The Lightning Project

The ongoing saga of the PNG Lightning Maroon Clownfish Breeding Project

Browsing Posts tagged Boomer

This is the story of leaving home only to have the entire trip be a subconsciously gut wrenching experience. last week on the Tuesday before MACNA, Tony Vargas swung into town and stopped by with Boomer. Among other things, he sat glued to the Lightning Maroon’s tank for almost an hour, snapping dozens or hundreds of images. I can still remember Tony saying “I think I know where those fish are going to spawn.” pointing to the back wall of the tank where the pair was actively cleaning. Tony got several good shots, one of which is so good that none of you have seen it. I told Tony “that’s my book cover”. The below image is not the “uber good” one that he’s holding back..this was just a “good” one.

Lightning Maroon Clownfish photograph taken by Tony Vargas on 9-6-2011

I departed for MACNA 2011 (Des Moines, IA) on Thursday, leaving all my aquariums in top shape. They’d be able to withstand a bit of neglect and nothing should’ve gone wrong.

Of course, Friday evening I find I have two missed calls from my wife. I step outside and call her. She tells me that she came home and couldn’t find the Lightning Maroon, so she got worried. I too was getting worried but realized that now, on more than one occasion, this boldly patterned fish still manages to hide from view. It turned out that since calling, she found the fish. However, she hadn’t seen either clownfish eat. This again was cause for concern, so I had her check the APEX for both temperature and pH; the two parameters most likely to be out of whack (it wasn’t until SUNDAY, long after all this, that I even thought to ask her if all the pumps had been running…of course they had been the entire time). Everything was in order.

To me, this was both disconcerting and intriguing. Disconcerting in that for the fish to be off feed, something could be going terribly wrong – i.e. ammonia or nitrite levels rising. However, Renee doesn’t overfeed, and there was nothing big in the tank that could’ve died and caused a massive crash. So, if things are OK, when else have I not seen fish eating? Well, pretty much right before they’re spawning.

Saturday rolled around and I once again got new info. My friend Jay who breeds Maroon Clowns and sometimes stops by the house to watch the fish had come over, and he made the observation that the Lightning Maroon was going to be spawning. Renee said the fish were cleaning like crazy. Talking later with Jay, what he described almost sounded like pre-spawn runs, with the fish doing practice “touch and goes”. Or another way to think of it…mating without laying any eggs. The female would rub her belly down, then the male would follow. That sounds to me like spawning.

MACNA itself reminded me of home many times, with the Lightning Maroon showing up in my presentation, David Vosseler’s SEASMART discussions, and Julian Sprung’s talk too. I don’t remember names, but I know several people came up and asked if I was the guy with the Lightning Maroon. A bit surreal still.

Of course, I get home late Sunday, and a few of my friends at MACNA (most notably Kevin Erickson and Tony Vargas) have heard what is going on and are sharing my possible excitement. I made it home late, and to my relief everything appeared normally. I broke out a flashlight to look for eggs, but found none. Interestingly, both fish were sleeping together on the back tank corner, where I have seen a lot of cleaning activity occurring.

The final bit of excitement came last night, when I was paying close attention to the fish for a minute. I haven’t seen any cleaning activity since I returned home, but I did notice a slight extension coming off the Lightning Maroon’s belly on Monday night. Could this be an ovipositor? Could it in fact be that the Lightning Maroon pair DID spawn while I was away? Afterall, first clownfish clutches are often consumed by the parents.

Based on what I’ve heard and observed, I will go on record to say that I *think* we may have had our first spawn while I was away at MACNA. All of the reported information points to that, and the experiences of many clownfish breeders would support the guess. We will obviously never know (unless I have yet to locate a nest), but it’s possible that our first documented spawn could very well be coming sooner rather than later.

