The Lightning Project

The ongoing saga of the PNG Lightning Maroon Clownfish Breeding Project

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Let’s start with Spawn #34 – as of Sunday morning, 6/15/2014, there were a lot of dead eggs on the bottom of the tank, but when I gave the eggs the viability test (touch them and see the larvae wiggle inside) they were actually still alive.  I pulled them and placed them in a specimen cup with vigorous aeration – none of them hatched, and through the course of the afternoon they all died and came off the tile.  So spawn #34 has wound up being a bit small, but there are probably still 50-100+ offspring in there. Seeing the larvae live for days behind the initial hatch HAS made me reconsider whether I am perhaps having egg quality issues, and more specifically issues that cause hatching problems.  In talking with fellow breeders like Mitch May (aka. Booyah, a good friend from back home in Chicago), he of course raised the same concern with me, but when we talked diet, that ruled out the problem.  Still, this could be a case-by-case thing, so it’ll be interesting to me to see if I can change this. One of the annecdotes that Joe Licthenbert always instilled upon me was “if you want good eggs, feed the fish eggs”.  Time to call up Rod Buehler of Rod’s Food and see about getting a fresh shipment of Rod’s Eggs up in here!

Spawn #35 was laid on Father’s Day afternoon, 6-15-2014 – if all goes as is typical, it should have the first hatch night on the 21st, going into the 22nd.

And finally, it’s been too long since I posted these – updates of the holdback Lightning Maroon Pair, the fish I’ll call MWP1 and MWP2.  They’ve been in the Ecoxotic tank for a while now and are solidly paired.  What I hadn’t really done is take closeup shots to update the pattern progression photos, and wow am I glad I finally did.  There are some big changes in both fish (but it’s been almost 6  months). The largest change I noticed is in the headband of the larger fish, the female I’ll be calling MWP1 and have been using for the pattern progression photos. Where her headband had been mostly solid white for all these years, it has finally seen the first pinpricks of red spotting come through. Knowing how these spots grow and evolve, it is fair to say that her once “boring” headband will now become an intricate latticework of pattern…in another 6 months or a year.

I’ll post the photos in just a second, but here’s the interesting thing.  If it has taken this long for the pattern to get this far, I wonder if the pattern development can be used to gauge the age of their wild mother.   As we’ve seen the pattern evolve, certainly it may hit a point where it truly feels analogous to mom…presuming the fish in my care grow and develop at a similar rate to the wild (a big presumption) then I feel that yes, it could give some insight into mom.  After all, we know that wild-type Onyx Percula offspring can continue to develop coloration and pattern for 3 years in captivity (which is why I never produced any great numbers of them) and now here, with the Lightning, I think my hypothesis that the pattern development takes years is unfolding before our eyes.  Look at the OTHER one, MWP2, the one that for all this time has until recently had solid white flanks.  It too, is finally turning.  I find this incredibly fascinating; if the speed of pattern development cannot be easily improved upon through selective breeding, it could mean that all Lightning Maroons will be a bit of a diamond in the rough.  You may have to buy one and wait for it to develop over time.  I wonder too, will there then be a huge premium placed on older fish, who are showing more well-progressed pattern? I could see this happening given that to this day, a well colored Onyx Percula which may be a year or older, will always fetch more than a partially barred, partially colored up juvenile.

Here’s some photos I shot last night, Father’s Day, June 15th, 2014, of MWP1 and MWP2.












I also have some other photos and such I need to post…I think I skipped some things over the past few months!

It’s taken over 24 hours of work, but the website has been updated with new photos of many Lightning and White Stripe Maroon Clownfish. 5 new fish have been added to the inventory as well! I’m not going to post every last new photo in a blog post. Instead, you can follow the links to any particular page you’re interested in.

First, we have a great update on Mike Doty’s pair, MD1 and MD2 – I took the photos back in February but only now have them online! Looking at both these fish you can see how they’ve developed over time.

MD1 (Lightning) and MD2 (White Stripe aka. Morse Code) - Feb 28, 2014

MD1 (Lightning) and MD2 (White Stripe aka. Morse Code) – Feb 28, 2014

MWP3 was added to the inventory – he is a fish I’ve held back due to an obvious dorsal fin defect and had intended to use as the Lightning in a Lightning X White Stripe sibling pairing. At the moment, with no real place to house such a pairing, I may let him go to a new home.


WS4, WS11 and WS13 are all White Stripe Maroons that have been here for 2 years now; I wasn’t able to get any good new photos of WS13, but WS4 and WS11 have updates, and all three fish have now been measured too!


The same can be said for LM9, LM11, LM14.


LM17 and LM18 remain together, and LM18 has finally been given its own page.


And finally, your first look at 3 new offspring – WS17, LM19 and LM20! All three of these were reared in individual containers from a very young age, and it seems that has really helped produced better offspring (no battle scars from being reared together)!








