The Lightning Project

The ongoing saga of the PNG Lightning Maroon Clownfish Breeding Project

Browsing Posts tagged Jim Grassinger

So, after last night’s update, I went downstairs and gave the fish a closer look and that’s when I saw something I really didn’t like. The female’s right eye was distended and had a big black splotch on it. There was not a spot of Cryptocaryon on her, which was the “moment” I had been waiting for to move her from the 20 long into her 10 gallon “recuperation” tank with a Red Bubble Tip Anemone that I got from Jim Grassinger. So, I did an abbreviated quick drip acclimation and moved her in. I called it a night.

This morning, well, it’s been chaotic around here. We were supposed to close on a new home on Friday and move this weekend. The seller screwed things up, so closing on Friday didn’t happen. I’ve been working all weekend in the hopes that I could trade the weekend workdays for days off next week (overall, I work for a very understanding and easy going guy who “gets it”. I cannot tell you how lucky and appreciative I am for that). Well, today my wonderful inlaws came over and helped move most everything into 3 trucks and a 17′ UHaul. The fish will all get moved later this week.

I say all this, because it explains why I’ve not been paying closer attention to things. I.e. not noticing that the Kanamycin, which should’ve been here Thursday, was still not here by Saturday. I know the Maracyn SW had not been working for the female’s eye troubles, but I’ve been stuck without any good options to treat it with up here in Duluth. There are NO pet stores open on Sunday in the Duluth region that carry ANY medications. In fact, there’s really only one pet store in the area that does, and they didn’t have Kanamycin. Yes, there are potentially other medications I could try in the interim, so it is my fault for waiting for the Kanamycin to arrive and not having a plan B already in place.

Well, after ignoring my fish most of the day, I went down to check in on the female. It appears to me that her right eye has now ruptured. There’s no coming back from that…this fish will be blind in that eye if that eye even remains. This is a great disappointment, ESPECIALLY because circumstances out of my control have now prevented me from giving her a treatment that could have prevented this. I must admit it, I’m a snob when it comes to broodstock. I want them to be pristine. Not missing an eye.

Of course, really at this point all I can do is hope that the move to a different, well established tank, and the anemone, can help the fish fight off whatever infection has been setting in. If the Kanamycin shows up, I’ll be ready to dose it for sure, and maybe it’ll help. But, it may not. And this fish could end up losing the left eye too.

If the left eye goes, there’s really no use for the fish. We could talk about the ethical and moral merits of continuing to try to keep the fish going, but I’ll say it now, it’ll be time to discuss euthanasia options for this fish. A fish that’s totally blind will have an incredibly hard time living, let alone mating with anything. In the wild, this fish would’ve been dead weeks ago already.

She’s been a fighter. If she can pull through and keep the left eye good I’ll certainly keep her around. The loss of the right eye is admittedly a setback, a really disappointing blow. I did take some pictures for all of you to look at her in her new home this evening.

So, plans have been in motion.  So many plans that in fact I’m not sure I laid them all out!

The most pressing issue remains the female PNG Maroon and her never-ending health battle.  Today, Monday, she’s decided to swim around more, to possibly eat better, but also to develop cloudiness in both eyes now.

My plan for the female started maybe a few days ago, and Boomer reminded me a bit of something I was already working on, and that is moving the female out of the main 20 gallon tank.  I’m honestly getting the vibe that the 20 long may be causing as much harm as good.  Boomer specifically expressed concerns about even the slightest elevated ammonia levels.  For me, it’s more about going back to some of those earlier comments that talked about the notion / concept / theory that wild caught clownfish are best served by being placed directly into host anemones.

Well, I picked up a large RBTA (Red Bubble Tip Anemone) from Jim Grassinger (  I cleared out the 10 gallon that was being used to rear Black Ocellaris babies (at one point 150+) and gave it some serious water changes.  It’s lit with twin tube HO T5′s, so there’s arguably sufficient lighting for the nem and then some.  This tank will be the destination, the “recovery spa” if you will, for the female PNG Maroon clownfish.   Of course, provided she makes it this far.

RBTA and Caulerpa

Possible future recovery room for the female PNG Maroon Clowfish.

