The Lightning Project

The ongoing saga of the PNG Lightning Maroon Clownfish Breeding Project

Browsing Posts tagged black round tub

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.

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

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...

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

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.

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....

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.

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.

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

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).

8 days post hatch.  To brine, or not to brine, that is the question.

First noticed this at roughly 1:30 PM on July 7th, 2012.  Dare you to hold your breath…

Larval offspring from the Lightning Maroon Clownfish nearing settlement.

Lightning Maroon Clownfish larvae, nearing metamorphosis

Headstripes forming on larval Maroon Clownfish spawned and hatched by the Lightning Maroon Clownfish

So this amounts to a chronological retelling of the story to date, this time with photos, starting  a couple weeks back now.  Perhaps not in as much detail as my minute-by-minute updates, but a good overview of the run to date.

June 21st, 2012

The ongoing health problems with the Lightning Maroon remained, and the left eye on the Lightning Maroon was showing slight swelling.

On a day initially planned to do a skin-scrape of the fish for further examination, I had to call things off because the fish had started going through pre-spawn motions.

By the time we had finished doing a skin scrape on some Banggai Cardinalfish downstairs, Barb & Heidi from the Great Lakes Aquarium got a super special treat, seeing the actual nest having been spawned while they were here.

Lightning Maroon Clownfish Spawning & Eggs

June 22nd, 2012

I was genuinely worried whether we’d have eggs 24 hours in.  Thankfully, they proved to be good parents and good “clownfish”; the first spawn egg eating proved to be the typical first test run that so many clownfish seem to do.  This batch, while I didn’t get a good photo of the parents, was doing well.  The swelling on the Lightning Maroon’s eye had gone away.  Phew.

June 23rd, 2012

So much for resting easy about the health of the Lightning Maroon. The eggs were developing (a fair number that probably were infertile or diseased were removed by the pair), but some funky gunk (yes, that’s the scientific term) showed up on the Lightning Maroon’s right face.  I was once again on high alert; this wasn’t pop-eye; this was more reminiscent of the mouth-rot I had to battle back a little while ago.

June 24th, 2012

So much for being on alert.  By evening, things looked so bad on the Lightning Maroon’s face that I pulled the trigger and initiated the third course of treatment with Maracyn SW and Maracyn II SW in this system.  The telltale bulge around the right eye had started to show as well.  I felt I had little other option at this point; this fish is simply too valuable to take a wait and see approach when symptoms like these show up:

The eggs were looking good and developing fast, although I took little comfort in that given the current situation with the Lightning Maroon.  The roller coaster of stress over this fish during the past couple months has been excruciating.  No doubt, there were times I pondered whether it would all be easier if the fish just passed away – of course solely a passing fancy, but when things are clearly out of your real control, it is incredibly tough to sit there and do “what you can”.  Of course, it’s a whole new level now that we are well within sight of the next major milestone in this 2+ year long project.

June 27th, 2012

June 27th represented the 4th day of Maracyn + Maracyn II treatments, and once again, it appeared I had potentially averted a crisis or loss.  The condition of the Lightning Maroon was drastically improved.  The eggs…the eggs were showing eyes?  They had the classic silvery look of clownfish eggs before they’re going to hatch.

I had been worried that these eggs would be hatching out while I was on a trip to Boston to speak at the Boston Reef Society; but now, only 6 days post spawn, I was very worried that a hatch could come sooner than expected.  The signs (and the data out there) said it was possible, sure, but maybe not likely?  Still, if I waited too long and did nothing I could miss the hatch. Conversely, if I pulled the nest too early, I could miss killing the eggs before they actually had fully developed.  Honestly though, I felt far less pressure about the decisions I was about to make than any of the disease-related issues with the Lightning Maroon; this is clownfish breeding, I can handle it.

There was really only one route to go – I had to sit and watch the tank.  The lights go off at 12:15 AM, so I got things situated for a possible hatch.  I used a small LED flashlight at the far corner of the tank as a larval attractant.

While waiting for the lights to go out, I prepared the area  with buckets and siphons to take out larvae should they hatch in the tank.

