The Lightning Project

The ongoing saga of the PNG Lightning Maroon Clownfish Breeding Project

Browsing Posts tagged Mike Doty

On 5/21/2014, initially the hatch didn’t appear so good, but by afternoon, it was clear I had a solid hatch with hundreds in the BRT. I checked the tile, looked like 50% had hatched perhaps, so I let it go in the BRT overnight again, with only ambient light.  THAT might have been a mistake, because this morning, there was no additional hatch, but many of the larvae had perished. Seems like I have a pretty reliable hatching protocol with H2O2 dip and broodstock water yielding reliable results on the first night. Moving the batch for a second night hatch might just be the ticket.  The OTHER interesting thing – I do have to wonder if we have hatches going on during the day. I’ve long since wondered if that could be happening…

On the other front, Mike sent me an update video of Spawn #27.

Looks like I’m gonna owe him a Gold Nugget Maroon from ORA.

So Mike Doty has had comparable luck to some of my better “early runs”; Spawn #27 remains at his house and in a startling role reversal, I’m now watching HIS fishroom.  As of yesterday, I discovered the first post-meta offspring, a Lightning juvenile, in the warmer, more lightly-stocked right BRT.  The rest are still pre-meta fish.

Spawn #28 was pulled too early, and I should have listened more to Mike Hoang’s advice to do an H2O2 dip on eggs that don’t hatch in the first night.  It seems that the eggs remained viable on the tile up until yesterday afternoon, 4-8, but the majority never hatched. Interestingly, it wasn’t until the morning of 4-8 that the last of the eggs in with the parents had disappeared. There are a scant few larvae in the 10 gallon tank from this batch as a result.

The other news to report is that on the afternoon of 4-8-2014, the 29th spawn was put down by the Lightning Maroons.  Based on my dates, I should pull the tile for hatching next Monday, the 14th.

By March 21st, both Mike and I were at zero for larval maroons from batch #26…we both crapped out.

It’s now the evening of March 25th, 2014, and Mike left my fishroom about 25 minutes ago with a bucket and a tile; I’ll be out of town at the NEC convention this week followed by a visit to the Vermont-based home offices of CORAL Magazine, AMAZONAS Magazine and Reef To Rainforest Media LLC, so Mike and my wife get to pay attention to the fishroom in my absense.  It makes more sense to have freshly hatched clownfish in Mike’s fishroom vs. my own, and the deal I’ve made with him is this – if he rears a good solid batch up, I owe him a Gold Nugget Maroon to pair with his existing Gold Stripe Female.  Done deal in my book.

What I’m more curious about is to see if Mike can fair better than I have been doing.  Just on the ride home, 10 already hatched….which brings me to the other ongoing issue – as this morning, it was apparently that a good portion of the eggs had already hatched on the overnight from the 24th going into the 25th. Once again, only 5 days post spawn.  Mike should get a solid hatch tonight (6 days post spawn), and he might even be able to get stragglers again on the 7th day if he plays his cards right.  What’s up with the hatch spreading out over THREE days?!  At any rate, this is what it looks like will happen for Spawn #27.

 

Last week, the hatch of Spawn #26 approached.  I’d been talking with Mike, at this point looking for really different way to approach the rearing problems I’ve been facing.  The thought process was simple – send a tile over to Mike and see if he can do any better.  Well, based on the 6-7 day model, Spawn #26 was due to hatch on either the night of the 12th, or 13th.

Come the morning of the 12th, it looked like there had already been a big hatch…at least 50% of the eggs were gone.  Easily half hatched on the only the 5th night!  Well, I pulled the tile that night, gave it a H202 dip (4ml in 0.5 gallons for 15 minutes), and come morning of the 13th, probably 50-100 more larvae had hatched.  And there were still viable eggs.  So the afternoon of the 13th, Mike came over and grabbed the tile.  And come the morning of the 14th, Mike had a few more babies hatched out.

And so, by March 19th, the larvae I had dwindled to around 6 or so…and Mike was down to 1.  I noticed a very disturbing change in larval rearing; for some reason in this run, my larvae were floating on their sides…a very odd set of circumstances that only seems explainable by an internal gas buildup…odd seeing fish kinda stuck to the surface with headstripes forming.

