The Lightning Project

The ongoing saga of the PNG Lightning Maroon Clownfish Breeding Project

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Been a while since I shared photos of the F1 spawning Lightning X Lightning pair.  So here’s how they look now:






Let’s start with Spawn #34 – as of Sunday morning, 6/15/2014, there were a lot of dead eggs on the bottom of the tank, but when I gave the eggs the viability test (touch them and see the larvae wiggle inside) they were actually still alive.  I pulled them and placed them in a specimen cup with vigorous aeration – none of them hatched, and through the course of the afternoon they all died and came off the tile.  So spawn #34 has wound up being a bit small, but there are probably still 50-100+ offspring in there. Seeing the larvae live for days behind the initial hatch HAS made me reconsider whether I am perhaps having egg quality issues, and more specifically issues that cause hatching problems.  In talking with fellow breeders like Mitch May (aka. Booyah, a good friend from back home in Chicago), he of course raised the same concern with me, but when we talked diet, that ruled out the problem.  Still, this could be a case-by-case thing, so it’ll be interesting to me to see if I can change this. One of the annecdotes that Joe Licthenbert always instilled upon me was “if you want good eggs, feed the fish eggs”.  Time to call up Rod Buehler of Rod’s Food and see about getting a fresh shipment of Rod’s Eggs up in here!

Spawn #35 was laid on Father’s Day afternoon, 6-15-2014 – if all goes as is typical, it should have the first hatch night on the 21st, going into the 22nd.

And finally, it’s been too long since I posted these – updates of the holdback Lightning Maroon Pair, the fish I’ll call MWP1 and MWP2.  They’ve been in the Ecoxotic tank for a while now and are solidly paired.  What I hadn’t really done is take closeup shots to update the pattern progression photos, and wow am I glad I finally did.  There are some big changes in both fish (but it’s been almost 6  months). The largest change I noticed is in the headband of the larger fish, the female I’ll be calling MWP1 and have been using for the pattern progression photos. Where her headband had been mostly solid white for all these years, it has finally seen the first pinpricks of red spotting come through. Knowing how these spots grow and evolve, it is fair to say that her once “boring” headband will now become an intricate latticework of pattern…in another 6 months or a year.

I’ll post the photos in just a second, but here’s the interesting thing.  If it has taken this long for the pattern to get this far, I wonder if the pattern development can be used to gauge the age of their wild mother.   As we’ve seen the pattern evolve, certainly it may hit a point where it truly feels analogous to mom…presuming the fish in my care grow and develop at a similar rate to the wild (a big presumption) then I feel that yes, it could give some insight into mom.  After all, we know that wild-type Onyx Percula offspring can continue to develop coloration and pattern for 3 years in captivity (which is why I never produced any great numbers of them) and now here, with the Lightning, I think my hypothesis that the pattern development takes years is unfolding before our eyes.  Look at the OTHER one, MWP2, the one that for all this time has until recently had solid white flanks.  It too, is finally turning.  I find this incredibly fascinating; if the speed of pattern development cannot be easily improved upon through selective breeding, it could mean that all Lightning Maroons will be a bit of a diamond in the rough.  You may have to buy one and wait for it to develop over time.  I wonder too, will there then be a huge premium placed on older fish, who are showing more well-progressed pattern? I could see this happening given that to this day, a well colored Onyx Percula which may be a year or older, will always fetch more than a partially barred, partially colored up juvenile.

Here’s some photos I shot last night, Father’s Day, June 15th, 2014, of MWP1 and MWP2.












I also have some other photos and such I need to post…I think I skipped some things over the past few months!

It’s taken over 24 hours of work, but the website has been updated with new photos of many Lightning and White Stripe Maroon Clownfish. 5 new fish have been added to the inventory as well! I’m not going to post every last new photo in a blog post. Instead, you can follow the links to any particular page you’re interested in.

First, we have a great update on Mike Doty’s pair, MD1 and MD2 – I took the photos back in February but only now have them online! Looking at both these fish you can see how they’ve developed over time.

MD1 (Lightning) and MD2 (White Stripe aka. Morse Code) - Feb 28, 2014

MD1 (Lightning) and MD2 (White Stripe aka. Morse Code) – Feb 28, 2014

MWP3 was added to the inventory – he is a fish I’ve held back due to an obvious dorsal fin defect and had intended to use as the Lightning in a Lightning X White Stripe sibling pairing. At the moment, with no real place to house such a pairing, I may let him go to a new home.


WS4, WS11 and WS13 are all White Stripe Maroons that have been here for 2 years now; I wasn’t able to get any good new photos of WS13, but WS4 and WS11 have updates, and all three fish have now been measured too!


The same can be said for LM9, LM11, LM14.


LM17 and LM18 remain together, and LM18 has finally been given its own page.


And finally, your first look at 3 new offspring – WS17, LM19 and LM20! All three of these were reared in individual containers from a very young age, and it seems that has really helped produced better offspring (no battle scars from being reared together)!








Lots of updates with no photos, so why not take a moment and remember what we all really enjoy – seeing these fish grow up.

First up, my one-ventral-finned holdback so I can keep tracking developing photos of the pattern on this fish.

Before I left on my fishing trip last week, I took the liberty to move one of the last summer offspring up into a vacant cube on the cube system, thinking that would free things up for another batch of clowns at some point.  I thought it was big enough to NOT go through the holes.

