The Lightning Project

The ongoing saga of the PNG Lightning Maroon Clownfish Breeding Project

Browsing Posts tagged Jake Adams

I totally neglected to share this here – Jake Adams came to visit me back at the end of January, 2014, and we recorded an interview that focused heavily on designer clownfish, including the Lightning Maroon.  There’s some great video shot by Jake that you won’t see anywhere else, so dive into ReefBuilders The Show (aka. just “The Show”), episode 2, and enjoy.

 

So, two totally unrelated comments to make quickly tonight.  First, I really think my suspicions of a fin nipper are correct.  Why?  Because a new chunk showed up missing from the TOP of the Lightning Maroon’s right pectoral fin.  I’d be a lot more worried if there wasn’t also a chunk missing from the tail of my female Mandarin and multiple chunks removed from the fin edges of the 6″ long Labrador Maroon, the undisputed boss of the tank.  I can only assume that one of the Bristletail Filefish, probably the male, has gotten into a bad habit of fin nipping.  It is conceivable that this could tie in with increased reproductive activity or something.  Regardless, I am now thinking about where I can house this pair of fish.  GRR!

I also wanted to point the readers to check out the post by Jake Adams on Reef Builders today regarding ORA’s “misbar” Maroons – http://reefbuilders.com/2010/09/13/misbar-maroon-clownfish-showed-ora/ – certainly a fundamentally different stripe mutation (again, only guessing that it’s genetic but I think it is).  Arguably very similar to the Picasso Perc and Snowflake Ocellaris, both of which I think are the “same mutation” as it appears on 2 different species, and now here it is again on a Maroon.  Very interesting, but again, all this about genetics is just speculation at the moment.

So with this latest shipment of PNG Maroons, I now have the following inventory:

1 PNG Lightning Maroon Clownfish, sex indeterminant
1 PNG Morse Code Maroon Clown, sex indeterminant
4 PNG Maroon Clownfish, your typical White Stripe variety, all still at sizes where they should be male or “juvenile”.
1 “Labrador” Maroon Clownfish, a massive fish that could only be treated as a female at this point.

What’s a breeder to do?

Let’s circle back to the two most interesting fish, the “Lightning Maroon” and the “Morse Code” Maroon (I called it a “Dash Slash” or “Dash Hash” but then Jay pointed out the “dots”, so it was a “Dot Dash” and then Morse Code…you get the idea).  I do hold the assumption that there is a genetic basis to the Lightning patterning.  I’ve elaborated on that prior.  I also think that possibly, this “Morse Code” patterning, the random dot or dash, could be indicative of some genetic variation as well…not simply a “misbar”, but the starting point, the most basic example, of what might represent a continuum or range of pattern variation within the Maroon Clownfish.  In simple terms…if the Lightning is the equivalent of an “A-Grade Picasso” Percula, then this “Morse Code” Maroon might very well be the “B-Grade” version of the same genetic barring mutation.

The PNG Lightning Maroon - A-Grade by ANY standard!

Unofficially calling this the "Morse Code" Maroon. Is it just a B-Grade Lightning?

You might think I’m “reaching” here, until I ask you to consider that this is in no way the “first” “Morse Code” Maroon Clownfish I’ve seen.  No, I think I’ve actually seen at least a dozen of these fish, in multiple venues.  At least one commercial breeder has had fish looking just like this “Morse Code” Maroon and offered them for sale.  Maroons are known to throw some variation  on striping.  For example, check out the spotted Maroons from Reef Hot Spot or this other “one of a kind” Maroon Clownfish thread on Manhatten Reefs.  This type of “extra barring” and “spotting” apparently isn’t really all that rare of a thing in Maroon Clowns apparently (and corroborated by at least one author…but I can’t find that reference at the moment!)

Pile on the simple fact that this is another “extra barred” Maroon coming out of PNG, where we already know 2 “Lightning Maroons” have come from.   If this subtle, small barring variation is genetic, and is a less extreme version of what produced the “Lightning Maroons”, we could have just struck “gold”.  With ALL of that said, in the absence of having a second “Lightning” Maroon on hand, this “Morse Code” Maroon just became the most desirable mate I could utilize.

