The Lightning Project

The ongoing saga of the PNG Lightning Maroon Clownfish Breeding Project

Browsing Posts tagged myths

It amazes me still that even with the entire story documented here for the world to see, there are still people out there who get it wrong, and sometimes blatantly so.  I was alerted to a discussion on Facebook today  in a semi-private forum, so I’ll refrain from naming names and keep it strictly to the inaccuracies.  Within this discussion, all sorts of factually inaccurate statements were made, and so, it’s time for another round of “Lightning Maroon Mythbusting” – let’s set the record straight.

Myth - “My company ********* is a official retailer for sea and reef aquaculture the original and only breeders for the lightning maroon clownfish”

Fact – While the company in question may be an official retailer for Sea & Reef, even Soren Hansen himself wouldn’t be so bold as to claim that Sea and Reef was the “original” (aka. first) breeders of Lightning Maroon Clownfish, nevermind they are certainly not the “only” either.  I’ll just raise my hand here and claim originality (which is indisputable) and for a long time, until Sea & Reef produced their 2nd generation fish, I was also the only ;)

Myth - “Soren from sea and reef aquaculture teamed up with Matt from bluezoo aquatics and they had joined forces..first pair to successfully breed was a joint venture.”

Fact - The first pair to successfully breed was my pair, here in Duluth MN, the wild-collected Lightning Maroon Clownfish with a wild collected normally patterned Maroon, both from Fisherman’s Island in PNG. Soren / Sea & Reef had nothing to do with the first pairing, and it certainly was not a “joint-venture” between myself and Sea & Reef or Soren.

Furthermore, I am not “from Blue Zoo Aquatics”…I am a customer of Blue Zoo Aquatics, but I do not work for them.  I sell them the offspring of the actual “ORIGINAL” Lightning Maroon pairing, drop shipping them to Blue Zoo’s retail customers, but I am independent of Blue Zoo. There was no “joint-venture” in the production of the original F1 Lightning Maroon Clownfish offspring either – they were done by my own hand in my basement fishroom.  Mike Doty, a good friend and fellow fish breeder who lives literally around the block, can be credited with helping rear the first, and some of the subsequent batches I’ve produced to date here in Duluth.

Myth - “Besides bluezoo lost their first breeding pair which one was a wild caught and one was a regular maroon”

Fact - Nothing could be further from the truth.  In fact, NOTHING in that statement is even remotely true.  It would seem that the person speaking (who is retailing Lightning Maroons from Sea & Reef) is attempting to create the illusion of rarity / exclusivity in order to drive sales.

But…let me pick it apart point by point.  This statement implies that only one of the fish in the pair was wild caught. My pair = F0 X F0 (all wild caught).  Sea & Reef’s initial pairing was one of my F1 offspring, paired to another F0 PNG white stripe maroon (per Soren Hansen’s communication with me).

Blue Zoo never had a breeding pair, so impossible to lose something they never had. Let’s assume that the “blue zoo” pair this person is referring to is in fact MY pair, the one which has supplied the offspring which Blue Zoo Aquatics retailed – that pair is still alive and well and producing…heck they just laid their 43rd spawn yesterday.

Myth - “So when they had a hybrid and Soren had an original wild caught they teamed up to bring them to wholesalers for sale”

Fact -  I’m not even sure in what context the commentator / retailer is using the term “hybrid”, but I will say this – hybrid has multiple definitions. In the context it is typically thought of, being intraspecific hybridization (the offspring of two separate species) then no, no hybrids here. There are interspecific hybrids (at least one individual out there would prefer I use the term “population hybrids”) but at the end of the day, short of saying that ANY pairing of ANY fish of ANY type = hybrid, there is nothing hybrid about any of the breeding I did here, nor the breeding I’m aware of at Sea & Reef. The Lightning Maroon Clownfish is pure Premnas biaculeatus “PNG White Stripe”, but carries a mutant gene / allele which causes the unique stripe pattern alteration.

I think there’s also a lot of implication that there was direct collaboration between Blue Zoo Aquatics, Myself, and Soren Hansen, and I must clarify that. While I clearly have met Soren, have had many conversations with Soren, there was no coordinated effort on my part, or the part of Blue Zoo, to team up and bring Lightnings to wholesalers for sale.  Soren Hansen purchased his F1 broodstock fish at public auction from me via Blue Zoo Aquatics – anyone could have bought that fish.

It was Soren Hansen who had the foresight to be a commercial breeder which procured additional wild PNG broodstock when it was available, on the gamble that there would one day be F1 Lightnings for him to work with at Sea & Reef.  So, the credit for that goes squarely to Soren…he planned thoughtfully and then executed on that plan when the opportunity presented itself. I commend him for that foresight and a job well done.

