The Lightning Project

The ongoing saga of the PNG Lightning Maroon Clownfish Breeding Project

Browsing Posts tagged pair

First, a bit of mythbusting – someone, somewhere, started some rumor that I had lost one or both of my lightning maroon clownfish pairs.  I heard about this from multiple people in early February, but never could pin down the source. Simply put, nothing could be further from the truth.  That said, there hasn’t been any production as of late…here’s why:

So nothing has been going on with the original Wild Lightning X White Stripe pair…they’re just sitting in their tank, not breeding.  I’m trying to figure out why, and here’s what I can come up with. First, when I put all the fish in the fishroom on a prophylactic course of Spectrum’s Ick-Sheild pellet, a Chloroquin-laced food, it shut down ALL my breeding pairs.  That said, most of my breeder pairs have returned to breeding…except the Lightning pair.  They had a few bad clutches and then just stopped.

Next, I had run out of their normal staple diet, Spectrum Thera-A.  So the fish were switched over primarily to feeds like Ocean Nutrition’s Formula One and Formula Two pellet as the daily staple.  Could a dietary switch account for failing spawns?  Perhaps.

Additionally, I noted tank temperatures were slightly down.  Instead of running around 80-82F, they look more like the 78F range lately.  I’m not exactly sure why this is, as I haven’t changed my room temperature nor have I adjusted their heater in any way.  Unless…unless their heater has failed and the tank is now just going down closer to the fishroom ambient temp.  I’ll have to investigate this.

Finally though, I noticed that my lights are coming on very late in the day; so I think my photoperiod is messed up and might be shorter on the tank. In fact, that seems like a logical explanation; we’re in winter, so ambient light cycles are reduced, and the length of day may be reduced as well.  In short, I may have to restore a longer photoperiod, restore warmer temps, ramp up foods and feedings, and hopefully see the pair return to active spawning.  But perhaps it’s good to give the fish a “winter break”…constant spawning certainly must take a toll on our marine fishes.

On the other front, the Lightning X Lightning pair hasn’t been spawning either, but I know why.  As readers may recall, I separated them on January 5th as the pair bond had deteriorated.  I chose to separate the female, isolating her in a breeder box from Florida Aqua Farms.  She remained in isolation for a solid 6+ weeks while the male recovered from his injuries.  Yesterday, 2-18-2015, I added her back into the main tank and watched.  At first, the male attacked her…she took it for about 1 minute, then grabbed the male by the pectoral fin, flipped him upside down, and simply held on while he struggled.  I thought for sure this was the end, but a little while later the pair was found cohabitating peacefully. 24 hours later, the pair remains in good shape, not a nick or scrape or torn fin on either fish.  This is not the first time that a “female time out” has proven to be a helpful factor in curbing excessive female aggression in my maroon clownfish pairing and breeding. I’d encourage people to keep this trick in mind with their own fishes.

Spawn #47 didn’t go anywhere and was gone after a few days. Spawn #48 was laid on 1/3/2014 by the wild Lightning X White Stripe Maroon Clownfish pair. It was a weak spawn, scattered, not a quality nest.  It certainly seems that putting the fish onto Ick Shield set them off their game.

Meanwhile, the Lightning X Lightning pair is just continuing to be in a funk. They’re not getting along, constantly bickering. This from a proven pair.  Today I found the male pretty beat up, and the female’s spiney dorsal fin is swollen and appears infected.  My plan is to at minimum segregate the pair, and possibly to move them into different quarters as well.

It’s been a busy January here, with my trip to Cleveland to give some well-received talks at C-SEA followed by a grueling week of fishroom preparation in advance of Reef Builder’s world-reknowned Jake Adams dropping by for a surprise visit and a bit of Q&A at the Lake Superior Marine Aquarium Club’s winter / holiday / new year bash. Of course, the Lightning Maroon breeding and rearing doesn’t stop because life gets in the way, but you better believe the online posts can sometimes drop in priority!

Spawn #20 has progressed, but not without hiccups. You may recall I split this batch between the 10 gallon tank and a 15 gallon BRT (black round tub), earlier this month. This proved to be a wise move. More on that in a second, but I found it extremely interesting to note that the larvae which were moved to the BRT under 24 hour light grew faster and underwent metamorphosis sooner…3-4 days sooner, than the ones left in the 10 gallon tank (which by default gets around an 8 hour dark period).  Just before my trip to Cleveland, I took this shot of the babies in the BRT:

Spawn #20 in the BRT, post metamorphosis, already easily discernable as white stripes or lightnings.

