The Lightning Project

The ongoing saga of the PNG Lightning Maroon Clownfish Breeding Project

Browsing Posts tagged maracyn

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.

There has been a lot going on – the Lightning Maroon actually came down with yet ANOTHER recurrent bacterial infection, we removed the Butterflyfish from the tank, I started treatments with Maracyn & Maracyn II back on Sunday night which restored the Lightning’s appetite and appears to have fought back the problem.  All the while they have been tending their nest.

So will the eggs hatch tonight?  I wasn’t planning for a hatch so-soon, but looking at the fact that the eggs showed eyes yesterday and are looking pretty silvery tonight, I’m seriously wondering.  It’s up in the air…clownfish hatch times can vary between pairs even if all other items remain the same.  That said, here’s a quick rundown of data scrubbed from the MBI (Marine Breeding Initiative Database) by simply viewing the “hatch” reports for Premnas biaculeatushttp://www.mbisite.org/Search.aspx?Species=17

83F = 6 days
28C (82.4F) = 8 days
81F = 5 days
30C (86F) = 5 days
78-80F = 7 days
78F = 8 days
79-80F = 6 days

So what does this all mean?  Well, the above data set is still pretty small, but it suggests that I could had a hatch as early as yesterday.   Other than the one odd 8 day one at 28C, the rest paint a pretty convincing picture of “higher temps” = “shorter incubation times”.  With the lovely data logging capabilities of my Apex Lite controller, I was able to log in and see that my temperatures have ranged pretty consistently between 79.5 and 81.2 – that all points to a high probability of a hatch tonight.  I’m not sure whether I will pull the tile, or wait to see the first hatchlings in the tank and THEN pull the tile.  Tough deciisons to make.

I’m off to prepare.

 

Ruling things out.

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Another quick followup – last night I set to ruling out one possible cause – a disrupted nitrogen cycle.  In looking at the tank, I honestly had no reason to suspect any actual problems, except of course this recurrent cloudy / infected eye issue occurring with both fish now.  One possible cause however, could certainly be the presence of elevated levels of ammonia or nitrite.  This could easily be explained by the 2 recent rounds of treatment with Maracyn & Maracyn II in the tank.  Part of me would’ve been very happy to find either, because it would give me a likely cause to latch onto and deal with.

Of course, ammonia and nitrite tests both came up with nothing; both tests showed 0 ppm, or basically undetectable levels.  I still decided to dose the aquarium with a full treatment utilizing Dr. Tim’s Nitrifying Bacteria; I had a lot leftover from the initial setup of tanks for Banggai Rescue.  The thought process is this; we may simply be looking at “negative” bacteria levels being elevated, and possibly we can “push out” or displace these bacteria with more “friendly” strains and types that are beneficial to the system.  There is no doubt that the tank HAD to have been compromised in some capacity during the anti-bacterial treatments; in every respect I see no downside to trying this.  I had been thinking about it for a while but honestly can’t remember if I did it or not prior, but I’m able to go on and definitely say I treated the tank with this product last night.  I should also mention that I used this product with perceived good results for Banggai Rescue’s tanks; I can honestly say that I did not confirm the existence of a single tank out of 12+ going through a cycle.  In other words, this product appears to fully make good on its claims to instantly cycle and establish a new tank.  While the price tag is far more than other competing products, there does seem to be a genuine difference (whether that difference justifies the increased price, and whether this works better than competing products like Seachem’s Stability  is certainly something I cannot say without actual scientific testing).  Overall, I’ve come to learn that Dr. Tim’s has an excellent reputation in talking with some other aquarists whose opinions I trust, and those unofficial endorsements and other experiences seem to bolster my own.