Myth - “I will correct myself [Sea & Reef is] not the only breeder with the Lightning Maroons just the only ones that have quantity and the original strain”

Fact - Sorry, flat out “wrong”. While Sea & Reef does have the largest available quantity, they are not the “only ones that have….the original strain”.

I’ll avoid getting into the jargon of “strain”…as it doesn’t really apply well in this setting at this time anyway, but I will say this and I know Sea & Reef won’t argue. The “original” pair is here, still producing offspring. It is arguable that my stock has the “original” inherited gene, but we must understand that Soren’s offspring, which are 2nd generation Lightnings by using of my first generation offspring as a parent, should carry the exact same “lightning gene”.  So they have the “original gene”, inherited from their parent, who got it from my original wild fish.

Ultimately, there will be many lines of Lightning Maroons produced by breeders around the planet, but unless another wild Lightning is discovered, collected, brought to market, and successfully bred, all Lightning Maroon Clownfish will owe their unique mutant gene to the original wild fish which resides here in my basement to this day.

Now, whether other breeders will keep their Lightning Maroon lineages true to the PNG provenance is another story, and that one day could be a bone of contention (eg. anyone hybridizing Lightnings with Gold Stripe Maroons, or looking at white stripe broodstock outside the PNG provenance). Sea & Reef has respected the PNG provenance in their lines (both Morse Codes and Lightnings), I have as well, and I’m hoping that all other breeders will do so, because it does matter in the long term when it comes to conserving natural biodiversity.

Opinion - “You can pay 2k plus for garbage or you can pay $3-400 retail and get yourself a quality maroon. Its a no brainer those that spent big bucks not even a year ago I’m sure feel like crap after seeing the prices of these from sANDr”

Fact - everyone is entitled to their opinion, but they’re not entitled to their own facts.

I love the internet’s ability to royally “get it wrong”, and this edition of Lightning Maroon Clownfish Mythbusting points to one of my own home clubs (I’m a lifetime member of TCMAS); the thread? Ligtning (sic) Maroon on Ebay

Shibb’s wrote; “Blue Zoo is actually selling FOUR offspring. Only 2 have the really “lightning” markings, though.”

Not entirely true.  Currently, four of the five auctions have started…Blue Zoo opted to stagger them 12 hours apart.  As I type this, the last of the 5 initial fish could be listing later today.  This 5th fish shouldn’t be a surprise either, as I showed images of all 5 being shipped to Blue Zoo in the announcement, PLUS had them all listed in the “inventory“.

Furthermore, this is just the first shipment to Blue Zoo. As I’ve posted numerous times now, all over the internet, I have approximately 30 total fish slated to be released.  Provided everything goes smoothly with Blue Zoo, it’s safe to assume that the remaining 25 Lighting Maroon offspring will also be sold, at auction, by Blue Zoo, in the coming weeks / months.

The ones that don’t have “really lightning” markings are classified by me as White Stripe Maroons.  They have Lightning parentage.  We simply do not know whether there’s any genetic lightning material in these fish, so to think so is to speculate.  I’ve written about this numerous times now ;)

At this point, if anyone is bidding with the mindset that these current fish are the only 5 fish that will ever be available, well, I’ve done everything possible to put this information out there!

Myclang wrote; “Hilarious if it dies in shipping right!??!”

Well, certainly not hilarious.  Certainly a risk, a possibility.  But just as I stood 100% behind the fish I shipped to Blue Zoo, so is Blue Zoo ensuring these fish arrive alive.  I would expect them to do no less as they ship fish for a living!  I will be highly skeptical of DOA claims…afterall, these are captive bred Maroon Clowns…not something touchy.

drahotad wrote; “I believe he owed blue zoo some of the first offspring if i remember correctly, and is probably keeping the best ones still up north 

I actually owed Blue Zoo nothing…the Lightning Maroon and it’s offspring were free and clear mine to do with as I pleased.  That said, 3 years ago, I made the unilateral offer of a right of first refusal to Blue Zoo, and I of course stand by that offer and you see it coming to fruition now.

While I have yet to do an inventory of every last fish I’m currently holding back, it’s not many.  I have the well known Lightning X Lightning pair, which do happen to be very nice ones.  I’m also planning 2 more pairs to leave here as backups, as well as a Lighting X White Stripe and a White Stripe X White Stripe.  Still, there’s plenty of lookers in the fish currently slated for release.