A Morse Code Update

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OK, seriously though, the rest of the post will be in plain English ;)

I’ve discussed the problems facing the “Morse Code” Maroon with Christine Williams and Boomer.  Both often make a reference of Edward Noga.  As you know, I’ve been treating the Morse Code’s mouth rot with Kanamycin.  From Christine, the dosage of Kanamycin for fish is “50-100 mg/liter every 3 days for 3 treatments with a 50% WC before each”.

As you know, I’m using Kanamycin powder from National Fish Pharmacy (www.fishyfarmacy.com).  Both Christine and Boomer have suggested that the dosage on Kanamycin may be “low” compared to that recommended by Noga.  So I sat and “did the math”.

I’m using their consumer packaged Kanamycin, which is called “Kana Pro”.  From their website, the dosage is 1/4 teaspon per 20 gallons of water.  Treat every 24 hours with a 25% water change before each treatment.  Treat for 10 days.  For tuberculosis, use for up to 30 days.

The entire package of Kana Pro is 20 grams, and treats 640 gallons at their dosage rate.  Per their dosage, that works out to 1 gram (1000 mg) treating 32 gallons of water (121 Liters).  This works out to roughly 8.25 mg per L per day.  If I went to dosing every third day at that level, it amounts to roughly 25 mg per L.  This is basically half of Noga’s minimum dosage.  Of course, I simply also need to mention that other experts give dosages lower than Noga, i.e. more in the range of 20 mg/L to 50 mg/L according to the sources that Boomer cited, but Boomer was quick to add that often times, the dosage for a medication in saltwater can be as much as twice that in freshwater.  That could easily account for a disparity between Noga and the other references, specifically if Noga is talking marine and the others were talking fresh!

So far, at best I was only at the absolute bare minimum therapeutic level for Kanamycin based on the dosage.  But then things took another bizzare turn.  Boomer noticed it, credit where credit is due.  National Fish Pharmacy sells both Kana-Pro (hobbyist packaged product) and bulk Kanamycin Sulfate powder.  20 Grams of Kana Pro sells for $14.  25 grams of bulk Kanamycin Sulfate sells for $35.  The net result – Kana Pro sells for about 50% of what the bulk product sells for.  WHY?!  Even more curious, the package of Kana Pro says right on it “Pure kanamycin sulfate powder – no inert ingredients added”.

While I have not found the time to contact National Fish Pharmacy to ask about this very peculiar discrepency, it is certainly suggestive that the hobbyist-packaged Kana Pro cannot be the same thing as the Kanamycin Sulfate that our published experts are referring to when they talk about dosages.  At best, it may be that the bulk Kanamycin Sulfate is a higher GRADE and thus more expensive.  At worst, the Kana Pro could very well be a diluted form, perhaps mandated as such by the FDA for “home use” (this is purported to be a FDA-Approved product).  In the worse case scenario, could it be that the “Kana Pro” is diluted by 50% or more (would clearly justify costing half as much!)?  The real implication, when you follow it through, is that if Kana Pro is 50% or less of the active ingredient, then the labeled dosage might not be just “half” of Noga’s minimum dosage, but 25% or lower of the minimum suggested dosage by Noga.

And we wonder why medicating fish is a “complicated” issue!  Well, after 3 doses following the instructions, I had seen no results.  Once Christine, Boomer and I had these conversations, I took it upon myself to immediately DOUBLE the volume of dosage of Kana Pro I was using.  Based on all the information I had at hand, it seemed to be a safe and likely necessary step.

On Tuesday, I took another step – I swabbed the fish.  The plan was to send a sample to Christine for culturing / identification.  Obviously, if I we can figure out what exactly is going on, we have a better chance to treat it.  If nothing else, we may be able to put a real label on these photos and say “here’s a known case of X infecting a Maroon Clownfish”.  Of course, I missed the post office, so the package went out Wed and should arrive Friday.  Obviously, answers will not be immediate.