Spawn #20 in the BRT, post metamorphosis, already easily discernable as white stripes or lightnings.

During my time at C-SEA, my good friend and fellow clownfish breeder Mike Doty (you may recall he helped hatch and rear the very first Lightnings) was keeping an eye on the fishroom. For no reason, somewhere around the 17th or so, the babies in the 10 gallon just died. Mike can’t explain it, I can’t explain it. We’ve seen this happen before.

Meanwhile the ones in the BRT fared better, but there still have been losses. During one of Mike’s stop overs, he found 7 dead.  This photograph from 1-27-2014:

Lightning Maroon Clownfish Spawn #20 at 1/27/2014

Lightning Maroon Clownfish Spawn #20 at 1/27/2014

Most recently, on the 28th I started a water change, which normally is done with a very slow siphon into a 5 gallon bucket, the intake being placed so that it won’t drain the tank completely. Well…I didn’t have it really clamped down, and so it drained the BRT ompletely. Those babies which were still in a couple mm of water survived the 99.9% water change, but those that were in shallower water – damp, but not submerged – were dead. 21 lost totally due to a preventable accident. The upside is that the fish took a very traumatic, near 100% water change, and yet survived.

Victims of a water change gone awry.  Totally my fault.  Very frustrated over it, but moving on...

Victims of a water change gone awry. Totally my fault. Very frustrated over it, but moving on…

I’m guesstimating another 20-30 still alive. Either way, that shows you the losses through attrition that happen as these fish grow up – I stocked the BRT with 140 larvae.

Spawn #21 – I left Spawn #21 more or less in the hands of Mike to hatch…a handful of offspring had hatched out on the morning of the 17th (pulling the nest on the 16th was 7 days post spawn), and later that afternoon I had to depart for Cleveland. Unfortunately, the tile fell overnight, so come the 18th, instead of Mike finding a bunch of larvae hatched out, he came over to find a dead nest.

The few offspring that did make it from Spawn #21 underwent metamorphosis during Jake’s visit; it was pretty clear to see which were lightnings vs. not by Saturday night (the 25th)….this seems to be a pretty fast time to metamorphosis.  My headcount on offspring from this batch is somewhere around 4-6 post settlement…another very small run.  This photo also from 1/27/2014:

A couple of the survivors in Spawn #21, photographed 1/27/2014

A couple of the survivors in Spawn #21, photographed 1/27/2014

Spawn #22 – on the afternoon of 1/20/2014, the 22nd clutch of eggs was put down by the Lightning Maroon and her mate. Paying a close attention to things, I knew I could be pulling them as early as 6 days post spawn…so 21,22,23,24,24, evening of the 26th being 6 days on. Well, I took a gamble, left a little more ambient room light falling on the eggs, and found that on the morning of the 27th, we still had a nice, solid nest. Come the evening of the 27th, I pulled the tile along with 5 gallons of broodstock water and 5 gallons of new saltwater, and set them up with a wooden airstone incubation. I used a second tile to prevent the tile from falling, as well as to help weigh down and position the wooden airstone under the eggs. (I found my wooden airstones from eBay seller hoolko, who happened to be mentioned on Reef Builders a while back).

Spawn #22 set up and ready for hatching in a 10 gallon tank.

Spawn #22 set up and ready for hatching in a 10 gallon tank.  Note the larvae already hatched!

Within minutes of transferring the nest, I had a few larvae hatch, still in full light.

Newly hatched Lightning Maroon Clownfish offspring swims next to the Seachem Ammonia Alert Badge....

Newly hatched Lightning Maroon Clownfish offspring swims next to the Seachem Ammonia Alert Badge….

I left things go, not feeding or anything else. By the morning of January 28th, I had a few dozen larvae in the tank, but the bulk of the eggs remained unhatched. I weighed my options a bit, and ultimately decided to introduce some rotifers (about 2 gallons worth) but refrained from adding any phytoplantkon. I thought maybe I’d have more hatches later in the day, but come nightfall, nothing had happened. Would this be a botched hatch?