And for the female, yesterday I removed some of the live rock to aid in my daily cleanup of uneaten food.  It could help her with foraging for food as well, but I’ve yet to see her actually eat anything off the bottom.  Today she got a water change, but this time, makeup water was at full strength.  She was again dosed with Maracyn SW this evening.  Fin rot has definitely stopped, but as I mentioned at opening, we now have cloudy eyes on both sides.  The female also looks fat, which is alarming to me, because I don’t think she’s eating enough to account for the “robust” look to her belly.  More likely, internal bacterial problems, which means this fish isn’t going to make it to the “spa”.   Take a look for yourself…what do YOU think?

Female Maroon as of 4-19-2010

Same date and time, just the other side...

But let’s not forget the “male”, the Lightning Maroon.  First off, let me say that the great sex debate has been rekindled anew.  I for one am still convinced that the fish is male, but I AM aware of the potential serious side effects this could have for the Lighting Maroon if I’m wrong.  For those who missed it, I have separated the Lightning Maroon Clownfish from his PNG Female over health concerns.  He currently resides in his bachelor(ette) pad in my “SPS” tank.

Lightning Maroon Clownfish in a breeder net

The Lightning Maroon Clownfish in his "breeder net" bachelor pad, with 3 bubble tip anemones.

I had mused last time about keeping the “social pressure” on this fish to keep it male.  I honestly believe that having the PNG female in the same tank, even with the divider, was sufficient.   Well, I never got around to printing out a picture of a large Maroon Clownfish to stick outside the basket.  Instead, this evening I obtained a truly massive Maroon Clownfish, who we’ll call the Labrador Clown, courtesy of Frank  & Mary.  Frank genuinely does not know how long he’s had this fish, but it’s measured in years.  Frank got it when he bought up a used 75 gallon tank, so you know this fish has been around the block and then some.

The plan is simple.  House this “clean”, well established Maroon Clown in the same tank as the Lightning Clownfish to maintain that social pressure.  Under no uncertain terms, I will not be allowing them to “play”, even if somehow the Lightning Maroon gets out of the net, past 2 layers of netting, and into the tank with this big clownfish.

But first, the reality is that the tank already houses clownfish…a pair of Red Saddleback, aka. Fire Clownfish, Amphiprion ephippium.

Amphiprion ephippium

The Male Sumatran Fire Clownfish

Now, these clowns have been in this tank for months and I know they’re a pair.  But they’re never together and never spawning.  Why?  Because for some reason, the Pymgy Anglefish Male (Centropyge argi) HATES the smaller Fire Clown and keeps him pinned in the upper back left corner (as you can see in the picture above).

Well, I got them both out, and they went into the tank that used to house my Latezonatus clownfish!  Again, just a reminder, I KNOW these Fire Clowns are a pair despite never seeing any of the “pair bonding” activity, and in fact the “pair” generally inhabiting opposite sides of the SPS tank.  Well, this move is probably a good thing for the Fire Clowns and my efforts with them.  Donchathink?

Fire Clownfish in a new, quieter home.

The Fire clowns are in fact behaving as if they’re finally a pair, and finally have a place to call their own.  And that freed me up for the last bit of shuffling fish for the evening.  Drip acclimating Frank & Mary’s Labrador Maroon (they call it the Labrador because it’s big and greedy at feeding time, akin to a Chocolate Labrador they own)

The Labrador Maroon Clownfish in the bucket!

I won’t go into great detail about Frank’s fishing excursion to catch this Maroon…I’ll simply reiterate that a) I own Frank a baby from the Lightning Maroon if I ever get any, and b) again, thank you Frank.  Again, the plan for this fish is to simply swim around the Lightnig Maroon’s breeder net and look intimidating…not much else.  If I really needed to, I could try pairing them, but to pair the PNG Lightning Maroon Clownfish with a “generic” White Striped Maroon wouldn’t be the best mate, and wouldn’t be in accordance with the project objectives I laid out.

One final note…check out those dark gray bars on the Labrador Clown.   I wonder if this dark-dark-dark coloration will hold.  We’ll see…

So honestly, having been cut off from the newbie crack trapthat is Reef Central by the dealer itself years ago, I’m at times unfamiliar with all the personalities associated with it.  RC, with it’s huge marketshare in the “online reef community” department, is one of those places where folks at times make a name for themselves (whether inadvertently or intentionally).  There are many talented people out there who I simply do not know because I no longer spend one iota of time on Reef Central.