It is now Thursday night, and for the past 3 nights I’ve been using the doubled dose of Kana Pro.  The verdict? Let the pictures tell you:

It is pretty clear to me that Kanamycin, even at the doubled dosage, is having NO affect on this infection.  My plan now has been to abandon this (as I’ve used almost an entire package with no results now).  Around 8:00 PM I placed a large back of fresh carbon in the filter.  I’ll followup with a larger partial water change as well, and probably by midnight, I’ll be using a different medication.  Looking at what I have on hand, and what has more often succeeded than failed, it will probably be Maracyn SW (Erythromycin).  I believe I also have Maracyn Two SW (Monocycline) running around.  I believe I can even tag-team these two medications by using them together, hitting both gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria respectively.  Given that Kanamycin treats gram-negative bacteria primarily, the use of Monocycline with Erythromycin may be unnecessary, but at this point, what’s a guy to do?

…is that life has a way of giving you a nice smack in the face, aka a “reality check”.  The old phrase “don’t count your [clownfish] before they hatch”  seems to apply here.

I alluded to it at the end of my last post.  Yes, the “Morse Code” Maroon is having issues…it showed signs almost immediately and 24 hours in I made the decision to move it into another empty tank and begin treatment.  Not having the benefit of a laboratory, nor the luxury of a vet, I was forced to make a rapid guess and hope I was right.  Time this weekend has been nonexistent (a visit to see my best friend who lives in DC, then a car was hit on the street, and a family member was put under and had surgery today, doing well thank you) but I’ve at least been staying on feeding and treatment regimes.  Here’s where the Morse Code Maroon went…

So what exactly is wrong with the Morse Code Maroon?  I’m not 100% sure, but I did notice what looked like “rawness” on the mouth when the fish was released.  The pictures from that evening don’t really show it.  24 hours in, the mouth had turned gray and was showing signs of erosion, and so, the fish was moved.  Here’s what I was looking at.

For the moment, I’ll just use the generic term “Mouth Rot”, which really describes only a symptom, something that could be caused by a myriad of possible vectors.  As I stated earlier, not having a lot of time to diagnose and collaborate on this one, I went with Kanamycin, which I had on hand from the “lost shipment” when I was trying to switch antibiotics on the original female PNG Maroon.  As an “shotgun approach” antibiotic, it was the recommendation of at least a couple of the project advisors earlier on.  I figured, why not?  Christine Williams and Boomer both definitely preferred it over my personal default, Erythromycin.  Seems that Kanamycin is not that easy to find, but this is the one I’m using, from FishyFarmacy.com.

Today, I have to say I’ve not seen any signs of improvement.  No, things appear to have gotten worse.  Let the pictures speak for themselves:

Add on stringy feces, decreased activity, and the possibility of Brooklynella showing up (can’t say yet) and this fish is arguably going downhill fast.  Tonight is the 4th of 5 scheduled doses of Kanamycin.  I’m going to do it, but if time permits over the next 24 hours I’m going to solicit for opinions and do the researching I can do.  Need to turn this fish around, FAST!  I have a feeling I’ll be switching medications tomorrow.

So, lacking anything else worthwhile that I could really do to help this fish along, I turned to the group of advisers. I had my own ideas, but when I approach this group of people, I’ve learned I may get better advice if I hold my own ideas back and simply come as a blank slate. Generally, what I’m looking for is one of two things. #1. Consensus among the adviser’s advice and/or #2. Confirmation of my own plans by seeing my own ideas show up independently from one or more of the advisers. Needless to say, the advisers often disagree, or offer their own twists on a general premise. Some say nothing unless inspired to action by something specific.

When it came time to bounce the latest twist off the advisers, Boomer was the only one who came back with straight up “here’s what I’d do”. It just so happens that on this one, Boomer happened to mention a lot of the same things I was already thinking.

In looking through my medication arsenal, I had a feeling that sooner or later, the Methylene Blue would be called upon. It is something I ordinarily keep on hand as it has MANY uses. Ironically, when I told Mark Martin to not worry, that I had a fully stocked medicine chest on hand, one of the first things that came up early on in this project was of course, Methylene Blue. And of course, it, along with Malachite Green, were nowhere to be found. My best guess is that when we moved from Chicago to Duluth, I must have tossed them out (probably not wanting to risk the leakage of MB and MG onto anything/everything we owned!).