OK, so I have to chuckle because people are already speculating about the going asking price on the F1 offspring I’ve produced.  I’ve seen the hypothetical numbers ranging from $300 to $600 to $1000 to $1500.  And then there’s this post on Nano-Reefs.com that takes the cake.  User iball1804 is making some pretty bold statements, starting with:

“My LFS is getting a pair in.”

I can state officially, on the record, that I have not made any agreements with any LFS anywhere to sell any Lightning Maroons to them.  But that’s not all that is claimed:

“They are $5,000 apiece. And everything’s already lined up. Our client is willing to pay, and so it will be. “

Now that’s awfully presumptive since that’s the first I’ve heard about this.  It may very well be that the highest bids for F1 Lightning Maroons may well be much HIGHER than $5000.  Who knows?  Of course, I’d love to know who’s willing to offer $5000 a piece for Lightning Maroons, but that’s getting ahead of things.  Why?

Because as I’ve stated all along, back when I purchased the Lightning Maroon from Blue Zoo Aquatics, I made a gentleman’s offer to Mark Martin that I would offer right-of-first-refusal to him on any offspring I might produce.    Mark (Blue Zoo), Dave (Pacific Aqua Farms) and David (SEASMART), all took a gamble on me being the best choice for this fish.  It’s my opinion that now it’s time for BZA to receive some of the monetary benefit they gave up in deciding to sell this fish to me vs. simply the highest bidder.

Now, there is no contract, no agreement, I am free to sell these fish to whomever I want and do what I please with them.  That said, Mark is aware that it looks like there will be some Lightnings to be made available in the coming months.  But that is the extent of anything that has been discussed, and I will be seeing what we want to do together before going beyond that… after all that’s what “right of first refusal” means.  And to my surprise, it seems the general aquarist community at large has been aware of this, and hasn’t been flooding my inbox with inquiries for the last 2+ years (thanks for that everyone).

So while I LOVE the enthusiasm and bold statements, I can categorically state that anything you read on “price” or “availability” that you didn’t read directly from my keyboard is speculation.  I have some ideas on how I’d like to see these fish be distributed, and I can tell you that making sure this natural variation is preserved is at the top of my priorities…a far higher priority than price.  I took this project on as a conservation-minded breeder, and until these fish are out in the hands of other breeders, that mission wont’ be complete.

I keep tabs on the internet and once in a while go out and scour for new links to add to the links page here.  One of the many I found this evening is a lively discussion that cropped up on SoCaliReefs.com.  First, thanks for the enthusiasm guys; I hope you all enjoy the journey!

But I have to jump out there and do a little bit of mythbusting.  I have to bring up my good friend Rich Ross, author of a fantastic series of articles called the “Skeptical Reefkeeping” – see Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5.  To drastically paraphrase, he would probably tell you that perhaps you shouldn’t believe everything you read, particularly on the internet, and especially in a reefkeeping forum.  Rich’s articles are MUST-READS for anyone using the un-curated internet as their primary information source.

So too, now and again, I have to simply point out misinformation as it pertains to this project.  You can use Rich’s methodologies to determine if I am truly an authority on the subject of the Lightning Maroon Clownfish or not.  And once you’ve decided whether or not I’m a trustworthy author on this topic, here’s some choice quotes, from some great fans (no sarcasm intended) at http://www.socalireefs.com/forums/showthread.php?31195-Lightning-Maroon-Clown-Fish-Spawns - I am guessing this is a classic example of how information travels from person to person, and takes on a life of it’s own, completely separated from the actual factual basis for the info.  You know, like that phone game you used to play on the bus ride to school…

GBoy66 asked, “So he bred a lightning with just an average maroon? Why not 2 lightnings? Wont that drastically decrease the amount of lightnings in the clutch..?

Yes, I did breed this Lightning Maroon clownfish with another maroon, but specifically another white stripe maroon clownfish collected from the same small island (Fisherman’s Island) in Papua New Guinea.  Certainly not a random “average” maroon, but a very specific broodstock choice.  Why not 2 lightnings?  Because I only have the one.  As far as decreasing the amount of lightnings in a clutch – well, frankly that’s jumping 10 leaps ahead of where our knowledge base is at this point.  First, we don’t know that this is genetic.  Second, if it is genetic, we won’t know what type of genetic trait it is.  It could be recessive (like albinism), which could mean NO lightnings in F1 generation (unless the mate carries the recessive gene as well).  It could be straight up dominant (which would mean potentially 100% Lightnings).  It could be something far more complicated, be it partially dominant (Snowflake in A. ocellaris is an example of a partially dominant trait; mate two snowflakes together, and you get 25% Wyoming Whites).  It could be co-dominant, multiple alleles…who knows.  No one.

