The Lightning Project

The ongoing saga of the PNG Lightning Maroon Clownfish Breeding Project

Browsing Posts tagged CORAL Magazine

The first second-generation Lightning Maroon Clownfish, progeny of a F1 Lightning Maroon mated to an unrelated, Wild (F0) PNG White Stripe, produced by Sea & Reef Aquaculture.

The first second-generation Lightning Maroon Clownfish, progeny of a F1 Lightning Maroon mated to an unrelated, Wild (F0) PNG White Stripe, produced by Sea & Reef Aquaculture.

I had to sit on this news since last month as this was an exclusive for CORAL Magazine; now that the magazine is out I can shout it out – Sea & Reef Aquaculture has succeeded in producing a second generation of Lightning Maroon Clownfish by using LM12 (an F1 from my pair here) with an unrelated wild (FO) PNG White Stripe Maroon. Highlights include the same 50/50 offspring split, as well as the interesting fact that Sea & Reef used the Lightning as a male vs. female.

As it’s a CORAL Magazine exclusive, I invite all Lightning Maroon Clownfish fans to head over to and read the EXPANDED online version there.  I should note, I actually didn’t want to write the story (I prefer to have people tell their own stories) but in the end, the job fell to me. I hope you enjoy!

I have two posts besides this one I need to make…life has just been hectic as usual. They’ll come.

First, Spawn #24 has been laid.  Sadly, it wasn’t a Valentine’s spawn, it was laid on February 13th, 2014.

Following my extensive water testing of larval tanks to see what the heck was going on, I made the decision to transfer the 5 remaining survivors from Spawn #21 into a tank filled with clean, new but aged saltwater, in another BRT.  So I started that BRT fresh, made sure salinity matched, then moved 2 fish to test it (remember, these fish were in water with apparently very high Nitrite and Ammonia levels according to tests)  When they survived overnight, I moved the remaining 3 (If memory serves correctly there are 3 Lightnings and 2 White Stripes in the mix).  I then turned them onto the larvar rearing system.  No deaths.

Given my role as a Sr. Editor for CORAL Magazine, I’m privy to magazine content sometimes before it is published.  This week I got to review an extremely exciting article I had played a hand in soliciting some months back, and while I can’t give much away, I will say this before I forget.  It is obviously a breeding article, and one of the techniques brought up is that of simply routinely moving fish out of one larval rearing vessel to another as a technique to maintain premium water quality…perhaps easier than doing 99% water changes, and I presume it has other benefits (such as “escaping” the biofilm that develops on a rearing vessel).  I may have to try this technique…whether my problems are due to persistently deteriorating water quality or the development of pathogenic bacteria (eg. Vibrio), this methodology might side step those problems completely.   So be sure to pick up the March/April 2014 issue of CORAL Magazine to see who brought this idea up and in what context…if you’re even remotely interested in fish breeding, this is going to be a knockout issue for you.

Yes, there is one sure fire way to get an update – heckle me into it via the comment system here at

So for starters, let’s talk NPS (Non PhotoSynthetic corals).  Yes, I’ve had some Balanophyllia for a while now, as a somewhat local reefer grows them like crazy and they always end up donated to our club for fundraising…but no one out there actually pays what they’re worth, so I always do.  Well, they’ve been doing great despite outright neglect.  With a mandate to get some Tubastrea for our club’s fragging demo too, it seems I’ve become a NPS guy…at least a little bit.  We received an Aussie Black Tubastrea, and I wound up buying all the frags we made of that.  And I even went and found some orange Tubastrea recently to help round out the NSP nook in the Lightning’s tank.  Afterall, the hardscape we constructed did leave a large portion of the tank and rockwork shaded, so NPS is a logical addition there. And what I’m learning is that the fish benefit from the feeding too (since I make sure to include things like brine shrimp and fish eggs).  So it’s really no harm to feed the NPS since I have to feed the fish heavily anyways.  So without delay, here’s the NSP nook.