And yes, there’s a catch.  I have yet to put these two fish side by side, but I can tell you this.  The Lightning Maroon, and the “Morse Code” Maroon, are about the same size.  Both are in the “limbo” size where they could either be mature males, or easily become females.  Up until now, I’ve treated the Lightning Maroon as if it were male, in the hopes that if it IS in fact male, it could remain male.  Again, I’ve elaborated on the “why” before.

But now there’s this other ambiguous fish.  If it was notably SMALLER, it would’ve been a no-brainer….pair it with the Lightning, making the Lightning a female.  A great pair, and arguably the best I could hope for.  But CAN I do this?

It’s hard to say.  I have to fight the likihood that BOTH the Lightning Maroon and the “Morse Code” Maroon could be female.  Jake Adams already drew the conclusion that the Morse Code was female without even knowing its size…just looking at a picture.  So yeah, a fair amount of folks might already call the Morse Code female, and in most other settings, it would be paired up to be the female.

But what if one, or both fish in question, can still be male?  Well, as you know, the Lightning Maroon has been treated as male up until this point.  The XXLG “Labrador” Maroon from Frank and Mary has been prowling the main tank in the hope that its presence would keep the Lightning male (assuming it IS male).  They have not been allowed to interact…this has been a “show of force” more than anything else.

Ideally, while in Quarantine, it would be wise to attempt the same “social pressure application” on the Morse Code Maroon.  In other words, try to pair it, or at least house it, next to a much larger Maroon.  That way, if it’s male, it will remain male while in QT.  And then, when the time comes, it could be paired with the Lightning Maroon.

To accomplish such a pairing, the ideal mechanism would be to allow the Lightning Maroon to pair up with any one of the small PNG Maroons that was shipped in.  Of course, we’re looking at at-least a few weeks before the “all clear” siren is blown and that process could start.  Get the Morse Code Maroon paired up as well, but as a male.  Allow the Lightning to grow substantially in size, and then SWAP out the males, bringing the Morse Code in as the male, and the Lightning as the female.

It all works in theory.  But what if the Morse Code is already female?  Well, if that happens the best pairing scenario would be to form 2 pairs.  A Lighting + PNG pair, and a Morse Code + PNG pair.  The practical upshot is that we could attempt a “Lightning X Morse Code” (or if you prefer, an “A Grade Lightning X B-Grade Lightning”) pairing once the NEXT generation is born.  It’s a less direct route, but it’s by far the safest route to go.

But what if I’m not fully committed yet to allowing the Lightning Maroon become a female?  There is that odd chance that I could continue to apply social pressure to the Lightning Maroon, and could even move forward with highly controlled pairing to the Labrador Maroon.  I’d be foregoing the PNG geographic lineage in any offspring that develop.  In the meantime, I’d also have to let the Morse Code Maroon grow substantially, and that could take years.  And THEN try to pair the Lightning to the Morse Code, putting the Lightning at greater risk acting as the male.  As you can see, I’m clearly leaning towards letting the Lightning go female, but I’m probably going to by myself some time and try a few different things.

My ideal plan is to construct a far more permeable yet secure enclosure for the Lightning to allow better interaction with the Labrador Clown.  I’ve heard annecdotes of clownfish being able to fertilize spawns through physical barriers.  I figure, WHY NOT at least let there be a chance of some reproduction over the next month?

But if I do stay on the path with the Labrador, what do I do to push the Morse Code Maroon in the direction of being male?  Well, quite simply, I’ve found myself in need of yet another ridiculously large Maroon Clownfish!  I’d pretty much want to do the exact same thing to the Morse Code that I’m doing to the Lightning.  Being smaller than the Lightning, there is still a better chance that the Morse Code could remain male.