Downstairs, I prepared a black round tub to receive broodstock water and possible babies.

Lights went out, and it was time to wait.  All pumps were turned off through an extended feed timer on my Apex Lite (which would ensure they’d all come back on in the event that I somehow forgot about them and went to be).  I did have to unplug the battery backup on the Vortech…can’t have babies going through that pump either.  I’d check every once in a while, and initially got excited around 12:20 AM when I saw movement in the beam of the flashlight – until I realized it was copepods swimming around.

Many more checks turned up nothing, and I was starting to wonder if I had jumped the gun.  Multiple plans of “what next” rolled around in my head, but they all disappeared at 1:23 AM on June 28th, 2012.

That is not a copepod.  If you can’t really see it, maybe this one will help:

The moment that first baby clownfish showed up, I pulled the tile under almost complete darkness, moving it downstairs in a bucket with a lid and 5 gallons of water from the broodstock tank.  I set it up for artificial hatching, and assumed that come morning, I’d see hundreds of clownfish swimming around.  That was the hope…

June 28th, 2012

So much for hatching overnight.  There was ONE baby in the tub.  Terrific (<-sarcasm).  1 is better than none, so in the interest of keeping the one alive, I was forced to tinge the water green with a very light treatment of RotiGreen Nano, and a very small addition of rotifers (lest the baby starve).

The worst fear is that I had somehow killed the eggs in the move or prevented the hatch, which would have generally killed the eggs overnight.  There was only one way to find out.  I took a quick look at the tile.

And here’s what I saw…

They look perfectly fine.  And what a great opportunity, thanks to the advent of digital photography and Photoshop, to get a headcount.

That’s roughly 310 eggs (each color group represents me counting to 50, with the scattered red dots representing the last 10 I counted).  It’s not an exact headcount, but gives a great approximate number of eggs.  Hardly the spawn of several thousand that some Maroon Clownfish are known to put down, but I’ll take it all the same.  So very carefully, this tile went back into the black round tub…

…So long as the eggs didn’t die, there was still hope.  The rest of the tension filled day was spent fighting the urge to recheck the tile for dead eggs.  Come nightfall, I stuck with the photoperiod that the eggs had been used to, and turned the lights out in the basement a little early so that things were basically pitch black by 12:15 AM on June 29th.  Just after 1:00 AM, a quick check with the flashlight caused me to announce to the world, “Ladies and Gentleman; we’re rearing Lightning Maroon Larvae.

June 29th, 2012.

With only hours before my departure to Boston, I had to get things set up right.  As the night progessed into the wee hours of morning (that we normally still call “night”), I fired up the lights, and checked the tile:

No stragglers – that means a 100% hatch.  That means 300-ish baby maroon clownfish.  300 chances to see something really fantastic down the line.  So long as we don’t botch rearing them!

Mike Doty, a fellow aquarist who happens to live 4 blocks away from me, had been over late (or early if you want to get technical) to see how things were set up and to know where everthing was…well that and to share a beer, toasting this milestone. Mike would be completely in charge of rearing the larvae in my absence.

 

While I got my share of incredulous inquiries about that, I actually had more confidence in Mike than myself; Mike had taken a pair of extra Maroons from me, spawned and reared a couple batches, so he was perfectly qualified in my book (I’ve done clowns, but never maroons before).  We got the larval tub set up with greenwater and rotifers, and in the early afternoon I embarked on my all-day trek to Boston.

 

 July 1st, 2012

I returned home from Boston in the afternoon, anxious to see how things had gone.  Mike had kept me updated via texts during my absence and things sounded good.  The main message I got from Mike was that my three rotifer cultures had failed to keep up with demand, and he had actually depleted his as well.  I wondered, would we wind up losing this batch to starvation?!

July 2nd, 2012

I’m indeed burning through rotifers, but the cultures seemed to rebound and were producing enough for the moment.  The rotifers in the BRT were also clearing out phytoplankton pretty frequently.