NPS Nook

Now I know you want an update on the Lightning Maroon, Ted, but I’m not ready yet.  Afterall, one of the reasons I shot photos today (since I shot these before you gave me that nudge) was to document the ORA Red Goniopora I’ve been keeping.  For a long time I’ve been watching it and thinking the polyps were not extending as far as they used to, but it turns out that’s not the case. The coral is in fact getting LARGER (so the polyps are the same length as always, just proportionately smaller).  How do I know this?  Well, I looked back to the photos I took for CORAL magazine last year and that was a dead giveaway.  But then again, so was this:

Out of control ORA Red Goniopora

Um, yeah, I didn’t put it that close to the glass last year.  Someone has been doing some growing.

So about those pesky PNG Maroon Clowns?  Yeah, they have been going through the motions of nest cleaning since MACNA 2011…aka September of last year.  STILL no spawns that I am aware of.  We’ve lengthened the light time period, the tank has gotten warmer with the onset of spring, and still nothing.  I know it will happen, and after being reminded by commercial breeders who’ve sat on clownfish for 5+ years before getting spawns, I know this can simply take a while.  So I’ll leave you with a full tank shot for now, which if nothing else is proof of how well the Ecoxotic Panoramas are growing the SPS corals these days!

Full Tank Shot - 3/26/2012

CORAL Magazine Cover, July/August 2011 Issue

For a second time, the PNG Lightning Maroon Clown Fish has graced the pages of CORAL magazine.  Admittedly, with what’s happened in the last 2 weeks, the article seems a bit outdated…but how could we have known where we’d be 2 months ago?!

I got my copy about a week ago – arguably I’m even more excited about the very interesting articles on breeding Latezonatus (my article, but couldn’t have put it together without the contributions of MANY listed in the credits), accidental hybridization (Julian Sprung) and multiple commentaries on “Designer” Fish.  If you’re into Clownfish, if you’re into Breeding, this is an issue not to be missed.

One of the big questions I asked when writing about the shutoff of SEASMART funding last week, was “why?”  Well, once again, we now have answers.  Overnight, PNG’s NFA (National Fisheries Authority) released a response to EcoEZ’s press release announcing a lawsuit to recover funds owed to it for the last 3-4 months of 2010.  It seems that two versions of the same basic press release are now available on the internet, so I’ll provide links to both:

The “short” press release, first released on Reef Addicts and then on Reef Builders with a bit of commentary from Jake Adams.  Then, there is the “long” press release, which appears more official, and includes a bit more insights on the dispute.  So far, I have only seen this longer press release at CORAL Magazine’s website.

Again, I’m going to refrain from writing very much about the general situation here.  It does sound like a bridge may have been burned.  Suggestions are that PNG will continue working towards a sustainable marine aquarium trade, but that EcoEZ may not be a part of the governmental project.  The largest question remains…why, so close to the end of the contract, did PNG’s FMA opt to pull funding vs. just riding out the program.  While this press release gives us general reasons why,  I wonder if the damage in terms of PR, but also in terms of continuity of business, might be greater than the amount of money that was withheld in the short term.  Being outsiders, we are certainly left to speculation and theorizing with only the facts we are provided.  It seems like the premature “pulling of the plug” on funding may have been the right move for the FMA from a short-term stewardship perspective, but perhaps not the right move from a business perspective in the long-term.

What about the impact, if any, on The Lighting Project?  At the moment, there’s no change of plans.  This press release suggests the earliest exports would resume is the middle of 2011 – 6 months off.  This means no chance at potential PNG broodstock for 6 months at least, and that assumes that the PNG FMA is able to deliver on that promise.  I’m not one to hold my breath at this point, nor am I going to make the Lightning Maroon wait that long on hope.  Besides, in 6 month’s time, the Lighting Maroon could be laying eggs…

After weeks where there was no news in 2010, I guess I make up for it with like 4 or 5 posts in a week and a two-for-one this Friday (it’s still Friday somewhere).

My friends at CORAL Magazine put together a couple really good nuggets of info that ran Thursday evening.  First up, a nicely reformatted and image-enhanced version of EcoEZ’s PNG SEASMART Press Release.  Followed up immediately by the eloquent and insightful commentary of Ret Talbot, who asks “What Price Sustainability” about this latest turn of events for SEASMART and Papua New Guinea.