As of this morning, the eye is still cloudy…

Popeye Update

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Just a quick update as I’ve simply not had time to take pictures, nor get the permissions I’ve asked for.  In a nutshell, once again, we *may* have adverted a crisis.  I’ve been consulting a fish vet for the past few days, and for lack of a better way of explaining it, there are lots of things a vet would want to do to a fish in this condition that aren’t practical.  Not practical in so much as the vet I’ve been talking with is 3 hours away, and can’t be here on site to see the fish even if I could afford to compensate the vet for the trip and time combined.  The other practical issue is one of risk and probabilities; netting a fish with an infected eye is never a good idea, and as I learned, a swab of the eye would likely yield no pathogens anyways as the causative agent is probably largely internal.  Plus, if there is an ongoing infection of the eye itself, I could easily see a swab somehow popping the eye and well, making matters worse.  In the end, it is my opinion that while consulting with a vet made for a very good sounding board and gave me some new things to consider, without the direct interaction, there was little if anything different the vet would’ve had me do.  Plus, considering I was seeing some improvements as we were consulting, it’s difficult for any doctor to suggest a change if what’s being done outwardly appears to be working.  I get that, 100%.  And on the topic of prevention – minimize stress, maximize good water quality. No surprise, I’ve been doing that for years.  So I think none of us have even a guess as to why this is happening, which means that every hypothesis we’ve put forth could be valid.

So yesterday (Tuesday) was the last dose in the 5 day course of Maracyn and Maracyn II, which I ran only weeks prior for the mouth rot.  I’ve been feeding the Dr. G’s food daily; I’ve made this judgement call to feed at twice the package’s recommendation based on several things, but perhaps most importantly that the Lightning Maroon isn’t an aggressive feeder (never really has been) and thus, it’s difficult to get this fish to eat as much as  you might think it should within a 1-minute time window (as prescribed by the food’s directions).  Still, it’s important to note that this food introduces both Metronidozole and Kanamycin to the mix, and it is again reef safe as far as I can tell.

The downside here is that the Lightning Maroon’s interest in food was diminished today, so getting a fish to eat the medicated food is obviously a problem.  The pair however, has been cleaning like crazy…for all I know the pair could wind up spawning (my female Percula often has a diminished appetite in the day or tow prior to a spawn).

The actual eye – much improved and it would seem that there isn’t any vision loss.  There is still some tissue bulging out around the eye however, which made me reluctant to stop the treatment with Erythromycin and Monocycline (active ingredients of Maracyn and Maracyn II).  I’m trusting the vet on this one.

Here’s the real worry, and sadly this does make some sense.  Mycobacteriosus.  Both the female Maroon I first had so many problems with, and then the Morse-Code Maroon, basically shared similar afflictions (pop eye and mouth rot respectively) that I have encountered in none of my other marine fish.  Yes, that’s it.  NEVER.  I cannot recall ever having popeye in another marine fish here, and certainly not mouth rot.  So why would 3 out of 6 PNG Maroons be the only fish in my entire household to ever wind up with these diseases?  Well, it’s much more understandable if we view this as a pathogen that they were all exposed to before they came to me.  We know that Mycobacterium can lay dormant in fish for a long time, which could also explain why the Lightning Maroon has gone this long without issues.  If it IS Mycobacterium behind the external and recurring symptoms I’m seeing, well, that could be *it* for the Lightning Maroon no matter what I do.  It’s a very harsh theory to even consider, and even more alarming given that the theory happens to explain a whole heck of a lot of the issues I’d had, let alone also possibly explaining why these problems are isolated to a small group of fish from one species from one location, where half of them have had semi-common symptoms.

For now, please just send all those positive vibes.  The tank got a 10 gallon water change today, and hopefully the Lightning Maroon remains on the road to recovery.  Let’s get several more good years with her if we can.

I believe I shot these Sunday AM.

 

It is now Monday AM, and honestly, things are improving.  The appetite of the Lightning Maroon remains strong, which I’ve used to ensure that it continues to feed on the Dr. G’s antibacterial formula.  I should preface this by saying that the Lightning Maroon has always been a timid feeder, so food generally has to flow right by its face / into its territory for it to feed.  So I’m definitely not following the Dr. G. feeding protocol (as much as they can eat in one minute, every other day).

In talking with the man behind Dr. G’s feeds, the feeds are set up to roughly deliver a “minimum effective dose”.  In the case of the anti-parasite Dr. G. formulation (which is laced with Chloroquin Posphate), you can quadruple the feeding regime (twice per day vs. once every other day) and have no ill-effects on the fish (although the Dr. doesn’t recommend that).  Knowing how most every antibiotic is normally delivered, it honestly doesn’t make sense to dose every-other day via feed, so I’m going to feed the food once per day to maintain antibiotic levels.  It’s worth mentioning that the active ingredients in the Dr. G formula are Kanamycin and Metronidozole.

