The Lightning Project

The ongoing saga of the PNG Lightning Maroon Clownfish Breeding Project

Browsing Posts tagged incubation

It is now a fact – big Lightning Maroon Clownfish hatches are happening in the morning. I went to bed sometime after 4:30 AM on June 1st, and a few hours later, around 8:30, the kids woke me up. So, I went down to look at the BRT – just a handful of larvae.  I checked with a light, none on the bottom…just a very weak hatch.

I greened up the tub with RotiGreen Omega and added 2 gallon’s worth of rotifers from a culture. I turned on the light, left the tile in place.  Around 10:30 AM, I went down again and I now had hundreds of larvae in the BRT.

I pulled the tile and gave it back to the parents…can’t remember if that was an idea raised here, or on Facebook, but it seemed like a good way to go.  I have yet to go back down tonight, but I’ll presumably set up yet another new tank for a hatch tonight and see if we get two solid night’s worth of larvae off this batch.  Things could get interesting.

I cannot catch a break. Seriously 2013, for all its hard work, has yielded only FOUR (4!!!!) offspring from the Lightning Maroon pair that will grow to be marketable size in 2014!

Spawn #18 was put down on November 28th. This put hatch night as early as Wed, December 4rd, but more likely the 5th, with some possible stragglers on the 6th. The first problem? I was slated to leave town the morning of the 5th and would not return until the morning of the 9th! Thankfully, trusty fellow fish breeder and awesome neighbor Mike Doty was once again on hand to work with the Lightning babies. I was feeling rather confident about that, given that Mike was the guy who reared the big 2012 crop for the first 5 days or so!

I continued to eye the eggs all night on Wed as it transitioned over into Thursday, and at roughly 5 AM Thursday morning none had hatched. I dosed maybe 20-30 ML of Hydrogen Peroxide into the 10 gallon blacked-out larval tank I had used with a prior run, letting it sit for several hours before scrubbing, draining, rinsing, and getting ready for a new clutch. Come 5 AM, I filled the tank with water from the broodstock tank and sanitized the eggs with 4 ML hydrogen peroxide in a half gallon specimen cup for about 15 minutes, before finally setting up the tile with an airstone and calling it a night. I left only 4 hours later.

I heard from Mike that he found some babies, maybe 1/3 of the nest, had indeed hatched out and the rest looked good and would probably hatch Thursday night / Friday morning.

Later, while on a layover in Chicago, came alarming news – Duluth was suffering from a large scale power outage. My normal plan had always been to go rent a generator, but as I was not there to deal with it, after several phone calls and text messages I figured out a battle plan – Frank Wotruba (who has played an integral part in this project and also has a pair of Lightning Maroon offspring) would bring over his generator and set it up to run the central air pump and furnace; he would also take the original wild Lightning Maroon and mate to his house (his power came on fairly quickly).

Thankfully our power came on relatively quickly too…was maybe only out for a couple hours. Relieved, I went on my trip and didn’t give it much thought.

Of course, come Saturday, more bad news. Somewhere along the way, my rotifers had crashed, so Mike was left without any quantity of food to offer. This, combined with the power outage, sealed the fate of Spawn #18; no babies were found by Saturday.

But the bad news continued, as Mike hadn’t noticed that the GCFIs that line the perimeter of the room were all tripped. This is something I was personally aware of; any time the power so much as flickers these things trip. Well…I didn’t think to mention it to Mike during the power outage, so basically while the perimeter tanks had AIR running in them (and those with sponge filters had some active filtration), any tank relying on powered filtration was without. Mike had noticed it come Friday and reset them, but this brought out the next flaw in my system.

Ordinarily, I have a pretty balanced load on my electrical systems, but I’ve come to find that if the tanks get chilled, when bringing the power back on ALL the heaters go on and STAY on. This demand winds up being too much for the circuit, and ultimately it trips the circuit breaker in a few, or several, minutes. Despite removing 500 watts of heaters outright, and downsizing 3 more from 250 to 100 (another 450 watt savings), apparently the reduction of 900 watts was still not enough to prevent this failure. So come Saturday, once again Mike discovered all the tanks not running, and every time he tried to reset the circuit it would trip. More or less, the perimeter tanks, which includes the BROODSTOCK LIGHTNING MAROON’s TANK, had gone without power for over 48 hours.  For all the “safety” that these GCFIs are supposed to bring, in the end, I think I will be removing them from my fishroom (or at least trying to find ones that don’t TRIP simply because the power flickers); so far they have only served to cause PROBLEMS rather than to actually do anything beneficial…well…maybe they helped the one time I dropped a light into a tank.