Apparently yes and no. This morning (the 29th) several hundred larvae were present in the tank, but many many more dead eggs were on the bottom. Most of the larvae held tightly to the black back wall of the 10 gallon tank.

Spawn #22 after the large hatch, before cleanup.

Spawn #22 after the large hatch, before cleanup.

I took the opportunity to first siphon off all the dead eggs (and dead larvae) on the bottom before tinting the tank with 50 drops of RotiGreen Omega.

Spawn #22 after cleaning up the larval tank.

Spawn #22 after cleaning up the larval tank.

I gave the rotifers their morning feeding of RotiGrow Plus, and later this evening they’ll get the next infusion of rotifers. I’m thinking I will once again work on a system of water changes, lowering salinity, and 24 hour lighting, to grow this batch, and as I discovered, I will once again at minimum split the batch early on.

The Holdback F1 Lightning Maroon Clownfish Pair

So I finally pulled the trigger on pairing up my holdbacks.  The Ecoxotic cube had been up and running for a while with a single holdback Lightning in it, so I swapped the fish and simply added in my Lightnings as a pair (they had formerly been neighbors, side by side) on 1/21/2014.

Initially, things went very well.  Here’s some video the day after, 1/22/2014.

Unfortunately, things didn’t continue down this blissful path.  A few days later, the larger fish turned on the smaller fish, damaging a few fins and forcing me to segregate the fish around 1/25/2014.  Currently, it is the larger, “future female” Lightning Maroon who resides in a drilled specimen cup.

Future pair of F1 Lightning Maroon Clownfish

Future pair of F1 Lightning Maroon Clownfish

The Holdback White Stripe Maroon F1 Pair

I should mention that somewhere in January I shuffled some fish around and introduced my two F1 PNG White Stripe holdbacks to each other as well.  The pairing has gone so-so.  They are not paired, but they continue to share their tank, the smaller fish cowering in a protected area but not otherwise excessively abused.  I’ll try to snag some photos at some point.  This will be a very important pairing to breed, as it will help definitively answer the question as to whether the “white stripe” siblings carry any special genetics (and it will prove or disprove the presence of a recessive Lightning gene).

So the suspicions are true, these two Lightning Maroons are destined to become a pair!

The story was published moments ago on Reefs.com - details are being kept quiet, but according to Reefs.com, the purchaser’s plans are to “keep the fish in their 120 gallon tank as the centerpiece of their show tank.  The buyer was not specifically interested in breeding them, but if they do decide to mate the eggs will be transferred to the Long Island Aquarium and raised by Todd Gardner and Joe Yaiullo.  We’ll have photos of the fish in their new home soon!”  Read the whole story at Reefs.com

As I posted on Facebook, to read that makes me very happy and proud. These fish found the perfect home in someone who “gets it”. “This is a total win for the fish – while concerns that “rare fish collectors” would snag them up and not see the light of day again, it sounds like the anonymous winning bidder totally gets it. I could not be more thrilled; the responsible decision to ensure their genetics are not sequestered is commendable. BRAVO!”

I’m looking forward to following this pair for years to come; the winning bidder certainly will have his/her work cut out in the pairing department as will ALL the winners with these fish.  Simply putting two siblings together will, in my experience, result with only one sibling.  Much as I did with the wild fish, it seems that forced size differentiation with ongoing screened social interaction is going to be what it takes to push two similarly sized fish into being a compatible pair.

You heard it here first.  Mitch May (better known as the “Booyah” in Booyah’s Clownfish), hats off to you staying on me with the double down.  This one goes out to everyone who understood the concept of “patience”, “things taking time”, and “doing it right”.  It especially goes out to all of those who believed in the project despite every darn setback and near catastrophe.  No doubt, communal faith and good vibes are helping this project along.

Maybe even a gentle nudge from ^ .

 

5-8-2012, 10 PM – the first ever captive spawning of a PNG Lightning Maroon Clown, now proven female, with a prior proven fertile male PNG White Stripe Maroon Clownfish, Premnas biaculeatus.

Lightning Maroon Clownfish with her mate and their first eggs spawned.

Lightning Maroon Clownfish with her mate and their first eggs spawned.

Lightning Maroon Clownfish with her first eggs spawned.

Lightning Maroon Clownfish with her mate and their first eggs spawned.

Lightning Maroon Clownfish with her first eggs spawned.

Next time guys, please lay it 1″ to the left.

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