Meanwhile March 19th was also the date of Spawn #27; as far as I can tell, the tank temperature has rising from 82 to 84F, and that could explain why hatch started coming as early as 5 days post spawn…we’ll see if we do better on the next one…

I left for Reef Currents this past weekend in Houston, hosted by MARSH, and well, it was the typical dice roll of being a speaker…some things will be fine, and some things just won’t work out.  BTW, it was a great event – thanks for having me guys!

Spawn #24 never really hatched.  Despite being pulled after 6 days, there was nothing hatched Thursday morning before I left.  Friday, Mike had seen 1 or 2 larvae hatch, but the rest were still tightly held in their eggs.  Come Saturday, still no hatch, and come Sunday the eggs were definitely dead. So what did I do wrong?  Was it the use of completely new saltwater?  Insufficient aeration from the wooden air stone?  The fact that I didn’t sanitize the eggs with H2O2.  Incidentally, I spent part of the weekend with my friend Mike Hoang, who some readers may remember as the guy with the Gold Flake Maroons down in Houston…before ORA isolated theirs but after Sustainable Aquatics created and applied the name to theirs. I bring Mike up, because he actually breeds a lot of clownfish and has many tricks he’s very willing to share; one of the things he mentioned is that if he has a failed hatch, he does an H2O2 dip and then finds he has a hatch after wards.  So maybe there is something mechanical at play here; either heavier agitation is needed, or the H2O2 dip helps soften / break down the outer membrane of the egg, facilitating hatching (which normally might be facilitated by the parental clownfish biting on or otherwise roughly agitating the eggs).  All speculation…

I returned home Sunday to also find Spawn #25 had been put down.  Mike failed to mention that, so I’m not sure whether he noticed it or not (I’ve sent him an email to ask).  Based solely on how they looked when I saw them, I’m guessing they were laid on Saturday, February 22nd, 2014.  At least I get yet another chance.

The Lightning Maroon “holdback pair” is finally a true pair.  It wound up taking 4 separate introductions for the pairing to stick; the last time I introduced the larger female to the male was on Wednesday afternoon, and what I saw that suggested things would go different was a lack of fighting and a more conciliatory demeanor from the male.  Lots of cheek biting / nibbling by the male any time the female would lunge at him, and that nuzzling / nipping / biting behavior would quickly diffuse the larger fishes aggression.  Come morning there were no split fins, and the pair was spending considerable time together.  I took a calculated risk, and left them together while gone, with everyone knowing what to do and what warning signs should be watched for.  It’s been 5 days now, and they share a small bubble tip anemone.  Looks like this pairing is going to stick.

Sorry for the lack of photos…I’m simply too backlogged to do anything with them.  And besides, seen one clownfish nest, you’ve seen ‘em all.

Did anyone see the outrageous “Peace Keeper” Gold Stripe Maroons?  If not, go check ‘em out on ReefBuilders.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You may recall that the first pair of Lightning offspring “left the nest” a while back to help serve as a genetic repository and safeguard should something happen here at my house.  Well, this morning, Mike (who you may recall played an integral part in rearing these babies for the first few days of their lives) shot me this photo of his Lightning.

Updated – he just sent over a cell phone shot of the other side.

Lookin’ good Mike!

You knew it would happen, I said it would happen.  You can’t keep this much electricity locked up without having to get some discharged.

And so it comes to pass that last Thursday, October 11th, the first two offspring of the Lightning Maroon left my basement and traveled 4 blocks away to Mike’s house.  One Lightning Baby, and one “Horned” baby. Now, these are both cull quality fish top to bottom, but who knows how they might grow in.  I say that, because some of the “culled” fish that I pulled up..fish that had missing ventral fins for example, have now grown them in!!!  Amazing how abusive these fish are to each other, but also amazing how resilient they are.  And in picking Mike’s fish, I got a much better look at most of the babies, and I have to say that my earlier assessment on their quality may have been overly harsh.  I need to do a photo shoot and ultimately, get them separated out, which I have still yet to do (they’re not killing each other, so I’m not getting much motivation from them!)

Bottom line, we can all breathe just a little easier knowing that we now have a slight diversification of risk on the Lightning Genetics.  Not 100% of the eggs in one basket now.  This is the first of three planned sets to be passed on to locals as thanks and “backups”.  I look forward to more diversification of risk in the weeks ahead!

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.

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