Well, since realizing I didn’t have it, I picked it back up. Tonight, it got used. Lacking any other real antibiotic to throw at the eye infections on the female PNG Maroon, interim treatment with Methylene Blue seemed like something that at best, could not hurt. It may not HELP, but certainly would not hurt.

Given that the female is LOVING her RBTA, as well as the fact that MB would kill off the Caulerpa in the tank and likely any other algae grown, as well as some or all of the nitrifying bacteria, my decision was to apply MB as a dip. I honestly wanted a “longer” option, but Kordon’s dosage instructions were clear. If under “constant treatment”, dosing to 3 ppm MB is recommended. For a DIP however, the treatment is 50 ppm of MB for 10 SECONDS.

Honestly, 10 seconds seems like it’s too brief to really do anything, but lacking any other solid dosage alternatives (i.e. dose at X ppm for a 30 minute dip), I went with 50 ppm for 10 seconds.  In a nutshell, did the math to figure out how much Methylene Blue it’d take to get 50 ppm in 1 gallon of water (it turned out to be around 8.3 ml).  Measured out 1 gallon of water from the tank into a 5 gallon bucket.  Added the MB (did 8 ml).  Set aside another Quart of tank water for a RINSE to be used AFTER the dip.  Netted the fish off the RBTA and dipped it for 10 seconds (counted in my head).  Pulled the net out of the dip, and poured the rinse water over the fish (soas to keep MB from getting back into the tank) and returned the fish to the tank.

On the upside, this was a VERY quick procedure.  My understanding is that I can probably do this treatment twice daily.  Given that I may simply be UNABLE to get an alternative antibiotic tomorrow unless the Kanamycin shows up, I will probably do this dip again tomorrow.  If I do, I’ll take some pictures of the procedure.

Hoping to save her good eye…

So honestly, having been cut off from the newbie crack trapthat is Reef Central by the dealer itself years ago, I’m at times unfamiliar with all the personalities associated with it.  RC, with it’s huge marketshare in the “online reef community” department, is one of those places where folks at times make a name for themselves (whether inadvertently or intentionally).  There are many talented people out there who I simply do not know because I no longer spend one iota of time on Reef Central.

One such “RC” personality that I had zero familiarity with before this week is Boomer.  Boomer happens to be a local, and it turns out we share many of the same acquaintances.  Anyone who can share a humorous anecdote about himself, Christine Williams, and a MACNA, well, if you’re willing to admit how close you came to making a fool out of yourself and to laugh about it later, you’re good in my book.

At any rate, Jim Grassinger (The Filter Guys, another local here in Duluth MN) knew Boomer was back in town, and when he saw things going south with the female PNG Maroon, suggested that Boomer have a look (per Jim, Boomer is, hands down, our area’s expert on marine fish disease, although I think Boomer’s more widely known as an expert on the topic of chemistry in general).  To make a long story short, I got on the phone with Boomer on Friday and I think we had to “feel each other out”.  Boomer had only skimmed the blog (reading the whole thing is probably already a monumental task) and had picked up on my musings, confusing some of my “thoughts” as being actual actions I had taken along the way.  Once we had cleared up what I had and had not done, things were much easier to talk about.

Well finally this afternoon, Boomer got to make a house call after our club (LSMAC.org) meeting.  And here’s where I get to actually talking about the status of the Lighting Maroon project.  Boomer of course was insistent on catching a good glimpse of the Lighting Maroon…a tiny finger poke was all it took to get him out of the RBTA to show off.  Let’s just say Boomer approved and after a close visual inspection, signed off on the fish being in perfect condition.  From MY standpoint, the fish is not yet “perfect”.  I would argue that the Lighting Maroon is taking too much time buried in the Red Bubble Tip Anemone, not willing to dart out to grab food as it drifts to the bottom of the net.  Overall, I want a more aggressive, settled in fish.  Health wise, appears perfect.  Deportment wise, a bit too timid for my tastes at this time.  Clearly not 100% happy with his new, confined home, but I think taking some solace in having 3 anemones.

