The Lightning Project

The ongoing saga of the PNG Lightning Maroon Clownfish Breeding Project

Browsing Posts tagged hyposalinity

So, I just wrapped up the drip acclimation…bucket water was at 1.024/25, close enough.  Hand moved the fish into the breeder net and watched it for a minute or two.  The fish is PRISTINE, not a mark on it.  It brushed up against the smaller BTAs (Bubble Tip Anemones) and showed no signs of getting stung (i.e. no sticky tentacles observed).  No heavy breating, in every aspect acting like a healthy clownfish.  I want to say that the entire acclimation process took around 2.5 to 3 hours to go from 1.012 to 1.025 on a drip.  Water in the bucket was significantly cooler by a couple degrees, even after placing the drip bucket on a styrofoam box lid to insulate it from the ground.  I have kept the room lights on to allow the fish a little while to adjust to its new surroundings.

So as promised in my prior post, here’s some pictures relevant to this evening’s events.

Net Breeder containing 3 Bubble Tip Anemones

The future net breeder home of the Lightning Maroon

Now, I know some folks see that picture and are taken aback.  Really?  Isn’t such a small confined space cruel?  Well, ask my other clowns…

Fire Clown in a RBTA in a Breeder Net

Can you see the Sumatran Fire Clown?

Sumatran Fire Clownfish, Amphiprion ephippium, in a Red Bubble Tip Anemone

Yup, that's the "spare", smallest of 3 Sumatran Fire Clownfish (Amphiprion ephippium) living in a breeder net. The larger 2 have free roam of the same tank.

Vanuatu Pink Skunk Clownfish (Amphiprion peridariaon) living in a breeder net with a RBTA

Amphiprion peridariaon "Vanuatu", yes, Pink Skunks, living in a breeder net...sort of...

So yeah, those Pink Skunks.  Birthday present from my inlaws from the Diver’s Den on LiveAquaria.com.  I had sold the Ocellaris pair that lived in this reef prior, so I knew I had a spot for clowns and they wanted to get me some “nice” clownfish.  Long story short, the reef also houses a pair of Starkii Damselfish (Chysiptera starkii) and I wasn’t sure how these new additions would be treated.  I also wanted to give them an anemone, but was concerned about the Dragonette Pairs in this tank becoming “lunch” for the anemone.  So I threw them in the breeder net with a Red Bubble Tip Anemone Clone.  Eventually, one got out more than once and honestly the seemed OK.  So I pushed the net down so that the edge sits maybe 0.5 to 0.75 inches below the surface.  Well, turns out the clowns (as well as the Cleaner Wrasse (Labroides dimidatus) and Harlequin Filefish (Oxymonacanthus longirostris)) have figured out that they can come and go from the basket as they please.  By night, the anemone and the clowns reside in the basket, and during they day they basically “overflow” into the tank at large.  It honestly works so well for them that I hate to make changes to it.

And thus, because it’s worked well before, I hope / assume it can work well again, even if only an interim measure (I have NO desire to keep the Lightning Maroon alone in a breeder basket for any longer than I have to!).  So, I’ll end this evening with 2 shots of the Lightning Maroon in acclimation and an interesting observation.  When this fish stresses out, the white lightning stripes become tinged gray.  You can kinda see it even in these pictures.

Lightning Maroon Clownfish, Premnas biaculeatus, in drip acclimation.

The Lightning Maroon Clown, Premnas biaculeatus "PNG Lightning", being drip acclimated from hyposalinity to full strength saltwater.

PNG Lightning Maroon Clownfish, Premnas biaculeatus "PNG Lightning"

A closeup of the Lightning Maroon Clownfish in the acclimation bucket.

Tomorrow I’ll figure out what the heck I’m doing with the female PNG Maroon.  Admittedly, I have an idea…

Yes, I did an emergency big water change, over half the tank’s running volumes.  Took out 10 gallons.  Why?

