 have free roam of the same tank.

Vanuatu Pink Skunk Clownfish (Amphiprion peridariaon) living in a breeder net with a RBTA

Amphiprion peridariaon "Vanuatu", yes, Pink Skunks, living in a breeder net...sort of...

So yeah, those Pink Skunks.  Birthday present from my inlaws from the Diver’s Den on  I had sold the Ocellaris pair that lived in this reef prior, so I knew I had a spot for clowns and they wanted to get me some “nice” clownfish.  Long story short, the reef also houses a pair of Starkii Damselfish (Chysiptera starkii) and I wasn’t sure how these new additions would be treated.  I also wanted to give them an anemone, but was concerned about the Dragonette Pairs in this tank becoming “lunch” for the anemone.  So I threw them in the breeder net with a Red Bubble Tip Anemone Clone.  Eventually, one got out more than once and honestly the seemed OK.  So I pushed the net down so that the edge sits maybe 0.5 to 0.75 inches below the surface.  Well, turns out the clowns (as well as the Cleaner Wrasse (Labroides dimidatus) and Harlequin Filefish (Oxymonacanthus longirostris)) have figured out that they can come and go from the basket as they please.  By night, the anemone and the clowns reside in the basket, and during they day they basically “overflow” into the tank at large.  It honestly works so well for them that I hate to make changes to it.

And thus, because it’s worked well before, I hope / assume it can work well again, even if only an interim measure (I have NO desire to keep the Lightning Maroon alone in a breeder basket for any longer than I have to!).  So, I’ll end this evening with 2 shots of the Lightning Maroon in acclimation and an interesting observation.  When this fish stresses out, the white lightning stripes become tinged gray.  You can kinda see it even in these pictures.

Lightning Maroon Clownfish, Premnas biaculeatus, in drip acclimation.

The Lightning Maroon Clown, Premnas biaculeatus "PNG Lightning", being drip acclimated from hyposalinity to full strength saltwater.

PNG Lightning Maroon Clownfish, Premnas biaculeatus "PNG Lightning"

A closeup of the Lightning Maroon Clownfish in the acclimation bucket.

Tomorrow I’ll figure out what the heck I’m doing with the female PNG Maroon.  Admittedly, I have an idea…

So still playing catchup on the Lightning Maroon Story…there’s already so much “behind the scenes” and “prequel” type content…I doubt I’ll ever get it all out there.  I did manage the first installment fairly quickly.  It’s time to hit the second installment of the “recap”, the acclimation of the Maroons to their new home.

We pick up where we left on on March 31st, with the box newly opened.  I had already taken salinity readings and matched the tank water to them (fish were shipped around 1.020).  Time to set up the drip acclimation.

SEASMART PNG Lightning Maroon Clownfish in Drip Acclimation

Didn't even bother handling the Lightning Maroon, started acclimation in the bag.

No chances taken - Eggcrate covers the acclimation bucket!

No chances taken - Eggcrate covers the acclimation bucket!

SEASMART collected PNG Maroon Clownfish

Here's the "female" shipped from Blue Zoo.


Got many better pictures of the female.


That's one gorgeous large Maroon Clownfish! Bravo to everyone involved!

PNG Maroon Clownifsh

I know...I shot more pix of the female...

Drip acclimation of Premnas biaculeatus

Started the drip acclimation on the female.

Drip acclimating a wild caught PNG Maroon Clownfish

I followed the drip acclimation instructions provided in Blue Zoo's Acclimation Handbook, shipped with every order.

When drip acclimations were done, each fish was gently moved BY HAND into their designated sides of the QT tank.  I moved them by hand as wet hands (experienced in fish handling) are less abrasive, damaging, and risky, especially with fish that have spines that can be caught in netting.

Maroon Clownfish in tank

And finally, after hours of acclimation, they're in their tank. Separated by Eggcrate!

PNG Maroon Clownfish

Another look at that stunning female PNG Maroon. Slight misbar on the tail, but Maroon stripes fade, bottom up, with age.

Lightning Maroon Clownfish

The Lightning Maroon knows that there's a larger Maroon on the other side of that eggcrate.

Initial QT Setup...

This is their initial home, the larger PNG Maroon getting the majority of the space.

So, here’s how their tank is set up.  It’s a 20 Long full of live rock.  The only filtration is the live rock itself, with water circulation provided by the Penguin Power Filter hanging on the back.  This tank had been set up for months housing a much larger male Blue Jaw Triggerfish (Xanthichthys auromarginatus) which was given away to local reefer Jim Grassinger (of the Filter Guys) so I had a quality established home for these Maroon Clowns.  The clowns couldn’t have a more stable and established dedicated aquarium than this.  The added benefit was limited exposure…it’s not like they were on a system exposed to many other fish.

And that’s the story of how they got from the Boxes into the tank.  I followed Blue Zoo Aquatic’s acclimation protocols pretty much exactly.  Blue Zoo even provides tubing and a suction cup to make this as easy as possible.  All it takes is a knot in the tubing to control the rate at which water siphons from the tank into the bucket.

I do want to mention that I realized about 30 minutes into the acclimation process that the buckets were sitting on cold concrete basement floors.  In an effort to insulate the buckets, I placed them on the styrofoam lids from the shipping boxes.  I may always do this now…it certainly doesn’t hurt and probably helped keep the temps more stable.

As time permits, I’ll try to recap the first couple days to get everyone caught up to speed ;)

All images are copyright 2010 Matt Pedersen.  No reuse without express written consent!

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