The solution was to actually forego the heaters by shutting down their power strips. Since I revamped the HVAC system of the house this summer to “heat the basement” as an independent zone, I simply instructed Mike to raise the heat from 78F to somethign closer to 82F and leave it be. Upon returning home, I found most things in good shape, although a heavily stocked guppy tank is experiencing loses, and one of my cubes appears to have lost my spawning Centropyge argi pair (I think 7 years old now?) and the other tank inhabitants (although two white stripe lightning maroon offspring that were in breeder nets appear OK?). I’ve skipped feedings on the perimeter tanks, as well as dosed them with Dr. Tim’s ‘One and Only’ which I’ve found to be an exemplary biological filtration kickstarter. I’ll have to water water chemistry now to make sure that I don’t run into problems; hopefully we’re past the worst of it.

Hatch night for Spawn #15?


Per my last post, the start of the week saw the spawning of the 15th batch, although I wasn’t around to see it.  So I’m having to guess on the spawn date.  I *thought* about pulling the eggs on Saturday night; this would have been 6 days (144 hours) post spawn, had they been laid on Monday.

I looked hard at the eggs, and decided they just didn’t look “silvery” enough for me to pull them. So I wanted 24 hours, knowing that in the past delaying when I thought things might be ready had caused the loss of a batch. However, this time the wait paid off…there were still the same number of eggs tonight, Sunday.  So we are now either 144 housr, or 170 hours post spawn.  Eggs were pulled and cleaned with roughly 3ML H2O2 (hydrogen peroxide) in a 1/2 gallon specimen container for 12+ minutes, and then into the BRT for hatching (the 10 gallon still has the near metamorphosis larvae from Spawn #14).  I saw one baby hatch IN the H2O2 dip, so it’s very possible that I gut-timed this one right.  Plenty of rotifers on hand, this could be a good run.

Tonight is the anticipated hatch night for spawn #14.  It’s a smaller clutch…probably only a few hundred eggs to hatch, and it might have partially hatched earlier in the day or even last night.  I set them up in the 10 gallon tank with blacked out sides, using 50% new water and 50% broodstock water.  The eggs were sanitized with hydrogen peroxide at a rate of 3 ml / 0.5 gallon for 10 minutes, after which they were removed and placed in the tank for hatching.  Lights on the broodstock system currently go out at 11:30 PM, but the room doesn’t reach its darkest point until 2 AM.

On an interesting side note, I may have discovered a contributing factor, if not the outright cuplrit, of the loss of all juveniles in spawn #12.  It turns out that the Ehiem heater in the tank was no longer sealed…I noticed it wasn’t working when I sanitized and cleaned the tank earlier this evening, and upon closer inspection there was moisture inside and the coils showed white discoloration (reaction with saltwater presumably).  Did this have an negative impact on the babies?  Possibly…at minimum it cold explain why metamorphosis appeared to take so long…the tank may have been running cooler (eg. 74-76) than I had wanted, and that delayed meta could explain why the babies failed to survive post meta.  Or not; it’s only one of many possible factors at play here.

So the tank has a new heater, and hopefully we get a good hatch tonight.

Spawn #13 Pulled – oops…


So I pulled spawn #13 tonight…1 AM on 9-30-2013….since #13 was spawned on 9/24/2013, I really should have pulled on the night of 9/30/2013…which would be Monday night, not the wee-early morning hours of Monday as I type this.

What will this do?  Well, my other scatterbrained move was to once again apply a hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) bath…roughly 7.5 ML to 0.5 gallons…which is fine…’cept I ran it for 25 minutes instead of 15.  The eggs outwardly looked fine, but did I just kill them?  I hope not, and probably not.

Given that the last clutch was fine following treatment to hold for a day in artificial incubation, this gives me hope that if these are due to hatch in the next 24 hours, it will be just fine.  What I’m going to do now however, is add H2O2 at a low level (roughly 1 ML per gallon) to help keep the BRT I placed them into relatively clean (1 ML per gallon is a standard rate for incubation of Pterophyllum scalare, FW Angelfish, eggs…when dosed every 12-24 hours). This should cause no harm to the eggs but should also keep any pathogenic bacterial and such at bay.


So….I’m adding drops of H2O2 to the water…I make it to 80 drops, roughly 4 ML and that’s when I noticed two newly hatched larvae swimming around the BRT.  So I stopped adding H2O2 and turned the light off…are these fish really going to hatch in 5 days? 2 DID.

I’m guessing it’s going to be a full and strong hatch Monday Night / Tuesday AM, provided I didn’t screw things up.