What if none of this works?  Well, there’s a reason I had a standing order for 4 PNG Juvies from Blue Zoo.  Quite simply, I could find myself with SEVERAL female Maroons, and I’d like to have mates for them all.  If I’m honest, the most likely and safest scenario is to just mate the Lightning to a PNG Juvie, do the same with the Morse Code.  If there’s any disasters, I have 2 backup males.  If everything works flawlessly, I could pair both “spare” Maroon clowns with little Juvies from PNG, have the Lightning X Morse pair, and 2 extras, just in case.  But most likely, I might end up with 4 pairs of Maroons in the long run, at which point I’d probably part with the BIG Maroons so I could focus on 2 PNG pairs.

Yes, that’s a lot of thinking, and I’m a Maroon shy of my plan at the moment.  Quarantine buys me time to think this through a bit more, and we’re not out of the woods yet.  More on the “Morse Code’s” issues in my next installment.

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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So, in a situation like this, I think it is INACTION that generally “seals the deal” as it were.  Leave a fish that’s lost its desire to swim lying on the bottom wedged under the live rock and that fish will be somewhere, dead, by morning.  That’s my general prognosis.  Which is why inaction is not an option.  I’d rather kill the fish by trying to save it than sit back and just let it die.

Water Params in the QT Tank

Water tests came back normal…pH maybe slightly low at 8.0 but nothing alarming at all…all my reefs like to run at 8.0 most of the time.  Ammonia maybe a trace, but certainly below 0.25 ppm.  Nitrite and Nitrate undetectable.   SG 1.010 or every so slightly higher.  This, combined with the outwardly healthy and happy Lightning Maroon clownfish is an important indication that there aren’t environmental problems.

Can’t be the water…

So what is it then?  Tank has had low level Formalin treatments, and I’ve followed a strict regime of Formalin dips.  Tank has been at hyposaline conditions for several days, which may not outright affect a cure of any disease, but certainly should not hurt and likely has helped (I may have said it before…it could just as easily be that both fish would be dead were it NOT for hypo…we just don’t know).  We’ve seen signs of Brooklynella, but certainly not the rampant infestation that takes fish down quickly.  Likely I kept that at bay.  There has also been Cryptocaryon.  Nothing serious, certainly not to the levels where a fatality would result.

We have pretty good water parameters overall, so that’s not been a source of problems.  Even got a protein skimmer going and yes, the Seaclone is pulling out foam, even at 1.010.  So much for “not working” like some folks out there will tell you.  Yet still, in the last 24-48 hours I have noticed elevated repiration on the Maroon Clown, and this evening, a fish on the bottom, clearly stressed.  Honestly, without visual cues, the only thing that is really coming to mind is Amyloodinium, which I’ve seen before and can totally take a fish down fast.  Could it be that in a week alone I may have seen all three diseases on the female Maroon?

Making Educated Guesses

Well, anything is possible.  It could also be that the fish is now succumbing to starvation, secondary bacterial infections, organ failure, or even has just given up the will to live.  All of those are possible.

I have to operate under the following assumptions.

1. I could STILL be facing an infection with Brooklynella.

2. I could be facing an Amyloodinium problem now.

Since neither can be comfortably ruled out at the moment, I had to think this through carefully.

Medication options for Amyloodinium vs. Brooklynella

As I’ve alluded to prior, Amyloodinium may or may not be treatable with Formalin – the literature on the subject varies, and genuinely, it is a 50/50 split.  Brooklynella however, is universally cited as treatable with Formalin.  Conversely, the other generally accepted treatment for parasites like these is Copper.  I’m a fan of Cupramine.  Seachem’s Cupramine cannot be used with Formalin – it will create a toxic substance that would probably just kill everything.  Cupramine also may cause problems at hyposaline levels.  No details provided, it’s a “try it at your own risk”.  That said, if I was convinced I was dealing with Amyloodinium at this point, changing course to Cupramine would be a very necessary step, because Cupramine is highly effective against Amyloodinium in my experience, but only if applied early on.  The other problem, Copper does nothing for Brooklynella…at least 90% of sources tend to agree on that.

If I thought (or was convinced) it was Amyloodinium?