Well…turns out when I set up this stand of tanks, I set it up in front of a closet in the rental’s basement.  Didn’t think anything of blocking the closet…we’re not using it.  Well..turns out our main water shutoff is in that closet.  So when the plumber showed up today to fix some plumbing issues in the rental house, guess what he needed to turn off ;)

So..drain drain drain drain drain drain drain.  Slowly move the 2 tanks on the stand across the concrete floor just enough to open the closet and narrowly reach in to turn off the valve.  Then fill fill fill fill fill.  But I DIDN’T think to save any of the water I was draining.

I had water mixing up already for a regular full strength water change, but I used that to quickly add some water to the top QT tank which was running with only an inch or so.  Testing out Joe Lichtenbert’s observation that fish can handle rapid salinity changes in BOTH directions.

I got another bucket mixing at full strength, and decided I would use water from an existing tank to refill the Maroon’s QT tank.  So….5 gallons out of the SPS tank, mixed with 5 gallons of dechlorinated tap water and in it went.  Honestly, the fish seemed to like it, and it was the clearest I’ve seen this QT tank in a while now.  I don’t know where the salinity is, but I suspect it’s up a little bit more now, maybe 1.012 or 1.013.  I’ll have to check it later.  When I tested it last night, it was around 1.011, and I added maybe a half gallon of distilled water to bring it back to 1.010-ish.

The interesting part, and why I say the fish seemed to like the water change, is that the female seemed to perk up rather quickly and started snapping at bits of food in the water as it swirled around.  At least that’s what I think  I was seeing.  I can say with certainty that the fin rot has not progressed since last night.  Her appetite remains iffy, and she does seem at times to be blind.

Since I drained probably 2/3 of the water, I felt obligated to hit the tank with a fresh pouch of Maracyn SW.    So now I’m back on a morning dosing routine, which is not really where I wanted to be.  (It’s easier to feed all day, do a water change in the evening, and then dose after the water change.  Now, if I do a water change in the evening, I’m diluting overnight).

Anyway, that’s the 411 for this morning!

Back on the warpath

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Well, water change, dosage of Fish Protector and Kent’s Vitamin C.  Removal of GAC already.  Turned off the BULB on the UV but not the flow – not sure if I can run UV while using Maracyn SW.  Dosed with Maracyn SW.  The only products carried by my local Petco are “Lifeguard” and “Maroxy”.  Maracyn has been solid against this exact malady in the past when applied quickly (have seen this exactly same Fin Rot like this rampage through my Dragonette broodstock a few years back..it wasn’t pretty).  I should also mention that Maracyn SW is noted as a valid treatment for fin rot.  Anyone know the MARDEL company website?  I want to email them some questions but I can’t even seem to find a good solid contact for them.

Let’s hope this at least stalls things.  I am contemplating sequestering the Lightning Maroon back behind an eggcrate wall again – Dustin Dorton from ORA asked me about that as well this evening.  And once again, thinking about removing the Lightning Maroon from this tank…he remains a typical healthy Maroon Clown.  There is legitimate concern that leaving him in with her could cause more harm than good.  Of course, I don’t like my options for alternate homes, and there is also the concern that removing him from her would cause him to become a her

It’s funny how this all has taken precedence over any concerns about the known ongoing low-level issues with Cryptocaryon (ICH).  I’m still debating whether I should push back down to 1.010 or even 1.009 as Joe Lichtenbert has suggested.  I should point out that the better sources on Hyposalinity treatments do agree that the difference between 1.009 and even 1.010 might make the difference between successful treatment or not.  Of course, you’re riding a fine line at 1.009 where fish death is a real possiblity (if you’re refractometer is even only slightly off).

OK, officially I’m just frustrated.  I have to commend the Female PNG Maroon for fighting to live as it seems a never ending barrage of maladies hits her.  I know there’s still Crypotcaryon running around the tank, only seen it on her.  Now, it turns out that the “chunk” of her left pectoral fin that was presumed “bitten off” by the Lighting Maroon may not have been a bite at all.  Or if it was, it opened up the gateway to another new problem.