Mike and I had set up a drip for the tub using a spare brine shrimp hatchery and a micro ball valve from Julian Sprung’s Two Little Fishies.  Not only is the drip good for top off, but also for introducing foods (phytoplankton) and ammonia control (CloramX) slowly.

Seeing that there were still many babies (some losses, but still many viable larvae), I took a photo for you all; your first look at what *Could be* a larval Lighting Maroon Clownfish, roughly 4 days old.

 July 5th, 2012

Things have gone well, as I’ve slowly doubled the larval rearing volume to 10 gallons, keeping a watchful eye on the ammonia alert badge as I continue to feed 4-5 gallons worth of rotifers into the tub per day.  With the warm basement temperatures (normally in the upper 60′s to lower 70′s, but lately 78F), the rotifer cultures are now roaring; I’m forced to feed them twice daily at a rate of 30 drops of RotiGrow Plus (and 30 drops CloramX).

I’ve done a couple pre-feeding rotifer enrichments with Super Selcon as well, just to keep the DHA levels up. However, today, now just before 7 days old, we reach another step in the rearing process.  Today it was decided the larvae were finally ready to feed on APBreed’s TDO, size A.  And after the second feeding, it was fair to say they are indeed consuming it.

So now we sit and wait.  Any day now, we will catch the first glimpses of stripes as these larval Maroon Clownfish go through metamorphosis and settle out into juveniles.  Most likely, I suspect that even if we have fish that will one day show the “Lightning” phenotype, we won’t see it at this stage in their development.  But at this time, it is anyone’s guess.  If you’re a betting man or woman, it’s time to place your wagers.  Our first glimpse at the possibilities are just around the corner.

So not sure how much I’ve conveyed, but the jist was that I had an artificial incubation hatch last night.

Black round tub, incubating the eggs.

Black round tub, incubating the eggs.

Once hatched, I tinted the water (about 5 gallons of broodstock water) green with Reed Mariculture’s RotiGreen Nanno (a frozen algae paste specifically made for use in greenwater technique).  It took about 20 drops.  I added 10 drops of Chloram-X (for ammonia control).  And I sieved 2 gallons of rotifers to innoculate the black round tub.

Greenwater Technique with Reed Mariculture's RotiGreen Nanno

Greenwater Technique with Reed Mariculture's RotiGreen Nanno

Lightning Maroon Clownfish Offspring

Lightning Maroon Clownfish Offspring

Mike Doty came over to check everything out, as he is in charge from now until my return from the Boston club’s event where I’m speaking this weekend.

Blame this guy!  Just Kidding! - Mike Doty, Maroon Clownfish Breeder and custodian of Lightning Maroon clownfish fry in my absence.

Blame this guy if it doesn't work! Just Kidding! - Mike Doty, Maroon Clownfish Breeder and custodian of Lightning Maroon clownfish fry in my absence.

As of noon today, there are likely a couple hundred baby clownfish zooming around.  A quick check of the water showed that rotifer densities were already quite minimal, so another 3 gallons of sieved rotifers were added.

And that’s it – I’ll have to write this up more thoroughly sometime next week (assuming time permits).

Seriously, one baby found hatched in the tank, and failed to collect it.  One more baby has hatched out in the BRT (Black Round Tub), and that’s it!  It’s now 4:00 AM, so I turned on the lights on the BRT, angled it off to the side so that the light intensity is greatly diminished.  The eggs appear to be fine, so my guess is that I was tricked by a couple early hatchers, and the bulk will hatch tomorrow (Thursday, 7 days post spawn).  That’s my hope anyways, but wouldn’t it be just like the rest of this project to only get ONE baby?!  Wouldn’t surprise me in the least.

In a balancing act, I introduced a very light level of Rotifers and equally light dosing of RotiGreen Nanno into the BRT so that our lone ranger has something to do with all this time on his hands.  I went very light to hopefully avoid any contamination that could foul and kill the remaining eggs who have probably another 24 hours to hatch.

I’ve been taking photos, so at some point I’ll post a pictorial recap of tonight’s (and hopefully tomorrow’s) big event!

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