Pairing remains at a standstill for the Lightning Maroon, in large part given my desire to sit in front of the tank for an extended period and keep a watchful eye over the interactions so I can intervene if need be.

Meanwhile, I’ve been digging through my circle of fish friends and trying to see what other tricks are out there that we hadn’t yet tried.  Sanjay Joshi suggested something that had worked with his Gold Stripe Maroons.  To summarize, he provided two possible males to a female, and let the female choose the mate she preferred.  Of course, this makes sense..it’s tough for the female to fend off both suitors, so instead, she teams up with one to drive the other away.

My main concern over trying this is that a) you don’t control which fish she chooses and b) you risk both fish.  Since more PNG Maroon Males/Juveniles are not available, I have to be cautious and protective of both of them.  But Sanjay’s recommendation reminded me of a very similar technique described to me by Chicago-area clownfish breeder Mitch May, better known as Booyah on most reef forums.  Mitch’s technique works on the same basic principal of encouraging the natural behavior of teamwork in a pair to drive away third party interlopers.  It’s also a bit safer perhaps, and I’m happy to share this concept with Mitch’s permission.

In a nutshell, the application is to take a “Female” and the desired “Male” and place them together with a few additional fish.  Per Mitch’s instructions, he’ll take one additional fish that is 50% of the size of the desired male (who is the second biggest of all the fish after the females).  Then, we’ll also add 2 more clownfish juveniles, these at 25% of the size of the desired male.  So it works out like this – 3″ female, 2″ male, 1″ juveniles and 2 0.5″ juveniles.  This actually mimics the natural social structure of many clownfish species, although in most cases this unit can’t be easily replicated in captivity.  Generally speaking, attempts like this usually end up with lots of aggression directed at the smaller fish, and even death as a possibility.  However, when trying to drive the top two fish together, the presence of the other three juveniles focuses their aggression away from each other, and instead towards the juvenile intruders.

It may sound cruel, but the best fish to use are those that would be culled.  Since they are never going to be sold, and since humane euthanasia or becoming food for a Lionfish are the most likely results of their existence, their sad lives might actually at least have a redeeming purpose.  If they are killed in the process, while the path to their death was likely more violent, the outcome was ultimately the same.  Of course, I’m not condoning that this simply be a commonplace practice, or that you don’t intervene should the aggression become more violent than just the normal social threats and displays.

So to that end, and knowing I have dozens of culled Perculas sitting in tanks that I simply haven’t put down, I’m going to try this technique out.  I’ll first do it with the two White Stripe pairings downstairs that aren’t working out.  If it works there, then it will get applied to the Lightning Maroon and her would-be mate.

The other technique is one to encourage spawning.  Two breeders have definite experience with this technique.  Mitch May calls it “doubling down”, based on the gambling concept of taking “one good hand and turning it into two good hands”.  Chad Vossen of St. Cloud, MN, calls it the less glitzy, but more straightforward “egg fostering”.  In either case, the premise is the same.  For a pair that is going through the motions but never producing, a clutch of eggs is taken from a spawning pair and placed with the non-spawning pair.  The presence of the eggs kicks in the male’s nest tending instincts and seems to also kick the female into egg production mode.  While I won’t be using this technique just yet, it may come in hand down the line if the Lighting is paired but not moving towards spawning.

Hopefully I’ll get the test pairings restarted downstairs tonight…videos will be shot of course!