Spawn #12 still holding…


Despite all the crazy effort last night to prep for a hatch on spawn #12, it’s now 10:20 AM and nothing has hatched.  We are definitely past 144 hours post spawn…based on hatch times from prior clutches they should have hatched, but the 6+ day incubation time always seems short.  So hopefully I didn’t kill the eggs with the H202 treatment; there are no eggs on the ground, and nothing hatched, so hopefully it’s just another day and they’ll hatch tonight.  We shall see…

What’s it going to take to get a good batch of Lightning Maroons to hatch out?  Seriously!

So you’ll probably know that I’ve been having problems both in timing the pulling of the nest, as well as split hatches and/or eggs dying if pulled prematurely.  While it seems that eggs are often ready to hatch on the 7th night, historically the bulk hatch out on the 8th night.  Even with the last spawn, #8, 8 days to pull was the right number by my estimates.  A side note on spawn #8 – they underwent metamorphosis while I was away at my brother’s wedding (got the text from my good friend Mike Doty)…looks like we might have maybe 8-10 offspring growing up.  So in total, maybe 10 F1 Lightning Maroon offspring that could be released in 2014.

Back to spawn #9 – the night of August 20th, I looked at the huge viable nest from spawn #9.  Spawn #9 was laid on 8-13-2013.  By all accounts, the night to pull this nest for hatching was not 8-20-2013, but the evening of 8-21-2013. I left the eggs in the tank on 8-20-2013.  Just in case, I left ON a few extra lights in the room to help prevent a premature hatch…or so I thought.

Imagine my frustration when I went into the fishroom yesterday morning, 8-21-2013, and saw a clean tile with no eggs anywhere to be found.  That’s only 7 nights, with a 100% hatch!  I’m past the point of getting overly upset about such mishaps, primarily because the Lightning Maroon already appears to be ready to put down another nest.  Perhaps not being blinded by rage and frustration allow me to make an observation.  I left a few more ambient lights on than normal, did not move the nest, and got a 100% hatch all on one night – the first time I’ve not documented a split hatch over two nights.

Could it be that slightly elevated light levels replicate a “full moon” scenario (combined with the fact that we’re basically at a full moon right now) and encouraged a full and complete hatch vs. the split hatch?  In talking with other clownfish breeders, it seems that the “split hatch” tends to be a problem they wind up just “living with” and more than one seems to have this problem.  Perhaps we’re taking the wrong approach towards light on hatch night?

So yes, there was a spawn I posted a photo of back on July 31st; spawn #8; this was the one they put down on July 29th. I didn’t run the larval snagger on the night of August 5th as I had hoped, because I still don’t have mine back from it being lent out at least a year prior…not that I even had TIME to go ask for it! Unfortunately, come the evening of August 6th, it was quite clear that MOST of the eggs had hatched, and come night time, I was left with maybe a quarter-sized nest from what had started as several square inches! I pulled the nest for hatching on the 6th, and come morning on the 7th, I had only a handful of larvae.  MOST of the eggs did not hatch, and died later in the day.

Now, 7 days later, I seem to have the same 20 or so offspring that hatched out.  I only added RotiGreen Omega once, right at the start, and only now am seeing things clear up to the point where I might have to do another dose.  Rotifers here lately have been weak following the simultaneous crash of 2 of my 3 cultures, and they haven’t really been rebuilding.  Thus, I’ve never established a self-sustaining population of rotifers in the larval tub, and instead have had to resort to daily influxes.  Still, things are going well I suppose, and today I added in the first offerings of TDO size A.

The good news is that the pair certainly seems to be in a routine, as this afternoon, 8-13-2013, they put down another sizable nest.  This is spawn #9 from the pair. It’s only a matter of time before I figure out how to get a BIG group of offspring from these eggs instead of a piddly amount, but until then, it’s going to continue to be a slow trickle at best.

So this amounts to a chronological retelling of the story to date, this time with photos, starting  a couple weeks back now.  Perhaps not in as much detail as my minute-by-minute updates, but a good overview of the run to date.

June 21st, 2012

The ongoing health problems with the Lightning Maroon remained, and the left eye on the Lightning Maroon was showing slight swelling.

On a day initially planned to do a skin-scrape of the fish for further examination, I had to call things off because the fish had started going through pre-spawn motions.

By the time we had finished doing a skin scrape on some Banggai Cardinalfish downstairs, Barb & Heidi from the Great Lakes Aquarium got a super special treat, seeing the actual nest having been spawned while they were here.