One such “RC” personality that I had zero familiarity with before this week is Boomer.  Boomer happens to be a local, and it turns out we share many of the same acquaintances.  Anyone who can share a humorous anecdote about himself, Christine Williams, and a MACNA, well, if you’re willing to admit how close you came to making a fool out of yourself and to laugh about it later, you’re good in my book.

At any rate, Jim Grassinger (The Filter Guys, another local here in Duluth MN) knew Boomer was back in town, and when he saw things going south with the female PNG Maroon, suggested that Boomer have a look (per Jim, Boomer is, hands down, our area’s expert on marine fish disease, although I think Boomer’s more widely known as an expert on the topic of chemistry in general).  To make a long story short, I got on the phone with Boomer on Friday and I think we had to “feel each other out”.  Boomer had only skimmed the blog (reading the whole thing is probably already a monumental task) and had picked up on my musings, confusing some of my “thoughts” as being actual actions I had taken along the way.  Once we had cleared up what I had and had not done, things were much easier to talk about.

Well finally this afternoon, Boomer got to make a house call after our club ( meeting.  And here’s where I get to actually talking about the status of the Lighting Maroon project.  Boomer of course was insistent on catching a good glimpse of the Lighting Maroon…a tiny finger poke was all it took to get him out of the RBTA to show off.  Let’s just say Boomer approved and after a close visual inspection, signed off on the fish being in perfect condition.  From MY standpoint, the fish is not yet “perfect”.  I would argue that the Lighting Maroon is taking too much time buried in the Red Bubble Tip Anemone, not willing to dart out to grab food as it drifts to the bottom of the net.  Overall, I want a more aggressive, settled in fish.  Health wise, appears perfect.  Deportment wise, a bit too timid for my tastes at this time.  Clearly not 100% happy with his new, confined home, but I think taking some solace in having 3 anemones.

After that, Boomer got down and gave the female PNG Maroon a good close look.  I’m paraphrasing of course, but again, here’s the jist.  Boomer expected to see a Maroon Clownfish suffering from Brooklynella, with mucus and skin sloughing off.  Boomer remarked on the cloudy right eye, which my friends is a NEW development today…was not there yesterday and something I had noticed this morning.  The cloudy eye lends further credence to my concerns about visual impairment, and in fact, it would seem that the Maroon only “strikes food” it can see with its left eye, but only at the last second.  Blindness, whether full or partial, is a legitimate concern at this point.

Boomer’s prognosis was perhaps more optimistic than my own.  Even though the female barely ate anything today, he felt the fish was on the path to recovery yet again, and WOULD recover if I stayed the course of treatment I’m on now.

Me, I’m not so sure.  While Boomer may be right about “recovery”, it could still be that I wind up with a battle weary, half blind Maroon Clown that is past its prime.  This fish may not have enough left to make a good candidate for broodstock.  I’m not writing this fish off at this point, but I am continuing to ask Mark Martin to plan on setting aside a couple more PNG Maroons to ship in a few week’s time.

Which brings me to the last closing thoughts for the time being.  Specifically, concerns about trying to pair up another PNG Maroon.  First Joe Lichtenbert, and then John Witt, both emailed to suggest that I find an Aquacultured Maroon Clown female to pair with this fish.  And I’m not writing off that suggestion.  The reality is that leaving the fish in solitude raises concerns about it turning female.  That concern might be unfounded based on the premise that reproductively speaking, it is better to remain a male if you are single.  That way, you are better positioned to accept and mate with whatever fish mother nature throws your way in the wild.  That makes a good theory, but I can’t say if it’s actually what would happen.  It’s like saying a female Anthias or Wrasse won’t turn male unless a female is present.  I don’t know that to be true or false, but I wouldn’t risk it.

Nevertheless, pairing with an Aquacultured Female would present the following considerations.  It’s NOT a PNG Maroon, and that goes against one of my personal project goals (which is maintaining a PNG bloodline).  Breeders are quick to point out that THIS is in fact a temporary setback, and would not be a total failure, and they’re right.  There are upsides.  The upsides include not risking disease exposure, at least not at the level another WC clownfish might present if paired prematurely (rest assured, any WC Maroon would go through the same QT period as these guys already did, if not more so).  The other upside is that providing a female Maroon would enforce another objective, which is to keep the fish MALE.  And in this, perhaps it’s a trump card over the other concerns.  Is it more important at this point to keep the PNG Bloodlines intact, or to keep the Lightning Maroon a male?