In either case, I’m now dealing with FIN ROT.  And this tends to progress FAST.  I’m surprised after just having run a 5 day treatment of Maracyn SW (an antibiotic) that this has now shown up.  Normally, I’d slam something like this with Maracyn SW (Erythromycin) as my first choice, but now…well…I’m hoping maybe I can find some Kanamycin at the local Petco (only fish store in town open after 6:30 PM…geeze).  I’m hoping for Kanamycin on two grounds, having yet to actually go look at what I *should* or *could* use.  #1.  Looks like whatever has hit was likely not something knocked out by Maracyn and #2.  Kanamycin is Christine’s default antibiotic.  Sounds like a good choice…probably should’ve thought to have some on hand.

Bouncing this off the advisers as well.  Remember, we just threw a UV on the tank too, which if course may have to be deactivated (it can affect medications).

Anyways, pix of the affliction:

PNG Maroon with Fin Rot

Finrot on the left pectoral of the Female PNG Maroon.

Left Flank of PNG Maroon Clownfish Female

Here's a shot of the left flank overall.

Fin Rot on a female Premnas biaculeatus

Another good left flank shot showing the pectoral disintegration.

PNG Lighting Maroon male and PNG Maroon Clownfish Female interacting.

They're still interacting.

Now, there is still the possibility that the Lighting Maroon is causing this damage…they do occasionally interact roughly.  But I’m at 95% Fin Rot as the diagnosis.  And it requires fast treament…I’ve seen similar disease competely disintegrate a fin in hours.

Another day

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So it’s been what, 2 full weeks now?  Today, the maroons spent more of their day apart.  This evening, I did another water change, shook off all the live rock (and thus rearranged it a bit), dosed with Fish Protector in the makeup water and Reef Plus shortly thereafter.

The female Maroon, as cited earlier, still had spots of  Cryptocaryon (ICH) on her into the afternoon, but by night they’ve disappeared.  I should mention that besides the obvious visual cues that it was ICH and not Velvet, there has not been heavy breathing nor a total loss of appetite, both classic symptoms of Marine Velvet (Amyloodinium) even when it’s not outwardly visible.

I “polled” the advisers and got early responses from Joe, Christine and Matthew C. about my ongoing ICH problem.  I’m over simplifying their responses by a lot, but suffice it to say that if there were one word votes, it’d be 1 vote restore Hypo to 1.010 or even 1.009, and 2 votes for possible treatment with Cupramine (copper) to finally eradicate the problem.  Obviously, if this continues to be a recurring problem it will have to be dealt with.  I feel that the female Maroon has once again plateaued, albeit at a higher plateau than she was on before.

She has had less “spunk” today, not having tons of appetite by any stretch.  Unless food was moving, either in the current or alive (as in Live Adult Brine Shrimp) she didn’t see interested.  Honestly, I had my first suspicions that she might be blind now.  Hard to say.  Blindness can be temporary or permanent in clownfish and can be attributed to a variety of factors.  There are times she seems blind, but then other times where she most certainly does not.  So throw that on the pile as another of the never-ending list of problems that have plagued this female PNG Maroon since her arrival.  Oh, that, and someone took a chunk out of her left pectoral fin today.  The list of suspects is short.  VERY SHORT.  And happens to be covered in abberant white markings.

Behaviorally, the clowns were not as cuddly with each other today.  They spent most of their time about 3-4″ apart.  When I turned out the lights this evening, the female left her cave.  The Lighting Maroon quivered for her numerous times, but she moved off to a different part of the tank.  I didn’t stay to watch too much more, but suffice to to say that both fish seem to be roaming the tank more.  This, combined with the “mystery bite” on the female’s fin might suggest that the “pair bond” isn’t all that, but then I look at my other clowns that don’t have anemone homes and they tend to rove around quite a bit.  They aren’t always at each other’s side, but it’s very rare that they’re at opposite ends of the tank.