LotsaFishes wrote, “I believe in all of recorded fish-collecting history, only two have been caught. He had both of them at one point, but one died. He has tried for 2+ years to get his remaining one to get along with and mate with a second clown.

On the first count, yes, as far as I am aware, there was the first one, collected in 2008, and the second one, in 2010.  Where you’re incorrect is in suggesting that I had “both of them” at any time…I have only owned the one.  Yes, I have been working for 2+ years on this breeding project, but not all of that time was spent directly attempting to pair the fish; many months were spent holding out for more broodstock from Seasmart in PNG, which unfortunately never materialized.  Only once I knew that the requested large Female PNG Maroons I wanted weren’t going to come, did I change plans to start working with what I already had on hand.

gumbii stated, “nope… the first pair was auctioned off for twice as much as the 2nd pair, but some random ballin’ guy killed them… then they said we’re only gonna auction them off to professional breeders and this kat got them… good thing too…

Simply put, categorically incorrect.  There has never been any “Lightning Maroon PAIRS“.  The first one collected…I’ve heard rumors about its fate.  Ultimately, the single fish I obtained did have offers on it that were stratospheric, but in the end, through the decisions of multiple people, the fish wound up in my hands.  I DID pay quite dearly for them, as some of my local hobbyists can attest (I sold tons of valuable livestock to help fund this purchase, and even then it did not cover the total investment in this project).

gumbii, not picking on you but man, I gotta ask where you’re getting your “facts”?  You went on to subsequently post, “so far only two females were caught… but they gave him a male from the same spot she was caught… hoping that it might have the same genetic make up or heterogeneous for “lightning”…

Unfortunately again, these statements are simply riddled with misinformation.  To say two females were caught is not knowable; both fish were brought in as singles, without mates, and in the case of the Lightning Maroon I now take care of, I am beyond convinced that the fish was originally still male when sent to me.  Also, I may have to take issue with your choice of the word “gave”, as in fact all fish in this project were paid for.  No free lunches here.  But you are right; the reasoning behind using other Maroons from the same geographic area is simply to increase the odds that if genetic, and if recessive, we could stumble upon some offspring in the F1 generation due to the mate being heterozygous; in layman’s terms, the odd chance that the mate carries a “hidden” Lightning gene.

GBoy66 then asked, “Oooohhhhh, ok. So, are these fish endangered? Weak? Why are they so hard to catch/keep..

Maroon Clownfish are not endangered to the best of my knowledge.  To answer your other questions out of order, I am going to go out on a limb and suggest that clownfish are probably among the easiest marine fish to collect in the wild simply because they are so site-attached and aggressive (willing to defend their anemones against far larger intruders..like divers).  Regarding the “weak” question – well, I assume you’re referring to the recent spates of illness.  At the moment they seem to have everyone stumped; I would at times ponder whether the Lightning is in fact much older than we might think (it is CERTAINLY a possibility; clownfish can live for decades in captivity, and in the wild, while perhaps not common, I am aware of a single Percula Clownfish in the wild that was said to be 32 years old upon examination).  Imagine if this fish was already 10 years old when I got it; if that’s the case, it could already be quite near the end of it’s life (not ALL clowns live for decades of course).  At the moment, it is anyone’s guess.

Regarding these fish in general being “hard to keep”; wild caught clownfish are prone to diseases, particularly Brooklynella, which can make them far more difficult to work with.  Wild caught fish can take months or years or more before spawning for anyone, if they ever do. Most aquarium hobbyist have been spoiled (in a good way) by the readily available and abundant supply of captive bred clownfish (of many species these days).  Thus, there have been hobbyists who see the problems I have had with the PNG Maroons as a group over the past 2.5 years, and they question my abilities as a marine fish keeper and breeder.  Then I talk to people who I truly respect, and know they speak from a viewpoint of experience, and I get told things like “you’re doing FANTASTIC” or “most people wouldn’t have made it this far.”.  Knowing what I also personally know, I tend to look towards those with large experience bases who by and large, are supportive of my overall progress and have yet to question my abilities.  The message to the everyday hobbyist, particularly the beginner?  Make sure you start with captive-bred clownfish; save the wild caught ones until you have some experience.

el dude quipped, “Its a rare genetic variation…” [Update #3 - in rechecking the posts (due to Gumbii's comments), I see that the word "genetic" is no longer present in the post by el dude...a case of a quick edit?  I'm pretty sure I copy & pasted all my excerpts, but I'm not infallible; then again such changes are why I tend to copy things over in the first place.  Only mentioned out of respect for el dude in case I misread what he wrote]

Optimistic thinking my friend, as we certainly do not know that yet.  In fact, back in CORAL a while ago, I believe Wittenrich went on the record in a pro-genetic stance, while verteran Moe took the opposing viewpoint.  If these two wind up on opposite ends of the prognostication, well, I’d say making definitive statements like that are simply premature.  I HOPE you are right el dude, but you have no way of knowing yet.