As you may know, Ret Talbot is most certainly a friend of mine and a friend of the Lighting Project, being in Papua New Guinea working on his CORAL Magazine Article when the Lightning Maroon was collected.  Without a doubt, one of the first people from the states to see this fish in real life.  While Ret has a hectic schedule, he knows he has a standing invitation to contribute to, or be interviewed for, The Lightning Project.  As of late, Ret has been furiously making it his job to know everything he can about sustainability and it’s place in the current and future marine aquarium industry.  Keep an eye out for more from Ret, wherever it’s published (including the January/February 2011 edition of CORAL, which features a story on marine fish collection in Hawaii).

Since the PNG Lightning Maroon hit the online world, there’s been over 100+ threads on it.  I’m not about to link to them all here, but I found the conversations  I had with a few of my fellow TCMAS (Twin Cities Marine Aquarium Society) members very interesting.  The original thread is here ( ), but I’ve summarized my side of things here for easier consumption :)

Clint (who helped me fund this project by purchasing some of my fish) posed some really interesting questions.

#1.  Why did I start out with a larger female to pair the Lightning Maroon with vs. a smaller fish (to make the Lightning Maroon become female)?

Several people have posed this question and it’s a very valid one.  Afterall, pairing the Lightning Maroon with SMALLER fish would minimize the pairing risk, minimizing the chances of death.  Still, I had (and still have) several reasons for thinking keeping the Lighting Maroon male (if it is male) is the way to go:

Simple answer – Blue Zoo Aquatics was already sold out of all the smaller PNG juveniles before they even had a chance to set some aside for me, so the only way to go when the Lightning Maroon was shipped was to send me a big female.

More complicated answer – If I could keep the “Lightning Maroon” as a male, there was/is a greater chance of a quicker spawn by trying to pair it with a female vs. waiting for a sex change to occur. Additionally, since Maroons, most notably LARGE FEMALES, tend to lose their stripes as they age, better to keep this guy as a male so the awesome lightning bolts stay!

Really complicated answer – If SEASMART were to find a second Lightning Maroon, and IF I were to obtain it, I would have much greater chances of pairing “Lightning” with  “Lightning” if the first Lightning Maroon remains male.  If the Lightning Maroon is allowed to become female, and a future discovered Lightning Maroon is also female, I won’t be able to pair them.  So, pairing possibility drops by at least 50% if I allow the first Lightning Maroon Clownfish to become a female.

Hearsay answer – there has been talk that “male” clownfish have more influence on “patterning”, whereas females have more influence on “coloration”. I think that’s bunk, but at the same chance, I’m not going to dismiss it outright.

#2.  Is there any evidence to show that the pattern is a dominant or ressesive gene carried by the male?

My initial answer is that  genetically we can speculate anything we want. We are even speculating that the Lightning morph has a genetic basis in the first place. It may not be a genetic trait. We may never see another Lightning Maroon Clownfish even if I do everything perfectly.

#3.  To paraphrase Clint’s third question, he asked if there was any difference in the likelihood that Male Lightning X Female Regular = more Lightnings vs. the flipside, Male Regular X Female Lighthing = more Lightnings.

My Response: There are a number of things to remember about clowns, starting with the fact that they’re all born male, and the dominant one turns female. Any male can later become a female.

A rough genetic picture might be to look at a straight up recessive trait like albinism for a comparison. LL = Lightning. LN or NN = Normal fish. Thus, the Lighting Clown being LL, mated with a normally colored NN fish, will produce only LN offspring. No lightnings in the first generation (F1). Mating those offspring together would produce LL, LN and NN fish, at a 25%, 50%, 25% rate. So 25% Lightnings, 75% normally colored, with 2/3 of the fish carrying the recessive L.