All in all, this means that I have no less than 4 antibiotics running around.  I’ve been talking with two fish vets who I’ll refrain from naming for the time being.  One has of course, expressed concern over the “shotgun” approach, understandably so.  For me, I’m thinking that the repeat of the Maracyn & Maracyn II are probably of little efficacy, but they were what I had on hand to immediately address the problem.  Still, I am more likely to credit the Dr. G’s as the moment, if only because positive progress only started being made once it was introduced to the regime starting on Saturday evening.  Still, it could be the other medications.

The main goal here is twofold – #1. effectively cure this latest round of garbage.  #2. figure out WHY it’s happening soas to prevent it.  As of Monday AM, the eye looks better (less white stuff), so maybe we will get through this latest bout again.  But I’m fully wondering what the heck is causing the fish to break down repeatedly.  Mechanical damage? Food?

Or could we even be looking at an old-age, immuno-compromized fish?  Afterall, they DON’T live forever, they are NOT immortal.  Could it simply be that the Lightning Maroon is an older fish, nearing it’s time, and all my drastic measures are simply staving off the inevitable?  I hope not.

Despite all this, the male is cleaning the tile like crazy.

 

I’ve spent all day at a frag swap doing fundraising for our local club, and I come home to see that the antibiotics do not appear to have made any progress at preventing the advancement of this latest round of problems.  I took photos, which I will post later, as I am simply exhausted, but the status update is quite simple – I would fully expect that the left eye will be a loss.  It is far too diseased.  Despite this, the Lightning Maroon is still eating, and was given Antibiotic-laced food I have here from Dr. G’s.

I must admit, logically thinking this through, it should come as no surprise that the antibiotics I have on hand do not appear to be doing anything…because anything that was succeptible was probably killed off in the last round.  So the question goes…do I move the fish and try a different antibiotic, or do I draw the line in the sand here.  Perhaps the most frustrating part in all of this is that in times like these, I find myself “playing veterinarian”, and yet I’m hardly qualified.  And yet, I’m also not sure that an actual trained fish vet could do any better?

It also bears mentioning that this is eirely similar to the eye infection that ultimately took out the original female PNG Maroon.  “Why I’m running through the gamut of fatal disease issues I first encountered with other wild maroons from PNG some 2 years in?”, is a very frustrating question to even be asking right now.

I promised photos, and I took them.  I ended up not doing any subsequent antibiotic treatments, so I basically ran one day longer with the Maracyn SW than called for, and Maracyn II went the full course.  I didn’t have a very cooperative photograph subject, but these photos of the Lightning Maroon were take on Thurdsay, May 3rd, 2012.

Lightning Maroon Clownfish

Lightning Maroon Clownfish

You can see the difference in the right upper maxilary…certainly scarred at this point, but not the raging infection.  And the appetite returned.  Plus, on Friday, the Lightning Maroon saw fit to go on a rampage of the sandbed, moving Goniopora and other corals around that had been left alone for months.

It’s 3:15 AM, Thursday, May 3rd, I really should be in bed, but I know folks are wanting updates ;)

Monday, April 30th, 2012

By Monday, it seemed that nothing was progressing, and towards the evening, the slightly more “bold” Lightning Maroon personality had returned.  I did a 5 gallon water change and once again dosed the tank with both Maracyn and Maracyn II, both the marine / saltwater formulations.

It is interesting to note that I had a loss by this point – an Acropora frag that had been browned out for months, and had a little bit of cyanobacteria growing on it, well, that coral kicked the bucket during this treatment.  IRONICALLY, it almost appears as if the Pink Birdsnest and Sour Apple Birdsnest are showing more intense coloration than ever…could be the water changes, could be something in the medication…hard to say at the moment.  But I really want to hit home the efficacy of these two anti-bacterial products and their very apparent relative safety in reef tanks.  Hobbyists are always scrambling for reef-safe medications, and in this case, I think you have very safe anti-bacterial agents to treat suspected bacterial infections in a reef tank.  IF you must.

Tuesday, May 1st, 2012

Officially a crazy day in the Pederson household.  By this point I was probably telling those who inquired privately that I was slowly gaining optimism that my course of treatment had been effective.  Overall, I barely looked at the tank though other than to treat it.

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012.