So for the benefit of argument, what would I do if I gambled and changed to Cupramine?  Well, the bottom line is any fish that’s going to be treated with Cupramine needs to be removed to another tank, because I can’t clear out the Formalin with any great level of certainty.  Not worth risking a toxic cocktail.  This also means possibly “rinsing” the fish as one person suggested in a comment thread.  I do concur…that would be a wise precaution, and wouldn’t be that difficult to accomplish.  The next thing to do would be to bring up the salinity, as the toxicity of Cupramine should decrease as that salinity goes up (a side note, we’ve also bantied about the use of an anemone as a therapeutic agent in the last 24 hours, which also would’ve required a rapid salinity change to accomplish).  Some of the advisers have suggested raising salinity could in fact be done rather quickly, but their frame of reference has been largely to compare to captive bred fish.  I did however, pick up  good literature-based clues on the subject.

The first clue on rapid salinity rises comes from Matt Wittenrich’s suggested course of action for treating Cryptocaryon on page 161 of his Breeder’s Guide.  The “jist” is that you drop SG to 1.015, and after two days, do a large water change (presumeably with full strength saltwater).  But that’s not really specific.    The more “detailed” clue comes from Joyce Wilkerson’s highly detailed protocol for Amyloodinium treatment on page 114 of her Clownfish Book.  Again, to give only the “jist” (please see the reference for full details), drop SG to 1.010/1.012.  Day 3, add copper and bring SG up to 1.018.  But, “Take a day or more to bring up the specific gravity”.  I’ve always worked under the assumption of no more than a 0.002 rise per day was adviseable, but this advise advoceates a rise of up to 0.008 in only 24 hours, 4X that of my assumption.  Since I’m a young guy who sometimes want’s more than only the solid, highly experienced sage advice of my elders, I realized that perhaps the real kicker is something sitting in the back of my mind.  Most of the bags in the Blue Zoo Aquatics shipment tested out at specific gravities around 1.019/1.020.  Yet  I pushed both a Cleaner Wrasse (Labroides dimidiatus) and a Harlequin Filefish (Oxymonacanthus longirostris) up to 1.025/1.026 in my reef on only a 1 hour drip.  That RATE would equate to 0.120 difference over 24 hours.  60X faster than my base rate, and 15 times faster than even Wilkerson’s literature suggested to do.  And I had NO PROBLEMS there.

Of course, the best example I can think of goes back to when I was 10 years old.  I was breeding mollies and had my first saltwater tank.  I would ROUTINELY net out my Sailfin Mollies and give them “excursions” in the saltwater tank for a day.  No acclimation of any kind, just dropping them in.  Now of course, I do not advocate this at all.  And healthy Mollies are not the same as distressed Clownfish.  But it’s just one more annecdotal experience that my preconceived notions might be ill-concieved or perhaps overly-cautious.  It is clear that fish can and do withstand far more rapid rises.

So, with all that said, if I get to a point at any time where I think I need to switch to a copper-treatment for this Female Maroon, the course of action is clear.  Rinse her with water from one of my broodstock reefs really quickly, and then move her to a 10 gallon tank that is set up with 5 gallons of diluted saltwater (probably from a broodstock tank).  Bring the salinity up from 1.010 to 1.018, while dosing with Cupramine.  That would be the way to affect a change.

However, I am not at that point yet, and I think that honestly, the time to switch would’ve been before the fish was trying to wedge itself under the live rock.

So what DID I DO?

One of the things routinely cited for treatment of both Amyloodinium AND Brooklynella is a Freshwater Dip.  The FW dip is said to knock off the parasites in the case of Amyloodinium, and for anyone who’s not familiar with Amyloodinium, it can kill a fish by completely coating the gills and you may never even see it on the fish’s skin (one of the main reasons I have suspicions I’m dealing with a case of Amyloodinium now – heavy respiration, stress, and yet no think mucus – generally I’ve only seen the actual cysts on a fish when it’s commonly past the point of no return because I left the fish in the reef too long).

Formalin dips have also been good so far.  Every time I did a dip, the fish always seemed “better”.  Dosing the tank with Formalin this last time appeared to make things “better” as well.  So I’m not about to just outright abandon this medication at this point.  Especially since if I am still dealing with Brooklynella, it is THE medication to use.  Amyloodnium?  The jury is out, but enough people suggest it that there must be some basis for it.