However, a LL fish, mated with an LN fish, will produce 50% LL and 50% LN right off the bat. Given that there have been other “Lightning Maroons” seen in PNG, including the other one collected in 2008, the chance of this being a “possibility” is partially why it is so critical to select mates from PNG, ideally the same reef. It increases the chances that the normally colored mate may in fact be LN. Just as easily could be NN, and probably more likely is, but you cannot tell if the trait is recessive.

I think if the trait was dominant, we’d see many more Lightning Maroons out there.

Now, here’s the reality. Even if this genetic, it may not be a simple straight up recessive trait. It could be something like Platinums and Picassos, where there may be more going on.   Based on the breeding outcomes of Picasso Percula offspring as reported by David Durr and Tal Sweet, the “Platinum” and “Picasso” genetic mix is starting to look like the following:

Platinums = PP. Picassos may be PN. Normal Percs might be NN.

Again, that is PURELY SPECULATION. It could actually turn out that Platinums = PPP, Picassos are PPN or PNN (A and B Grade anyone) and Normals are NNN. Or something different. We don’t know enough yet. Good observation and careful records, along with SHARING OF DATA, will be what reveals the truth.

#4.  TCMAS member “lr9788″ then asked, “How does breeding continue down the line? Since this is a one of a kind doesn’t it present genetic issues? Or can a lighting be paired with any maroon (in theory)?”

This question inspired a very long response!  So here it is, largely unedited, and I’ll let that wrap up this first post on “Genetics”, elaborating a bit on the thought process behind how I’m approaching the breeding of this fish.

Well, truthfully there are not any concerns about line breeding, generally in fish, until about the F6 generation. The parents here (Lightning PNG X Reg PNG) are F0. Their offspring are F1. I assume F1 will all be normal. Pairings of the F1 Offspring will produce F2, and it is there that we might first see Lightnings (of course, I could be wrong and we could see them in F1, but heck, we don’t even know if this is genetic yet!).

So, lets say you get F2′s that are Lightnings. It is here that we could first see “Lighting X Lightning” crosses. All are still PNG maroons as well at that point, having descended from the original PNG-collected normal & lightning pair. It is possible/likely/probably that the matings of F2 X F2 lightings would yield a much higher number of Lightning Offspring in that F3 generation.

Now, since Clownfish can be productive spawners for 10-20 years easily, we need to realize that we could work with F2 Lighting X Lightning crosses to produce all the Lightning Maroons needed for a long time. Why?

Well, let’s say we get this pair spawning in a year or two. So 2012-ish. Their F1 offspring could be spawning as early as 2014 perhaps? Which means the first F2 offspring were we likely see Lightning Maroons in quantity (if it all works) would be maybe in 2015. Any pairing that starts throwing lightnings could continue to do so for the next 10-20 years (so let’s say 2035 is when they start dying off). However, we could realistically continue to create new F1 pairs that *might* throw F2 lightnings for another 5-10 years with the initial offspring of the wild parents. So that means, time wise, we could have F1 generation fish still producing F2 offspring in 2040.

If we take another 2 years to get those first Lightning X Lightning crosses spawning, that puts us at maybe 2017 for their F3 generation. Again, conservatively we could go 10-20 years from the point this generation STARTS, so 2027 to 2037 easily. But again, same math for the F1′s that throw out Lightnings as F2. Based on that RANGE, knowing we could still get F2 Lightnings at 2040, means realistically we could still be producing line bred F3 Lightnings at 2050 or even 2060.

And we’re only at the F3 generation in line breeding which yes, is inbreeding. But remember, the general rule is that we can go to around F6 before we start seeing genetic problems as a result of this inbreeding in fish. So realistically, given the LONG reproductive lifespan of Clownfish, we could easily be into 2100 before we really have to worry about hitting that F6 generation.

The reality is that there are several other items at play. There may be more WC lightnings brought in…we certainly see that happen with Picasso Percs. That would open up all sorts of outcross possibilities.

Even if another Lightning never makes it into captivity, the reality is that we know these are PNG Maroons. Knowing the methodology that fixes the Lightning Strain, we could easily then take and outcross to other PNG Maroons to infuse new genetics and then go through the selective process again. So, long term, with either one crazy dedicated breeder, or the cooperative work of several, we could find ourselves with only semi-related Lighting Maroons. Pile on the simple fact that we are talking about mounds of sexual reproduction (and the inherent genetic variation that can occur), and the reality is that fairly quickly we could have a solid captive population that has descended from a tiny handful of seed stock from the wild.