Lightning Maroon Clownfish Spawning & Eggs

June 22nd, 2012

I was genuinely worried whether we’d have eggs 24 hours in.  Thankfully, they proved to be good parents and good “clownfish”; the first spawn egg eating proved to be the typical first test run that so many clownfish seem to do.  This batch, while I didn’t get a good photo of the parents, was doing well.  The swelling on the Lightning Maroon’s eye had gone away.  Phew.

June 23rd, 2012

So much for resting easy about the health of the Lightning Maroon. The eggs were developing (a fair number that probably were infertile or diseased were removed by the pair), but some funky gunk (yes, that’s the scientific term) showed up on the Lightning Maroon’s right face.  I was once again on high alert; this wasn’t pop-eye; this was more reminiscent of the mouth-rot I had to battle back a little while ago.

June 24th, 2012

So much for being on alert.  By evening, things looked so bad on the Lightning Maroon’s face that I pulled the trigger and initiated the third course of treatment with Maracyn SW and Maracyn II SW in this system.  The telltale bulge around the right eye had started to show as well.  I felt I had little other option at this point; this fish is simply too valuable to take a wait and see approach when symptoms like these show up:

The eggs were looking good and developing fast, although I took little comfort in that given the current situation with the Lightning Maroon.  The roller coaster of stress over this fish during the past couple months has been excruciating.  No doubt, there were times I pondered whether it would all be easier if the fish just passed away – of course solely a passing fancy, but when things are clearly out of your real control, it is incredibly tough to sit there and do “what you can”.  Of course, it’s a whole new level now that we are well within sight of the next major milestone in this 2+ year long project.

June 27th, 2012

June 27th represented the 4th day of Maracyn + Maracyn II treatments, and once again, it appeared I had potentially averted a crisis or loss.  The condition of the Lightning Maroon was drastically improved.  The eggs…the eggs were showing eyes?  They had the classic silvery look of clownfish eggs before they’re going to hatch.

I had been worried that these eggs would be hatching out while I was on a trip to Boston to speak at the Boston Reef Society; but now, only 6 days post spawn, I was very worried that a hatch could come sooner than expected.  The signs (and the data out there) said it was possible, sure, but maybe not likely?  Still, if I waited too long and did nothing I could miss the hatch. Conversely, if I pulled the nest too early, I could miss killing the eggs before they actually had fully developed.  Honestly though, I felt far less pressure about the decisions I was about to make than any of the disease-related issues with the Lightning Maroon; this is clownfish breeding, I can handle it.

There was really only one route to go – I had to sit and watch the tank.  The lights go off at 12:15 AM, so I got things situated for a possible hatch.  I used a small LED flashlight at the far corner of the tank as a larval attractant.

While waiting for the lights to go out, I prepared the area  with buckets and siphons to take out larvae should they hatch in the tank.

Downstairs, I prepared a black round tub to receive broodstock water and possible babies.

Lights went out, and it was time to wait.  All pumps were turned off through an extended feed timer on my Apex Lite (which would ensure they’d all come back on in the event that I somehow forgot about them and went to be).  I did have to unplug the battery backup on the Vortech…can’t have babies going through that pump either.  I’d check every once in a while, and initially got excited around 12:20 AM when I saw movement in the beam of the flashlight – until I realized it was copepods swimming around.

Many more checks turned up nothing, and I was starting to wonder if I had jumped the gun.  Multiple plans of “what next” rolled around in my head, but they all disappeared at 1:23 AM on June 28th, 2012.

That is not a copepod.  If you can’t really see it, maybe this one will help:

The moment that first baby clownfish showed up, I pulled the tile under almost complete darkness, moving it downstairs in a bucket with a lid and 5 gallons of water from the broodstock tank.  I set it up for artificial hatching, and assumed that come morning, I’d see hundreds of clownfish swimming around.  That was the hope…

June 28th, 2012

So much for hatching overnight.  There was ONE baby in the tub.  Terrific (<-sarcasm).  1 is better than none, so in the interest of keeping the one alive, I was forced to tinge the water green with a very light treatment of RotiGreen Nano, and a very small addition of rotifers (lest the baby starve).

The worst fear is that I had somehow killed the eggs in the move or prevented the hatch, which would have generally killed the eggs overnight.  There was only one way to find out.  I took a quick look at the tile.

And here’s what I saw…

They look perfectly fine.  And what a great opportunity, thanks to the advent of digital photography and Photoshop, to get a headcount.