The decision was to combine treatments.  I admittedly have no basis for this other than the fish is now clearly on the decline and drastic steps are needed.  If it’s Amyloodinium and Formalin isn’t fixing it, perhaps the FW DIP will help alleviate the stress, clear up the gills, and buy me some tmie.  If Formalin IS doing the trick, why cut it out?  Admittedly, I have no clue if there’s a basis for this dual purpose dip.

I had thought about doing a FW DIP with Methelyne Blue (which helps deliver Oxygen during the dip and is a often recommended practice).  However, in the back of my head, I hadn’t researched it.  I didn’t know how MB and Formalin would interact, and didn’t want to inadvertently cause some other problem when a fish, dipped in MB, was returned to the main tank.  I have to research this more.  There are potential merits.

The net  result of my thinking was to use the dosage for a Formalin dip at 20 drops per gallon in a Freshwater dip to last anywhere from 5-15 minutes as tolerated (I think in the past I’ve gone even longer, but generally shorter FW dips are suggested).

Prepping the FW Dip

For anyone who’s never done a FW dip, it is not scary.   I don’t have RO DI here unless I buy it, so I had to use good ole tap water.  Matched the temperature coming out of the tap with the tank temp, and them measured out 1 gallon.  Dechlorinated it with Seachem’s Prime.  Then checked the pH..

First pH Test

First pH Test, QT tank sample on left, FW Dip water on right.

The results of this first test showed that the FW from the tap (right sample) was just slightly lower than the tank’s pH.  A very small dusting of Seachem’s Reef Buffer was added to the dip water, swirled and aerated for a minute.  I took another test.

Second pH Test, FW dip water on right.

They are now very close, close enough in my opinion, with the FW maybe ever so slightly elevated.  But you can barely tell at all.  Once the pH was matched, the FW dip was “good to go.

But, as I mentioned, I opted to combine FW with Formalin.  While I completed the requisite 3 dip treatment already, if I was continuing on an “every other day” Foramlin dip regime, today would’ve been the day.  So 20 drops of Formalin were added to the FW dip water.

The FW + Formalin Dip

Being aware of timing on a dip is critical.  Not freaking out is also critical.  So, first things first, get the female Maroon out of the tank and into the dip.

Stressed out Maroon Clown in a Freshwater Dip

Into the bucket she goes...

Stressed out Maroon Clownfish in FW Dip

She goes stiff as a board for a minute, all curled up...

Next, look at the time it is and SET AN ALARM for 10 minutes.

beat up old cell phone

Alarm SET!

And now observe the fish’s behavior.  No better way to convey this than video! This first video was maybe 3-4 minutes in.  This is basically how the fish has been acting in the main tank since I found it this evening.

Watch, this was around the 9 minute mark…you’ll hear the alarm go off towards the end.  Note how the fish makes a couple mad dashes in the bucket, and then just goes listless again.  This IS the erratic behavior I mentioned earlier.  The “mad dash” and then nothing.

Shortly after this vid, around 12 minutes, I felt the fish had “had enough” and returned it to the main tank.  It promptly dashed around the tank and wedged itself under live rock again.  But, when I left to come upstairs to document all of this, the fish was looking a tiny bit better, at least now sitting rightside up in the cave, clearly still very stressed.

EDIT – almost forgot – capped off the work with a 5 gallon water change and a full dosing of Kordon’s Fish Protector.  Dosed 5 drops of Formalin as well to make up for the removed water.

But What About the Lightning Maroon?

Yeah, this IS a blog about that awesome little fish, right?  Well, Edgar Diaz of AZ was the only one quick enough with the email trigger to shoot me any thoughts on my predicament this evening.  He made but one suggestion in response to my many questions.  To paraphrase, “Dip the female.  Not the male.  Female is replaceable.  Male isn’t”.

It’s also come to my attention that Jake Adam’s little April 1st prank on Reef Builders STILL has a lot of people thinking that this entire fish is a myth, a photoshop job (or rather several extremely good photoshop jobs).  Well, Jake has been all over me wanting dibs on the first HQ Video of the Lighting Maroon.  Well Jake, it ain’t HD, it ain’t HQ, and it ain’t on Reef Builders.  It’s a tease.  Just enough of a tease to let everyone in the world know that this fish isn’t fabricated (unless I am now the ultimate Adobe After Effects guru, at which point you should just all bow down before me…)

Wet your appetite Jake?