Beyond THAT, it is also quite likely that the breeding of Lightning Maroons might leave the confines of only Maroons from Papua New Guinea (PNG). I think this is a big mistake, but I already know it will happen. People will take Lightning Maroons and cross them with Gold Stripe Maroons in the hopes of making Gold Striped Lightning Maroons. They’ll mate them with other abberant Maroon Clownfish varieties that show up (i.e. there are gray-barred Maroons..which honestly I kinda like). In the long run, this is where the guppification happens and we get into captive-produced varieties. This is what I don’t like, but know will happen. And yes, I will have played a part in it.

But for me, it’s about keeping the PNG location intact. Even if these fish never turn out another Lightning, we know that they were PNG collected and represent the genetics (and whatever distinct minute difference there may be) of Maroon Clownfish from PNG. To me, this is important. This is why I own “Sumatran” Fire Clowns and “Vanuatu” Pink Skunks (which also happen to carry that nice Orange “sunkist” color variation). I.e. on the Skunks, the color variant is a nice wild coloration, but who knows if it carries on to the offspring. Thankfully, the value for me comes first in knowing that they’re Vanuatu Pink Skunks vs. Fiji Pink Skunks…the fact that they have the more orange-yellow coloration is an interesting side benefit.

And finally, I’d like to simply take the question of Genetics and cite the recent article in CORAL magazine by Ret Talbot.

Ret put the question of genetics to two of the Marine Fish Breeding community’s premier experts, Martin Moe and Matthew Wittenrich.  Bottom line, you should read the whole article (starts on page 8 of the May/June 2010 issue of CORAL).  But I’ll tell you, it’s a 50/50 split as to whether the Lightning Maroon represents a genetic variation or not.  I’ll let you go find out which person held which stance!

My May/June 2010 issue of CORAL Magazine just arrived today. I knew what was coming, but still, it’s always exciting to get a fresh issue of CORAL.  Ret Talbot’s article in Reef News on the Lightning Clown provides yet another view on the story of the Lightning Maroon.  There’s a bit more about SEASMART as well, and a grew new photo of the collectors in PNG!  Ret knows I’m wanting to talk more about SEASMART (and sustainable collection) in the future here at the Lighting Project, and I hope we get to pull that together soon.   In the meantime, go look for the newest issue of CORAL Magazine – it looks like THIS!

Me? I was at MASC’s Reef Ed in Colorado all last weekend, got to hang out with Christina and Chris Pearson, Andrew Berry, Gale, Joe Thompson, Eric Borneman, Jake Adams and Guin Burnard.   I love events like this, and I’m going to strongly encourage hobbyists to patronize their clubs and events.  You get a whole different experience than reading or posting online.  Don’t think the talks are going to be boring because even if they ARE, you will STILL learn a lot that will make you a better marine hobbyist in ways you can’t anticipate.  So yeah, I finished moving, went to Reef Ed to speak on captive breeding, and returned home to spend every evening this week in birthing classes (my wife is due in 5 weeks).

Lightning Clown? It’s still living in a breeder net.  Happy with a good appetite.  I thought I saw some dislodged scales, but it’s hard to tell with the net.  I DO know that our Onyx Percs have come down with what may be Brook or Amyloodinium, it’s hard to say, but they’re doing white well and will likely pull out with no treatment.  I’ve seen ‘em worse.  It is arguably perhaps for the best that my attention to the fish is limited…it’s allowing them to just sit, eat, and recuperate from the move.

I gotta say, the “Breeder Net” kinda sucks.  I’m having to think about the long term home for the Lighting Maroon (any tank, filter and lighting manufacturers looking to sponsor the Lighting Project by giving ‘El BOLT a better home, I welcome offers!).  I also got some “news” this evening that’s made me smile, but I don’t want to speak prematurely!

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