Arguably, I would say it’s more important to keep the fish a male.  I haven’t quite figured out how this would work, but I THINK I know where I can get a well established Maroon Clown, a large one.  I’d have to move my fire clowns out of the tank, and give the female Maroon free reign of the SPS tank, and I would probably leave the male in the net.  I *think* I could pull this off, and as an insurance measure this might be a wise plan.

The other, somewhat more “outlandish” idea, is to print out a picture of a female Maroon, simply a LARGE SIZED image really, and stick it right outside the breeder net on the glass.  I will probably do this ASAP.  While it lacks the direct phyisical contact, it may in fact be just enough psychological pressure to keep the Lightning Maroon “male” until a real female can be thrown into the mix again.

Finally, before I forget, I do need to mention that while late today, the female’s tank was given another 5 gallon water change and a late treatment with Maracyn SW.  There are a few more days of treatment expected.  I am still strongly considering a “plan b” for her as well.

Early this morning, before leaving for Easter brunch with Renee’s family, I snuck a look @ the Maroon Clowns.  To my dismay, it appeared that the female had spots of ICH (Cryptocaryon irritans) on her now?  Seriously?  Or maybe this is just spots of Velvet (Amyloodinium ocellatus)?  At this point, nothing would surprise me, but then again, I am really ticked off that things are not going BETTER at this point.  All three possible parasitic infestations, be it Marine Ich, Marine Velvet, or Brooklynella (Brooklynella hostilis), are all treatable with Formalin.  So even if I’ve misdiagnosed this completely, it shouldn’t matter.  I’m optimistic with my choice of action to deal with this, but honestly getting impatient.

The tank had become a bit cloudy by morning, largely owing to the death of various invertebrates from the formalin dosing (sadly, bye bye mushrooms that were on the live rock).  I dosed the tank with 20 drops of Chloram-X from Reed Mariculture as an ammonia controlling precaution, and left for the brunch.

Upon returning this afternoon, the female looked better and both fish were out and swimming.  Still, things needed to be done.  Jim Grassinger is a local hobbyist and is the guy who gave my Blue Jaw Triggerfish a home so I had a devoted tank for this project.   He is also the proprietor of  A couple days ago Jim had dropped off a massive quantity of miscellaneous used aquarium equipment to go through and do with as I pleased (might use some in the future fishroom, might repurpose or repair other items for a myriad of things, including possible giveaways to our recently revitalized local club, the Lake Superior Marine Aquarium Club).

While riffling through all the stuff Jim dropped off, I had noticed a smaller Seaclone 100 Protein Skimmer.  I’d been running it on a 5 gallon bucket since last night to test it out, and it appears to be working.  So I threw this skimmer on the 20 gallon QT tank.  I know they don’t have good reputations for “maximum performance”, but at hyposaline conditions (SG = 1.010) I don’t expect much skimmate to collect anyway.  I’m largely doing this as an easy way to add extra gas exchange to their tank, important especially if these parasite infestations are continuing.  But who knows…with all that “death” in the tank, I could indeed collect some foam!  Better safe that sorry.

I’m not delaying, the pair has been placed into their second formalin dip as I type this…2 gallons of water, 40 drops of Formalin (2 ml Formalin into 2 gallons tank water) with aeration and an egg crate divider (so they can’t beat each other up during the dip).  They’ll stay in the dip for 45 minutes unless they show signs of stress sooner.

I’m already planning up another water change to siphon out any decaying inverts and uneaten food currently in the tank.  Will probably do that while they’re in the dip.  Being a 5 gallon water change, 5 more drops of formalin will be added along with the new water (which is still at 1.01o).

PNG Maroon Clownfish in the second of a 3 course formalin dip treatment.

The PNG Maroon Clowns are in their second of three every-other-day formalin dips.

Overall, they still look in GOOD shape, but I’m not taking chances, and I feel I’m doing everything I can to keep these fish clean.  I just really, really need to see them start eating soon here – if fish are eating, they’re hopefully not depleting precious fat reserves.  Will try feeding again later this evening.

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