You might remember LM17…

Well LM17 now has a buddy, which I will now dub LM18

At the moment, LM18 appears to be just about “perfect” as a clownfish.  I discovered LM17 and LM18 cohabiting earlier this week, perhaps Monday (it’s now Friday) and opted to take the ‘wait and see’ approach.  So far not a nick or scratch.  I moved all neighboring fish in the cube system as far away from this “pair” as was possible to help foster whatever pair-bond might form between these two fish.  Might be seeing these two offered as a bonded pair sometime in 2014….

For the moment, here’s more of LM18.

Video of the pair – proof it happened:

I finally go to shot some photos last week (October 14th), and among them are updates of the holdback pair.  I’ve also updated the “Lightning Maroon Pattern Progression” post to show how it continues to evolve. Here’s the latest:

The forced size differentiation of my holdback Lightning pair continues and is going well…my chosen female is growing larger and larger.  It’s “only a matter of time”.


F1 PNG Lightning Maroon Clownfish, LM12

LM12- looks great, right?  But where’s the ventral fins!  D’oh!

As of 2:35 AM, Friday, June 21st, 2013, all 30 fish initially planned for release have been posted here on this website for your review and consideration.  Please review the Lightning Maroon Clownfish Offspring Inventory to see all 30 fish.

The motivations behind this monumental task (it took me in the neighborhood of 20 hours to complete) was to show the full range of fish that I had in the growout system, a tank I hope to clear and sell off all fish.  By showing them all in advance of any auction, I consider every bidder fully informed as to what fish are out there, either now or in the short term future.

Most importantly, I wanted to make sure I was abundantly clear as to the flaws in each fish…many are culls which we had discussed only making available to approved breeders who understand that the defects in these fish are likely not genetic.  I think it was Joe Lichtenbert, but it may have been another clownfish breeder, who recalled the experience of raising hundreds of white stripe Maroons together, and when it came time to selll the fish, only FIVE ideal, suitable specimens could be found…out of hundreds.  Looking at the fruits of my labor, I think it’s fair to say that communal rearing absolutely played a role in causing a lot of blemished fish.

F1 PNG White Stripe Maroon Clownfish, WS16

WS16 definitely shows signs of battle scars from a younger age.

I still am wondering about the early rearing as well…some of the bulldog / pug nosed fish really shouldn’t have looked that way with the use of the black round tub (which normally prevents fish from pressing up against the hard surfaces in the early days, which is often what causes this defect as flexible cartilage calcifies).  And yet, they still showed up in the group.  Maroons are notorious for facial deformities as the result of mouth-to-mouth combat that starts pretty much the day they settle.  So it’s possible that a lot of what we’re seeing is from THAT.

Still, there are some really exciting fish in this mix. I’m not terribly proud of the end results, but they’re absolutely better than nothing.  By my count, there are roughly 16 of the 30 fish that, were they any other fish, would be immediately culled and euthanized, never to be sold.  There’s easily another 4 I would be keeping my eye on to see how they continue to grow.  And in truth, I think there are less than 5 fish which I really couldn’t find any issue with.

So, before you bid, please be absolutely sure find the fish you’re looking at  in my inventory, and to read all the details and my opinions on the fish you’re considering.  I want you to have very realistic expectations with the fish you’re going to receive, as I’d hate to receive a fish that let me down.

With all the stuff going on, I realized it’s been months since I showed the pair of Lightnings that I saved for myself.

I also wanted to update the “Lightning Maroon Clownfish Pattern Progression & Development” post, as there is obviously still a fair amount of justifiable skepticism as to whether these offspring will ever wind up looking like their mom.

At this point the fish are just under 1 year old. Here’s a quick look.

And no, these ones aren’t for sale.

Months back I moved the Lightning pair to the basement following the ongoing disease problems the pair was suffering through.  In short, this last ditch effort worked, and the pair (along with their Foureye Butterfly companion) have lived in a 33 gallon extra long since then.  Their Ecoxotic Cube Tank was bleached to sterlize, and then soaked with vinegar to take off all the coraline algae.  The tank was scrubbed, rinsed, and sat dry for months.

This story, combined with a lack of any photos, has led a few crackpots to suggest that the Lightning Maroon had in fact died / perished.  Well…I was down there shooting photos recently and thought “what the heck” ;)

Of course, the long term goal has been to restore them to the original tank, this next time set up with Bubble Tip Anemones and not much else ;)

Tonight I started down the path, filling the tank and adding fresh new substrate (Caribsea’s Fiji Pink).

Let’s see how quickly things clear up ;)


Finally, some risk is diversified again.  The second of 3 locally-planned backup pairs is out of the house, this time going to Frank (who you may remember contributed the massive “Labrador” Maroon Clown to this project way back in the day).  Frank is an aquarist who’s in it for the long haul, so you know this pair of clowns is in GOOD hands.

The pair I sent home with Frank has lived together for months now…obviously far too young to be an actual pair, but the point is that they shared an 8 X 8 X 8 inch cubicle without killing each other.  The Lightning in the pair really is a nice fish, but the standard striped sibling is a pretty horrendous example and were it NOT for the fact that it’s progeny of the Lightning Maroon, would have long since been culled.  Still, it shows some of the classic “Horned Maroon Clownfish” patterning seen in the occasional aberrant wild Maroon Clowns from PNG .  Of course, it’s hard to know how many of the physical disappointments I’m seeing are the result of either fighting or general rearing mishaps, but I suspect THAT over genetic issues at this point in time.  I took the last few minutes before bagging them up to snap a handful of good shots.

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