After that, Boomer got down and gave the female PNG Maroon a good close look.  I’m paraphrasing of course, but again, here’s the jist.  Boomer expected to see a Maroon Clownfish suffering from Brooklynella, with mucus and skin sloughing off.  Boomer remarked on the cloudy right eye, which my friends is a NEW development today…was not there yesterday and something I had noticed this morning.  The cloudy eye lends further credence to my concerns about visual impairment, and in fact, it would seem that the Maroon only “strikes food” it can see with its left eye, but only at the last second.  Blindness, whether full or partial, is a legitimate concern at this point.

Boomer’s prognosis was perhaps more optimistic than my own.  Even though the female barely ate anything today, he felt the fish was on the path to recovery yet again, and WOULD recover if I stayed the course of treatment I’m on now.

Me, I’m not so sure.  While Boomer may be right about “recovery”, it could still be that I wind up with a battle weary, half blind Maroon Clown that is past its prime.  This fish may not have enough left to make a good candidate for broodstock.  I’m not writing this fish off at this point, but I am continuing to ask Mark Martin to plan on setting aside a couple more PNG Maroons to ship in a few week’s time.

Which brings me to the last closing thoughts for the time being.  Specifically, concerns about trying to pair up another PNG Maroon.  First Joe Lichtenbert, and then John Witt, both emailed to suggest that I find an Aquacultured Maroon Clown female to pair with this fish.  And I’m not writing off that suggestion.  The reality is that leaving the fish in solitude raises concerns about it turning female.  That concern might be unfounded based on the premise that reproductively speaking, it is better to remain a male if you are single.  That way, you are better positioned to accept and mate with whatever fish mother nature throws your way in the wild.  That makes a good theory, but I can’t say if it’s actually what would happen.  It’s like saying a female Anthias or Wrasse won’t turn male unless a female is present.  I don’t know that to be true or false, but I wouldn’t risk it.

Nevertheless, pairing with an Aquacultured Female would present the following considerations.  It’s NOT a PNG Maroon, and that goes against one of my personal project goals (which is maintaining a PNG bloodline).  Breeders are quick to point out that THIS is in fact a temporary setback, and would not be a total failure, and they’re right.  There are upsides.  The upsides include not risking disease exposure, at least not at the level another WC clownfish might present if paired prematurely (rest assured, any WC Maroon would go through the same QT period as these guys already did, if not more so).  The other upside is that providing a female Maroon would enforce another objective, which is to keep the fish MALE.  And in this, perhaps it’s a trump card over the other concerns.  Is it more important at this point to keep the PNG Bloodlines intact, or to keep the Lightning Maroon a male?

Arguably, I would say it’s more important to keep the fish a male.  I haven’t quite figured out how this would work, but I THINK I know where I can get a well established Maroon Clown, a large one.  I’d have to move my fire clowns out of the tank, and give the female Maroon free reign of the SPS tank, and I would probably leave the male in the net.  I *think* I could pull this off, and as an insurance measure this might be a wise plan.

The other, somewhat more “outlandish” idea, is to print out a picture of a female Maroon, simply a LARGE SIZED image really, and stick it right outside the breeder net on the glass.  I will probably do this ASAP.  While it lacks the direct phyisical contact, it may in fact be just enough psychological pressure to keep the Lightning Maroon “male” until a real female can be thrown into the mix again.

Finally, before I forget, I do need to mention that while late today, the female’s tank was given another 5 gallon water change and a late treatment with Maracyn SW.  There are a few more days of treatment expected.  I am still strongly considering a “plan b” for her as well.

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