That’s roughly 310 eggs (each color group represents me counting to 50, with the scattered red dots representing the last 10 I counted).  It’s not an exact headcount, but gives a great approximate number of eggs.  Hardly the spawn of several thousand that some Maroon Clownfish are known to put down, but I’ll take it all the same.  So very carefully, this tile went back into the black round tub…

…So long as the eggs didn’t die, there was still hope.  The rest of the tension filled day was spent fighting the urge to recheck the tile for dead eggs.  Come nightfall, I stuck with the photoperiod that the eggs had been used to, and turned the lights out in the basement a little early so that things were basically pitch black by 12:15 AM on June 29th.  Just after 1:00 AM, a quick check with the flashlight caused me to announce to the world, “Ladies and Gentleman; we’re rearing Lightning Maroon Larvae.

June 29th, 2012.

With only hours before my departure to Boston, I had to get things set up right.  As the night progessed into the wee hours of morning (that we normally still call “night”), I fired up the lights, and checked the tile:

No stragglers – that means a 100% hatch.  That means 300-ish baby maroon clownfish.  300 chances to see something really fantastic down the line.  So long as we don’t botch rearing them!

Mike Doty, a fellow aquarist who happens to live 4 blocks away from me, had been over late (or early if you want to get technical) to see how things were set up and to know where everthing was…well that and to share a beer, toasting this milestone. Mike would be completely in charge of rearing the larvae in my absence.


While I got my share of incredulous inquiries about that, I actually had more confidence in Mike than myself; Mike had taken a pair of extra Maroons from me, spawned and reared a couple batches, so he was perfectly qualified in my book (I’ve done clowns, but never maroons before).  We got the larval tub set up with greenwater and rotifers, and in the early afternoon I embarked on my all-day trek to Boston.


 July 1st, 2012

I returned home from Boston in the afternoon, anxious to see how things had gone.  Mike had kept me updated via texts during my absence and things sounded good.  The main message I got from Mike was that my three rotifer cultures had failed to keep up with demand, and he had actually depleted his as well.  I wondered, would we wind up losing this batch to starvation?!

July 2nd, 2012

I’m indeed burning through rotifers, but the cultures seemed to rebound and were producing enough for the moment.  The rotifers in the BRT were also clearing out phytoplankton pretty frequently.

Mike and I had set up a drip for the tub using a spare brine shrimp hatchery and a micro ball valve from Julian Sprung’s Two Little Fishies.  Not only is the drip good for top off, but also for introducing foods (phytoplankton) and ammonia control (CloramX) slowly.

Seeing that there were still many babies (some losses, but still many viable larvae), I took a photo for you all; your first look at what *Could be* a larval Lighting Maroon Clownfish, roughly 4 days old.

 July 5th, 2012

Things have gone well, as I’ve slowly doubled the larval rearing volume to 10 gallons, keeping a watchful eye on the ammonia alert badge as I continue to feed 4-5 gallons worth of rotifers into the tub per day.  With the warm basement temperatures (normally in the upper 60′s to lower 70′s, but lately 78F), the rotifer cultures are now roaring; I’m forced to feed them twice daily at a rate of 30 drops of RotiGrow Plus (and 30 drops CloramX).

I’ve done a couple pre-feeding rotifer enrichments with Super Selcon as well, just to keep the DHA levels up. However, today, now just before 7 days old, we reach another step in the rearing process.  Today it was decided the larvae were finally ready to feed on APBreed’s TDO, size A.  And after the second feeding, it was fair to say they are indeed consuming it.

So now we sit and wait.  Any day now, we will catch the first glimpses of stripes as these larval Maroon Clownfish go through metamorphosis and settle out into juveniles.  Most likely, I suspect that even if we have fish that will one day show the “Lightning” phenotype, we won’t see it at this stage in their development.  But at this time, it is anyone’s guess.  If you’re a betting man or woman, it’s time to place your wagers.  Our first glimpse at the possibilities are just around the corner.

Seriously, one baby found hatched in the tank, and failed to collect it.  One more baby has hatched out in the BRT (Black Round Tub), and that’s it!  It’s now 4:00 AM, so I turned on the lights on the BRT, angled it off to the side so that the light intensity is greatly diminished.  The eggs appear to be fine, so my guess is that I was tricked by a couple early hatchers, and the bulk will hatch tomorrow (Thursday, 7 days post spawn).  That’s my hope anyways, but wouldn’t it be just like the rest of this project to only get ONE baby?!  Wouldn’t surprise me in the least.

In a balancing act, I introduced a very light level of Rotifers and equally light dosing of RotiGreen Nanno into the BRT so that our lone ranger has something to do with all this time on his hands.  I went very light to hopefully avoid any contamination that could foul and kill the remaining eggs who have probably another 24 hours to hatch.

I’ve been taking photos, so at some point I’ll post a pictorial recap of tonight’s (and hopefully tomorrow’s) big event!

Social Widgets powered by