Another day of simply being very busy and stretched thin…our first summer-like day in Duluth had me spending most of my freetime in the afternoon trying to do some much needed outdoor work in the wind of opportunity that presented itself.  Plus I’ve been busy with my work on the Banggai Rescue project.  I did take a quick peak at the Lightning Maroon and dare I say it, it does appear that the infected areas of the maxillary are possibly even healing?  It could quite well turn out that the fish may not lose the maxillary as I had feared, and quite possibly, it may not even be scarred when it’s all said and done?

Before I knew it, 2:00 AM had already arrived and I had neglected to treat the Lightning Maroon.  So I did a 5 gallon water change, and treated the tank.  According to the manufacturer’s recommended treatment regimes, I’ve gone one extra day with the Maracyn and have completed the Maracyn II treatment course as well, albeit slightly late there at the by about 12 hours!

So what’s next?

The biggest question at the moment is whether I continue to treat with the antibiotics.  Instructions on the packaging say to treat for 5 days even if symptoms disappear.  But what if maybe they haven’t?  Do I keep going?  I may make some calls, ask around, or just by myself personal comfort time by going yet one more day.  Afterall, there are diseases in humans that we have to treat with 30-day long antibiotic courses – I absolutely do not want to stop prematurely.

I obviously owe you all pictures.  That will be on my to-do list for tomorrow when I wake up.

The long-term question is how do I prevent this from recurring.  The concern is that while I perhaps got lucky and made the right decisions this first time around, if it comes back, it may be harder to treat (due to built up resistance).  Obviously these fish already receive the most attention in the house most days, and are always the first to receive care and maintenance.  And yet I still had a problem with a bacterial infection.

Most of the time, we think of bacterial infections as being caused by poor water quality.  But the reality there is that I maintain close to sps-level water parameters, have a good skimmer, etc.  So what could be going on here?

One of the things that had occurred to me is my use of very low-level vodka dosing.  We know that carbon-dosing elevates bacterial populations and in doing so, helps “bind up” our nitrates in the actual bacterial mass. But could the carbon-dosing also cause elevated levels of pathogenic bacteria, and have indirectly caused this to happen?  Obviously I’ve stopped vodka dosing during the entire treatment because I don’t have any effective skimmer at the moment (treatment with these antibiotics causes the skimmer to go truly haywire..I’m just letting it all spill back into the tank).  My vodka dosing was at extremly low levels (1 drop per day) but still, maybe that was too much.

Of course, the above is entirely conjecture, just a hypothesis at best.  The other possible things to look at IS the introduction of the tile.  I have legitimate concerns that the Lightning Maroon perhaps damaged its mouth when trying to evict the tile from its territory.  If in fact the tile was indirectly related, I am hoping that its ongoing presence has simply become accepted, and thus, will no longer cause violent objections to its presence in their territory.

And then there’s another thing we must consider.  As with all wild caught fish, we have no clue how old they are.  In the case of a Clownfish, I recall reading scientific documentation of a wild-caught Percula being 32 years of age.  Most probably live far less, but still, if you live your life as a male, and your female lives a long time too, well, you stay small and live a long time.  It is quite possible that our Lighting Maroon could be 5, 10, 20 years old already.  There is, quite sadly, the possibility that the Lighting Maroon *could* already be old, and thus, could be slowly starting to slide downhill.  Let’s hope it never comes to that, yet it is inevitable that sooner or later, the Lightning Maroon IS going to die. Realistically, odds are more likely that the Lightning Maroon was perhaps on the younger side of things, but then again, you don’t really know.  When she does finally pass on, I’ve already committed to contributing her to scientific research.

So that’s where things stand.  Please keep sending the well-wishes, as I am not going to make George W. Bush’s mistake and declare “mission accomplished” just yet.

 

Friday, April 27, 2012.

I’ll keep this short and bittersweet. In the last 24 hours the Lightning Maroon has developed a pretty rapid spreading case of what appears to be mouth rot. You may recall a similar situation occurring with the Morse-Code Maroon, and that did not end well.

The biggest question is WTF – or more appropriately, WHY?! Did I introduce a pathogen from the Onyx Percula tank? It’s possible, but that group of fish has been disease free for who knows how long, and would qualify to be every bit as QT’d as the Lightning Maroon. PLUS, the Four Eye Butterflyfish that they reside with was taken from the Onyx Perc’s tank originally. So odds are that there was nothing new introduced.