I think it’s really important to impress upon everyone how truly individual and dynamic a marine fish can be.  They most certainly do have personalities and subtle behavioral cues.  It pays to make yourself aware of those subtle changes in behavior.  I certainly believe that some folks might read way too much into it, anthropomorphizing their fish (and going off the deep end in the process).  However, if you can avoid that pitfall and be more objective about your fish, you may realize they will often give you clues when things aren’t quite right.  I.e. I’m paying more close attention to the Female Maroon today and tomorrow in light of what seems to be a decreased interest in food and behavior that may imply some blindness or at least vision trouble.  Hard to say where that’s stemming from, but it’s important to note general behavior every time you look as you’ll get tipped off when things may once again be going wrong.

Well, signing off for tonight, and hoping for a better tomorrow.  Power of positive thought seems to work folks, so please do keep sending prayers, well wishes,  good vibes and karma to the 20 gallon home of the PNG Ambassador and his wife ;)

Last night I set up a batch of saltwater for an anticipated water change today.  For those who don’t know, I basically run a 5 gallon “Homer Bucket” from Home Depot with a 25 watt Visitherm Stealth heater and a MaxiJet pump to mix the water.  I fill it to a line I’ve marked, and from there, I know that it takes five half-cups (2.5 cups total) of Reef Crystals to bring up the water to 1.025.  So, to make 1.010 water, I scoup out 2 half cups (1 cup total) and I’m good to go.

Well, I recently started using Seachem’s Reef Salt, and guess what?  Apparently by volume it is more salty ;)  2  half cups mixed up to closer to 1.013.  So of course, I tested the Maroon Clown’s tank and it’s running closer to 1.012 right now.  I’m guessing it didn’t get up there through evaporation, but through my recent water changes!  Now, this raises the question – do I have an ICH problem on the female because the specific gravity rose up to 1.012?  I honestly don’t know, I’ll have to ask the advisors about that.

And yes, there is still Cryptocaryon on the female Maroon Clownfish.  Still not doing anything to directly treat it, but keeping an eye on her.  She is still eating this morning.

So I did my 5 gallon water change, treating the water with Kordon’s Fish Protector.  Will be dosing Vitamin C in a few minutes.

The “Stinkbomb”?  Well, when doing the water change,  I was sucking out uneaten food off the glass and I bumped into a Turbo snail shell that I thought was empty.  NOPE.  It was full of black goop…a dead Turbo Snail.  VILE…it never left the water, went through the siphon hose and STILL the stench was unbelievable.  I think I found the source of my cloudy water.  WOW.

Water tests are still OK overall…today’s test showed no visible traces of Ammonia, and pH around 8.0.  SG as mentioned prior was 1.012.  I may leave it, or I may drop it back to 1.010.

The last thing I did today was note that officially ALL medications have run their courses of treatment.  Yesterday was the last day of a 5 day treatment with Maracyn SW.  So, today, a big bag of fresh GAC (granulated activated carbon) went into the filtration.  A recent talk given at NERAC V by Ken Feldman really floored a lot of people as he put the science out there on GAC vs. Protein Skimming as it relates to DOC (Dissolved Organic Carbon).  Bottom line, GAC is far more efficient and effective at removing more DOC from the water.  DOC, in laymans terms, think “fish waste”.  Or in my case, black slimy decaying Turbo snail leading to cloudy water.  I will probably change out the carbon by the weekend for another fresh bag.

Quick update

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Another water change this evening.  Tank is still running cloudy, but I’m being good about getting out all the uneaten food, even shaking out some live rock in the wastewater.  Every little bit of waste removal helps.

The Female PNG Maroon was out swimming more this evening, and the Lightning Maroon was still sitting in the cave.  Every once in a while he’d join her, or he’d go off exploring as well.  The fish are starting to act more and more like my other clown pairs.

The female Maroon was still showing white spots (ICH), but overall doesn’t seem under much stress.  I’ve had ICH show up occasionally in my reefs and haven’t ever gone crazy about it…generally with good husbandry and healthy fish it seems to just work out OK.  Of course, I’m dealing with a Maroon Clown that may not have eaten for 2 weeks, so “healthy” isn’t necessarily applicable in this case.  I believe if I see a worsening case, or if she starts refusing to eat again, I will probably kick off treatments with FW dips, even though that has debatable effect.  Of course, still frustrated that I’m seeing this considering my ongoing use of hyposaline conditions.