Being down at the TCMAS frag swap today, many folks asked me for clarification…how many Lighting Maroons are there and how many was I actually sent by Blue Zoo Aquatics?

Well, according to Reef Builder’s Jake Adams…there have been two collected.  Three if you count the fish that Jake and Guin helped report about on April 1st, 2010.  Check out the report, here – http://reefbuilders.com/2010/04/01/lightning-maroon-clownfish-collected-seasmart-program/

For those international readers who many not have already gathered, this day is commonly known as “April Fool’s Day”.   Let me tell you know that EVEN I was suspicious that this was one of several exceptional April Fools Pranks perpetrated on the aquarium hobby & industry by Reef Builders Staff.  Nevertheless, Guin Burnard’s exceptional Photoshop Artwork had even this software guy (trained in Photoshop I might ad) to buy…or rather believe…the story.  I say believe, because there’s no way I could “buy it”.  Not after the first financial outlay this week!!!!

So yes, I was sent only 2 Maroon Clownfish.  One was a large female normally-striped PNG Maroon Clownfish, the second was the PNG Lightning Maroon Clown documented on Reef Builders here – http://reefbuilders.com/2010/03/30/lightning-maroon-clownfish-from-blue-zoo-aquatics-will-be-entrusted-to-an-accomplished-fishbreeder/

So that’s ONE legitimate Lighting Maroon Clownfish.

The OTHER legitimate Lightning Maroon Clown was the FIRST ever collected back in 2008, as reported here – http://reefbuilders.com/2008/09/21/wicked-maroon-clownfish-emerges-from-the-png/ – I have heard multiple stories about this fish, but cannot confirm any one to be any more true than the other.  Best to say that from my standpoint, the fate of this first Lightning Maroon is indeterminate.

So that’s TWO legitimate Lightning Maroon Clownfish.  I own one, the other is not something I can currently account for.

The third, as posted on April 1st, was a classic April Fool’s prank.  And such a thoroughly plausible and believable prank that in fact, I was so fully convinced despite my own skepticism that I actually have been left wondering…what was the actual prank?  Was the prank to concoct a 3rd Lightning Maroon, or in fact, was the actual prank to present the real 3rd Lightning Maroon, and then tell us all that sorry, it was just an April Fool’s prank?!

Chew on that for a while ;)

Life Altering Chaos…light getting stuck by lightning!

I’ve been scrambling, working overtime, and bottom line, the timing of this opportunity couldn’t have been worse.  But you can’t really pick when Steven Paul is going to find and collect a unique Papua New Guinea Maroon Clownfish (Premnas biaculeatus), let alone when it’s going to be offered to you.

It’s going to take a couple weeks to get the project website up and running, heck, being an interactive software developer I figured this project was a great excuse to learn to use WordPress.   Forgive me for anything you don’t like about the website, but do speak up.  Be a harsh critic, it will make me a better developer.

Anyone who knows anything about Clownfish breeding knows that we’re on their timetable, and that timetable is often measured in years.   And yet, the entire notion of The Lightning Project was conceived and blessed in 48 hours over email, internet and Fed Ex, all in the name of just sharing my ideas on what I would do IF I were to be the one to own such a fish, never thinking I would.  Lightning has struck in the Pedersen aquariums.

A Platform, A Pulpit, and a Roundtable

Perhaps the most exciting aspect of the Lightning Maroon Clownfish is that the anticipated waiting game gives project contributors and advisors the opportunity and excuse to discuss a myriad of issues ranging from sustainable collection and fair trade to clownfish genetics and the general direction of captive breeding efforts.  No doubt, some will take my decision to be a steward of the Lightning Maroon as a very hypocritical endeavor given my anti-hybrid, anti-guppification stance pertaining to marine fish breeding.  Nothing stirs dialog like a good bit of controversey, right?  Ultimately, it will all be put thrown to the wall, and we’ll see what sticks.  Perhaps the greatest thing that the Lighting Maroon might do is not produce more Lightning Maroons, but act as a magnet and bullhorn for dialog about a more responsible, sustainable, and ethical Marine Aquarium Industry.  Perhaps we may find a better path than whatever one we’re currently on.