Does it have something to do with the eggs? Could be. Could be that eating fungused eggs exposed the fish to elevated bacterial / fungal levels which in turn has led to infection. Or it could be the tile surface is somehow abrading the lips as they clean, and again opening a pathway to infection.

Or could it be something more sinister? If I’m blunt, perhaps the pop-eye I saw earlier on was not in fact a “bruise”, cauesed by mechanical damage, but was in fact an early warning sign for infection. If I really read some of the symptoms listed out, it actually sounds like a disease called Ichthyophonus hoferi, which is an internal fungal infection, with the exception being that the Lightning Maroon is not exhibiting any of the erratic behavioral symptoms.

However, this disease does most closely match the symptoms of classic mouth-rot, which is treatable with Erythromycin (one of the rarer ones). In fact, you can pick up a package of Maracyn SW and pretty much it deals with all of these symptoms. I keep it on hand, and I’ve found it to be very reef-safe, so without hesitation, I removed the carbon and dosed the tank today with the first dose of Maracyn SW. As of this evening, I have seen no improvement, and in fact, it does appear that the Lightning Maroon lost it’s appetite tonight. This is NOT GOOD.

I am toying with the notion of removing the egg tile. I’m looking at the Aiptasia in their vicinity and wondering if I need to eradicate those as well (haven’t caused any problems before, so why would they now…but maybe I still should). I am thinking of hitting both the Gram Positive AND Gram Negatives by including Maracyn II SW (Maracyn hits Gram Positive infections). I’m thinking about moving the fish into a well established QT tank. The options are endless, but it’s a situation like this where I hate being the fish vet, because the long-standing hobbyist in me has not seen a tremendous success rate in treating these types of infections. Of course, in the last 7 years, there has been only one other fish to have this issue…and that was another PNG Maroon. What are the odds?

All fish will die, that’s a given fact. But damnit, I will be really bummed if this is how the story of the Lightning Maroon comes to pass. And yeah, I’m really going WTF…this is the type of disease that really just should never happen in a clean, well maintained system. WTF?!

Saturday, April 28th

I half expected to wake up to a dead Lightning Maroon, but it wasn’t. It’s appetite was “not great”. So one of the big questions here is how to turn this around. I started medicating with Maracyn SW yesterday, but that only treats gram-positive bacterial infections. While the symptoms match up well with the symptoms of diseases Maracyn is supposed to treat, would it actually work?

And so, I embarked on a search for the companion product, Maracyn II SW. The active ingredient is Monocycline. I was 30 minutes into a 6 hour round trip to the only store in the Twin Cities that had the medication on hand (Ocean Devotion), when I got a call back from local reefer Frank Wotruba saying he had it on-hand. Shortly therafter, Jay Hansen also called saying he had it on hand. This is a great example of the benefits of being am actively participating member of a marine aquarium club.

I picked up a package of Maracyn II SW from Frank, and headed home. I had put in a call to Sentry AQ, the current manufacturers of Mardel aquarium medications, as I wanted to confirm that I could use Maracyn SW in conjunction with Maracyn II SW. The woman who I spoke with was kind, if not helpful, as the fish guy was out to lunch. I never did get a call back despite leaving my information, but later I found an acceptable answer on the website:

“Yes, Mardel Maracyn can be used in conjunction with almost all Mardel fish medications. The only exception would be Maracyn Plus. (We do not recommend using another antibiotic with Maracyn Plus.)”

This means that the two can be conjoined, and so, without delay, I added in the first dosage of Maracyn II for marine fish to the Lightning Maroon’s tank.  I think we’re looking at a pretty strong case to be made that both these anti-biotics are completely reef safe…although your water will glow yellow with the blue lighting.

Sunday, April 29th, 2012

Once again I woke up expecting to find a dead Lightning Maroon. The spread of the mouth rot seems to have stopped, but there is definitely necrotic tissue breakdown happening. It is possible that even if I save the fish, it will loose at minimum the upper right maxillary. Thankfully that’s not a problem for a fish; they actually use maxillary clips in young salmonids to help with strain and year class identification in hatchery fish. Still, outwardly, things do not look any BETTER. Yes, I have contemplated surgery.