Going to do a water test at some point, maybe tonight yet (will update this post if I do).  It’s nice that I can start to think ahead now.  I can think about long term housing for the pair.  A pair of fish this unique definitely deserves to be a showpiece, not stuck in the basement hatchery with all the other broodstock.  But my planned 92 corner for the new house is probably not up for consideration (it’s open top, destined to be a SPS tank full of angels of course…).  I welcome suggestions on showpiece housing, even though I have no way of affording it (the 92 project was a tank given to me, and I’ve been buying parts for it piece by piece for a year+ now).  Still, one can dream, right?

The short story – yesterday the fish got fed a few times.  I’ve realized that most food blows by the female, so I’m now in the position of having to turn off the filtration so she eats.  This has the positive side that if I leave the water pump off for a bit, I could come back later and siphon off uneaten food (only the male is willing to eat food off the bottom glass).

Last night, they got another 5 gallon water change.  Today, I started off by feeding a couple times, and now at lunch, another 5 gallon water change with Fish Protector in the makup, and then the dose of Maracyn.  Also hitting the tank with the daily dose of Kent’s Vitamin C product.

The sad news is that the female, while she continues to eat, has another clear cut case of Cryptocaryon (ICH).  Nothing “serious” (as indicated by the fact that she’s still eating) but seriously, with almost 2 weeks of Hyposalinity and solid Formalin treatments, I should not be continuing to deal with ICH.  This may be a case where I have to “keep an eye on it”, maybe go for FW dips, or maybe wait it out for another week and then bring up the salinity and hit the tank with Cupramine.  In the meantime, so long as the fish continues to eat, things should go OK.  I’ve been soaking all their food with Seachem’s Garlic Guard, which is thought may help keep parasites out of the gills (key word there is THOUGHT, not “proven”).

It’s been a busy weekend and one that has left me with only questions and no real good explanations!

Friday – following my last update in the afternoon, I went back down and was shocked with what I saw.  So much so, that only video can truly convey what surprised me.

For the record, I did NOT introduce the Lightning Maroon into the female’s side of their tank. He, and I say now safely “HE”, either jumped the egg crate or somehow managed to squeeze around it. SINCE Friday afternoon, he has not left her side. I will tell you now that I was totally shocked and surprised to see this. I didn’t do this. But I have not intervened. Clearly this is what the Lighting Maroon WANTED. Possibly a sign from above? Hard to say. But who am I to argue. If the Lightning Maroon wants to be with the female so badly that he’ll bypass the barriers to interaction (and the safety afforded to him), I will not interfere. In other words, despite my best efforts to keep the Lighting Maroon safe from the female PNG Maroon, they have gotten together without incident. To me, this behavioral change, this unintended pairing, and the fact that it has gone so smoothly, solidly answers the sex question (short of actual egg fertilization). I think everyone who felt that the Lighting Maroon was a male at the time of collection was right.

I have continued on my treatment paths…you don’t stop medication the moment your symptoms go away, you need to follow things through. That means that they got a water change on Friday night, followed by 2 drops of Vitamin C. Saturday morning, a dose of Maracyn SW and 8 drops of Vitamin C. In the evening, another 5 gallon water change, 2 drops of Vitamin C to make up for what may have been removed. Sunday morning, again, a dosing of Maracyn SW. I was in such a hurry this morning I don’t think I dosed any Vitamin C.

Technically, the tank was due for another Formalin dosage today. I honestly think I’ve hit things as hard as I can with Formalin. The last dosage of Formalin seemed to irritate the fish, so in a potentially risky move, I am not going to dose the tank with Formalin anymore. It truly did wreak havoc on the live rock and the overall water quality from a bacterial standpoint.