It’s amazing how even when the information is publicly out there for anyone to read (as this project has been online since day one), that so much misinformation can be floating around out there.   In fact, I’m pretty sure this isn’t the first ‘fact check’ post I’ve had to do (given that I have a “tag” for “Fact check” already in the system!).  Of course, it’s fun to speculate and debate, and to the casual web reader, just remember that just because you read it on the internet, doesn’t make it even remotely true.  Updates on the babies coming soon!

- UPDATE -

The very next web post I came across is this one - http://www.reefcentral.com/forums/showthread.php?p=20437213 - wow, more mis-info.

reefstew stated, “They have been out for about a year now. Very expensive. 

I will simply respond – news to me.  Would LOVE to see the retail source that’s offering them ;)  Thankfully, nwcronauer1242 came in and provided information that, to the best of my knowledge, is correct.  The irony here is that this perfectly illustrates a point Richard Ross makes about not believing what you write solely based on “post counts”.  It just so happens that reefstew is a veteran ReefCentral post with 1000+ posts; nwcronauer1242 has a whopping 32.  Nw also happens to be the one who’s probably right.  I say probably, because of this next statement:

lostmyz wrote,there was another lightening maroon clownfish at the wholesalers in LA about 1 month ago and it was being sold for 1200…. ”

I can’t say this is untrue, although here’s some things that call this into question.  First, I believe I have enough industry contacts going around that someone, somewhere, would have spilled the beans knowing about this project.

Second, back in May, there was this fish - http://blog.aquanerd.com/2012/05/lightning-maroon-clownfish-precursor.html - also harvested from PNG, although Dan stops short of calling that fish a Lightning Maroon.  Now, the “timeframe” roughly fits – throw on a ton of assumptions and viola, you have the info that lostmyz is presenting.  Afterall, there are still people who believe that there have been three full on Lightning Maroons collected, one only weeks after I got mine.  You might want to go read that post - http://www.lightning-maroon-clownfish.com/?p=844

Third, and perhaps most importantly, while I have heard some rumors, I have seen no official words of ANY PNG fish being shipped to the US at this time.  (Update #2 - it’s been minutes since I wrote the above, but I just got word straight from EcoAquariums PNG moments ago, on their facebook page, “ First shipment to the USA SHOULD happen this week!

So unless Dan Navin is a lying, that categorically means that there have been no PNG Maroons of any kind, let alone Lightning Maroons from PNG (the only place they’ve been found thus far), entering the US, let alone a wholesaler on 104th street in LA, since SEASMART last shipped fish in mid 2010.  So unless “last month’s LA Lightning” was collected in another location (certainly possible), all the information and experience I have is pushing me to think that lostmyz is not correct.  Oh, and just a hunch; any LA wholesaler who got their hands on a new wild-caught Lightning Maroon would have talked it up to the world; we probably would’ve seen pictures and a bidding war.

Obviously, I am not alone, and other RC members did start asking questions…

…to which lostmyz replied, “I didn’t purchase it at the wholesaler in LA so I can’t really tell you anything about it. And as for papertrail I am pretty sure they aren’t coughing that over. And it was wild caught.

OK…

And lostmyz wrote on, “The thing with these “lightening bolts” is that its a mutation. Beyond the actual patterning mutation that this fish is going through the gene that causes it most likely causes other issues with the fish. Hence the puldging eye on the current one alive and the fact that out of 300 eggs, 1 survived and most likely will grow to be normal.

I’ll just hit these as bullet points

  • mutation?  unknown and unproven.  No way you could know one way or another.
  • genetics causing issues with the Lightning’s health? possible, but unlikely given that the mate has also shown problems in the past few months.
  • out of 300 eggs, 1 survived? – categorically incorrect, top to bottom wrong.  And that’s provable right here on this blog, just one post prior (as well as in the forthcoming next post)
When that last point was brought up, lostmyz wrote – “i stand corrected about the fry… but the rest holds true… ” – at best, you can hope for that, but categorically stating it’s a mutation, and making other bold statements that you can’t prove, means that you cannot say with certainty that the rest holds true.  The rest, is all unsubstantiated at best at this point in time.
HANG TIGHT, no more updates to this post as I’ve finished my Google results for the week ;)  On to the news!

 

 

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