Knowing that Maracyn II SW treats gram negative bacteria, and knowing that will more likely impact biological filtration, I did a 10 gallon water change around noon.  The Onyx Perc eggs hatched overnight, and the fish overall are ignoring the tile.  I did use some Tropic Marin ElimAptasia to knock back the larger anemones…while the fish might be protected, I wonder if the infected area is getting stung by the Aiptasia and screwing up the healing process.  After this work, I dosed with both Maracyn SW and Maracyn II SW. So this is day 3 for Erythromycin, and day 2 for Monocycline.  And yes, looking back at the Morse Code Maroon now, I know I switched to this combination of medications after Kanamycin failed to give me any results.  If I am dealing with an internal fungal infection, particular the type that can be introduced through the feeding of raw fish (I have no clue what foods, if any that I have, contain raw fish), there is little I can do as far as my reading suggests.  Still, I may have to switch here and go to a hospital tank if what I’m doing at this point fails to work.  Yes, I am thinking of plan B now.

I truly have no clue how this will all turn out, and I am beyond frustrated. That said, I’m also completely confident that I’m doing the best I can with the materials I have, so there’s no burden of guilt here. Solely the stress of fighting off what could be the end of a 2 year effort to breed this magnificent fish.

It’s now 1:00 AM on March 2nd.  The reason you hadn’t heard about the February 28th planned move of the Lightning Maroon into the new final digs is that it didn’t happen yet.  Short and sweet – left Thursday for Dallas and Next Wave (put on by DFWMAS).  The plan was to be back on Sunday night.  Of course, due to freezing rain, I got stranded in Chicago.  Of course, flights to Duluth are sporadic and with the cancellation, I think the direct Monday flight was booked before I even managed to get off the plane!  So TWO days spent in Chicago to get a flight home…thankfully the company I work for is in Chicago so I spent 2 days at the office and with family.

Well, finally, after a very over extended trip, I return home.  Everyone is asleep but my wife wakes up to welcome me home.  The first thing I notice in my rounds is that the Ecoxotic has been taken over by hair algae in just 5 short days.  I go downstairs to check on the fish and turn off the lights.   When I get to the Lightning Maroon’s cage, it is nowhere to be found.  I think my eyes are playing tricks on me, so I pull the cage out of the tank.  It’s EMPTY.

Surprisingly, I think I handled it pretty well.  I asked my wife if she had seen the fish and she said she hadn’t noticed it go missing but hadn’t been paying really close attention.  I wound up tearing apart the entire tank (lights were already out) and after a little bit of searching, found the Lightning Maroon tucked in the back.  I netted it and then noticed that its fins were quite tattered…definitely the result of being in the tank with the 3 Centropyge argi.

So, “screw it”.  The Lightning Maroon was moved tonight.  It was drip acclimated which resulted in a 5 gallon water change.  3 large Turbo snails from the Lightning’s original home were brought over as well to help deal with the hair algae issue.  I removed the carbon and the skimmer cup and dosed the tank with Maracyn as a preventative and to knock back a little bit of Cyanobacteria (red slime) that was also showing up in the tank.

Frankly, how a fish gets out of a well-covered cage is beyond me.  Of course, last week I found the crispy body of a female Mandarin who ALSO managed to jump out of a screen-covered tank.  And if I had to place a guess, I think this escape of the Lightning Maroon of course, likely happened today, and it wouldn’t have happened if my flight home hadn’t been canceled and the fish was moved on time.

On the bright side, the fish is moved (the Labrador Maroon was returned to the tank with the 3 Centropyge argi).  I’m truly ticked at myself for not having moved it before I left, but then again we all also know the advice that you never make big changes in the week before a trip.  This experience just goes to show how even when everything is done right, things WILL go wrong in this hobby.  I’m bummed that the fish is tattered and honestly a bit worried that the splits in the spiny dorsal fin may not heal…a reminder of this incident going forward.  I HOPE that isn’t the case, but as a hobbyist, I’ll have to learn to roll with it.  It is just as likely that there will be MORE tattered fins and bruised fish when I attempt the first pairing…possibly later this week although I may wait until the Lightning is well healed.

So that’s the update.  Fish moved, but things are not in tip-top shape at the moment.  Working on fixing them.

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