It’s also been a extra day since the last “formalin dip” on the Female. She went through more dips than was prescribed. I still have not seen her eat anything, while the PNG Lightning Maroon Clown eats anything that hits the water. I get the impression that the female PNG Maroon is very nervous about me being around, and she may in fact be eating when I’m not watching. Hard to tell. I’ve been feeding live adult brine shrimp from Mark Martin @ Blue Zoo, which I continue to enrich / feed with RotiGrow Plus from Reed Mariculture (Reef Nutrition). I am still considering doing a FW dip, possibly with Formalin, tonight. If I can see her eating something, anything, I will refrain from further dips. Knowing that refusing to eat is a symptom of both Brooklynella and Amyloodinium, and believing in my gut that I’ve dealt with both of these parasites in the past week, to NOT continue with dips (whether FW, Formalin or both) would be a risky move. If the fish is eating, there goes the only remaining “outwardly apparent” symptom of Brook or Velvet. I would be very relieved if she would just eat already.

And that’s the update. This evening, other than the female still not eating as far as I can tell, they are truly acting like a healthy bonded clownfish pair. I still have no concrete explanations for the female’s miraculous recovery. Certainly some divine intervention, and if folks want to call it a true miracle from God, I certainly believe in a higher power and yes, that thought has crossed my mind. Definitely a higher power out there. But religion aside, I am still a “scientist” and believe there is some scientific explanation. It may very well be what inspired me to hit the tank with Maracyn SW. IF the Maroon was suffering from an internal bacterial infection, one not readily apparent externally, then the rapid turnaround and loss of symptoms would make sense following the administration of antibiotics. This seems to be the most likely possibility, but the simple truth is that a) we’re not out of the woods with the female and b) we may never know what’s kept her alive this long.

So that’s my update.

In a nuthshell, the FW dip + Formalin did not really seem to go over well.  The Maroon Female is under the live rock, wedged in, breathing unhappily and rapidly.  Frankly though, I’ve seen MUCH WORSE LOOKING fish (see my posts about the Saddleback…of course, it did die within hours later).

What I’ve seen develop over the past few hours is slime coat and what looks to me like Velvet (Amyloodinium).  I’ve seen it before, many times over, as I found Amphiprion allardi particularly susceptible to it.   I know we had Brooklynella early on, then there were the Spots of Cryptocaryon, and now this.  Sure, I’m not 100% sure it is, but seriously…I dip the fish with Formalin and FW, and within 2 hours I have a nice dusting of tiny white spots on the fish?  What else could I be seeing?

Well, I’m making plans to abandon their tank potentially.  Can’t risk a Cupramine + Formalin interaction.  I took a fallow larval tank down, filled it about 50% with water from my Onyx Perc’s reef, 50% new tapwater.  It tested out around 1.014 (my percentages aren’t exact).  I’m letting it just sit there.  Depending on how the female Maroon looks in the morning (if she is even still alive) I may follow through with my earlier outlined plans and treat her with Cupramine.  Honestly, this is somewhat ridiculous to be dealing with still.

My plans for the Lighting Maroon?  I have 3 options.  #1.  Leave him in the 20 gallon QT tank since he’s doing OK there despite the Female’s ongoing troubles.  #2.  Ignore that there is another clearly sick fish in the tank, and treat him as if he’s been through a short QT and come out OK.  That means #3a – placing him in a net breeder in my SPS tank with a RBTA (Red Bubble Tip Anemone) or relocating our spawning pair of Black Ocellaris and giving the Lightning Maroon a dedicated 6 gallon reef with a massive RBTA and a bunch of mushrooms.  Both tanks are very solid.  Both have good and bad things associated with them.

Frankly, I’m frustrated, because the 20 L was solid, had been broken in for months and was going to be an ideal home for the pair.  I’ve ended up ravaging it with Hyposalinity and Formalin, and even after all that I’m stuck with sick fish?  If I have to abandon this tank and leave it fallow, I’m technically without a good dedicated home for a Maroon pair at the moment.  That’s a setback.  “GRR”

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