This morning I received an email containing a text conversation from a concerned aquarist, asking me to confirm the claims made by an individual on Facebook who had offered to sell 50 “F1″ Lightning Maroon Clownfish. It is fair to say that the concern was warranted.

The “seller”, operating under a Facebook account with the name “James Cohn”, caught attention with an initial post looking to sell 50 F1 Lightning Maroons, made to a small Facebook group of Clownfish enthusiasts. That post is now gone, removed by a moderator it would seem, but the individual who forwarded the conversation was interested in what was being offered.

I must disclaim the following – virtually everything said here with regards to me is untrue.  I don’t know who James Cohn is, I don’t even know if that is this person’s real name.  For that matter, I cannot even 100% say that I am not being set up here being shown a fictional conversation (granted, that would require a lot of effort to simply create a conversation solely to either discredit this “James Cohn” or to otherwise get my attention). I may well be getting “trolled” here. Maybe “James Cohn” is the victim, being told things that aren’t true by some other 3rd party. This is all, in the end, smoke and mirrors. Or more likely, this is simply someone looking to rip people off. Wouldn’t be the first time.

Regardless, this scenario demonstrates a rising problem I’m seeing in the clownfish world. This is basically Tulip Mania, on a somewhat smaller scale.

I’m watching fish being traded like playing cards, breeders wantonly attempting to hybridize Lightning Maroons with ANYTHING and EVERYTHING, and quite willing to risk the long term genetic integrity of the PNG lineage of these fish by hybridizing them with Gold Stripe Maroons (they almost seem to be doing it specifically to assert their right that they can do ANYTHING THEY PLEASE with complete disregard for the consequences). There are people misrepresenting themselves as legitimate businesses, or claiming to be breeders who may have never reared a single fish in their lives, so as to procure fish from sources like Sustainable Aquatics and Sea & Reef Aquaculture, undercutting their local fish stores to make only $0.10 on the $1.00, flipping fish like cheap Chinese junk at the dollar store.

Venues like Facebook are facilitating this at an alarming rate; when “players” like “James Cohn” (presuming the “h” is silent!) get found out, they can easily reinvent themselves with a new group, a new pseudonym, a new eBay account and keep trucking. Anyone can make themselves look huge, quite quickly, and dare I saw Florida seems to be the largest hotbed for such activity at this time. Facebook seems to overrun with no-name sellers who you’ve never heard of, everyone and anyone being a clownfish breeder who will sell you just about anything you want for the right price. Nevermind the ongoing concept of trumped up, make believe, “artificial rarity”. This latest example, of “James Cohn”, simply being perhaps the most egregious example (if in fact legitimate at all).

Update – while the above commentary is harsh, I am calling it as I see it. I do acknowledge that small businesses have to start somewhere, and more so than ever, it’s in someone’s basement or garage.  I’m a “Basement Breeder” myself after all.

Before I reveal the conversation, let me deal with some of the claims made by “James Cohn”:

Claim #1 - James Cohn claims that “I’ll be getting the pair from the creator of the lightning maroon project”. FACT - there are only two spawning pairs in this fishroom, and neither are for sale at this time. So unless someone is planning to break into our home to steal them, this is a flat out lie.

Claim #2 - The story now changes, and James Cohn claims “Can’t hook you up direct from Matt but I can get you second degree offspring” – FACT – it is possible that other Lightning Maroon pairs are starting to spawn from the first released fish, so this could be true.

Claim #3 – James Cohn then states “Haven’t gotten the pair in but we’ve been in touch with Matt, Zachs a personal friend of mine.” FACT – fact is this – NO ONE has been in touch with me about getting a pair of Lightning Maroons from me because, well, for starters, ALL my offspring get sold through Blue Zoo Aquatics.  There have been exceptions, fish that have been donated to events by me for fund raising, but that’s far different than ME selling fish directly to a private individual.  That DOES NOT HAPPEN, I run my fishroom strictly wholesale to the trade and fellow breeders who have demonstrated the same committment to the trade. In short, there is no way a private individual who’s claimed to live in PA is purchasing ANY fish directly from me.  Never mind a proven spawning pair of Lightning Maroon Clownfish.

Claim #4 – when asked “So you are working on the project with matt”, James Cohn replies “Naw but he’s personally selling me the pair. I’m a 3rd party breeder with ties.”. FACT - I’m not personally selling a pair to ANYONE, but particularly not to a “James Cohn” in PA. The only way ANYONE is able to obtain a pair of my fish at this time would be one of the aforementioned avenues – Blue Zoo Aquatics, or the off chance I donate a fish to an event.

And it goes on from there.  Nevermind that James Cohn is using MY photography to peddle his nonexistent fish onto unsuspecting aquarists on Facebook.

In short, AVOID AT ALL COSTS. If anyone claims to be selling fish “directly from Matt Pedersen” by all means, ASK ME FIRST.

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