A Humble Approach to “The Project” – Let’s Be Realistic

It is my hope to give periodic updates on our little Ambassador from PNG and SEASMART as he (or she?) settles into a new life in captivity.  I will spare no detail, explain my thinking, answer questions, solicit 2nd and 42nd opinions, and document it all.  In this manner, whether the actual goal is achieved, many ancillary benefits will come from this exercise.

Working with something so exceedingly new and rare has been a very thrilling and terrifying prospect, and arguably this is far more responsibility than one lone hobbyist probably should be handed.  While I’ve tackled arguably far more difficult projects, I’ve recognized the simple truth that if things do not go well, my legacy in the aquarium hobby could go from being “the guy who was first to captive breed Harlequin Filefish” to “the guy who killed the Lightning Maroon”.  But, advice that put my mind at ease came from none other than cowboy fishkeeper and outspoken aquarist Jake Adams, who said “Don’t regret the things you try, only regret the things you don’t try.”  Spoken like a true instigator Mr. Adams!

Ultimately it is an honor to have been considered and ultimately accepted as the individual to take charge of this fascinating fish.  It is my opinion that on technical and experiential merits, there were many people far more qualified.  It is my understanding that technical merit was not the ONLY consideration at play when decisions were made.  For what it’s worth, I will be inviting my most trusted breeding colleagues to contribute and function as advisers to the project.  I hope that any jealousies or resentments would be quickly dispelled when the full premise of the project is laid out before them.

Many times now, I’ve considered the reality that hobbyist failures are just as important, if not more so, than successes.  Knowing I have MANY failures in my past breeding efforts, far outweighing my successes, I’ve ultimately decided that 100% transparency in this project, even at the risk of public failure, will still be worth it.  History may decide whether the decisions that brought this fish to me were wise, but regardless, we ALL can learn something from this project.

Always Grateful and In Debted

Finally,  I owe thanks to many people and businesses for this opportunity.  Ret Talbot & Mark Martin, thank YOU for never tiring of the constant communication as we worked this out.  Thanks to the people who put Ret in PNG in the first place!  Steven Paul, thank you for collecting the fish!  Pacific Aqua Farms, SEASMART, and Blue Zoo Aquatics, even Fed Ex, thanks for handling this fish with exceptional care in bringing this fish from the ocean to my home!  Thanks to Jake Adams for your personal cheerleading, and Joe Lichtenbert, for being one of the first Breeding Advisors I knew I could bring into the fold immediately for advice and a second opinion on everything I might do!  Thanks to those people (including Clint Manchester ;) ) who snapped up the fish I offered for sale at a moment’s notice, so I had the funds and tankspace to commit to this adventure.  There will be many, many people to tank in the future, and there are probably already many people I owe gratitude to that I may never ever know.  The best I can offer is my pledge to be above board, and to do my very best to not let you down!

Thank you to all who believe in me and my abilities, I am truly humbled and do not believe for a moment that  I was the ONLY “best choice” for this project.  I will be inviting many other people to advise me.

A Parting Thought from a Benevolent Dictator

Ultimately, this IS my project now, my work, and I’ll be calling the shots.  But I realize that this isn’t about “me”.  This isn’t just my fish, it’s the hobby’s fish, the industry’s fish, Blue Zoo Aquatic’s Fish, Pacific Aqua Farm’s fish, SEASMART’s Fish, Steven Paul’s fish, Papua New Guinea’s fish and before that, good ‘ole Mother Nature’s fish.   I will have a lot of people to answer to if I don’t consistently give this project my best.  Therefore, this is not “my” project,  this is OUR project.  The power of positive thinking has truly fueled some of the accomplishments I’m most proud of, please send all well wishes, good vibes, and extra karma to the SEASMART PNG Ambassador now swimming in my basement.

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