I finally go to shot some photos last week (October 14th), and among them are updates of the holdback pair.  I’ve also updated the “Lightning Maroon Pattern Progression” post to show how it continues to evolve. Here’s the latest:

I’ll let the recipients decide when and how they’d like to share their new arrivals who are in transit as I type this.  Some more genetic material has left the building.  Here’s the pair of fish that went to destination #1 tonight.

Lightning Maroon Clownfish EC1, right flank

Lightning Maroon Clownfish EC1, right flank

Lightning Maroon Clownfish EC1, left flank
Lightning Maroon Clownfish EC1, left flank

White Stripe Maroon Clownfish EC2, right flank
White Stripe Maroon Clownfish EC2, right flank

White Stripe Maroon Clownfish EC2, left flank
White Stripe Maroon Clownfish EC2, left flank


Finally, some risk is diversified again.  The second of 3 locally-planned backup pairs is out of the house, this time going to Frank (who you may remember contributed the massive “Labrador” Maroon Clown to this project way back in the day).  Frank is an aquarist who’s in it for the long haul, so you know this pair of clowns is in GOOD hands.

The pair I sent home with Frank has lived together for months now…obviously far too young to be an actual pair, but the point is that they shared an 8 X 8 X 8 inch cubicle without killing each other.  The Lightning in the pair really is a nice fish, but the standard striped sibling is a pretty horrendous example and were it NOT for the fact that it’s progeny of the Lightning Maroon, would have long since been culled.  Still, it shows some of the classic “Horned Maroon Clownfish” patterning seen in the occasional aberrant wild Maroon Clowns from PNG .  Of course, it’s hard to know how many of the physical disappointments I’m seeing are the result of either fighting or general rearing mishaps, but I suspect THAT over genetic issues at this point in time.  I took the last few minutes before bagging them up to snap a handful of good shots.

Craig’s comments today got me thinking – I should show the progression of the pattern developing.  So this is for you Craig!  These are all the same fish; this is one I’ve decided to keep for myself…looks like it lost a ventral fin in early fights but is otherwise a really nice fish (take note, you can see how the damaged ventral fin has regrown / regenerated…looks like the other atrophied).  I’ll keep showing this fish in future progressions most likely.

August 8th, 2012

September 13th, 2012

October 23rd, 2012

November 13th, 2012

December 13th, 2012

February 22nd, 2013

March 23rd, 2013

June 18th, 2013

July 31st, 2013

Lightning Maroon Clownfish, F1, over a year old, photographed July 31st, 2013

Now over a year old, the pattern is still developing on all these clownfish!

August 28th, 2013

October 14th, 2013

December 13th, 2013

June 15th, 2014


*NEW* November 3rd, 2015




Update – 6/23/2013 – I talk about this frequently, but I realized I should add this commentary here, on the pattern progress post.  Here’s my theory on what you’re seeing:

1 – “Lightning” Babies are very obvious compared to their white stripe siblings.  They show up with tremendously thicker bars.

2 – For a certain period of time, as they grow, the white overbarring spreads and takes shape.

3 – Meanwhile, subtractive pattern development also starts occuring.  You see it in the white areas first as pinholes and dots.

4 – As the fish grows, the areas of “white loss” continue to emerge, and to spread.  What was once solid areas of white start to break up, with white scales giving way to red patterning inbetween.

5 – As the fish continues to grow and age, the red areas become ever more pronounced.

6 – It is my speculation that the “white loss” pattern development continues over the course of at least 2-3 years, but perhaps even longer.  The original Lightning Maroon today seems to have less white than it did when it arrived 3 years prior.  I suspect that the timeline from a captive-bred Lightning Maroon clown going from hatched to what we might consider a “true” Lightning Maroon..that is a fish showing the balance of white and red comparable to the original foundation fish, is going to take at least 2-3 years.

Considering that I’ve personally documented coloration development in Percula going up to 3 years out, this is completely not unheard of, but nothing to the extent of what the Lightning Maroons seem to present.  I look at these fish and they way they are “patterning up” and I am floored – I never could have guessed that THIS is the mechanism by which the Lightning Pattern would be “created” on the fish.  At this point it definitely takes vision to have complete buy-in to my hypothesis, but I’m thoroughly convinced I’m right.  Which means that in the long run, hobbyists might buy a fish like the one from October, 2012 show above…and 2 years later have something completely different from that…and looking a lot more like the “Lightning”.  How freakin’ cool is that – a fish that truly only gets better with age?!

Lots of Lightning


Updates coming soon on how you can have your shot at owning a Lightning Maroon Clownfish of your own, but for the moment, how about some photos fresh from the fishroom?

You missed a lot of Lightning Maroon Clownfish news!  Of course, the “news” can be summed up in pictorial form.





At this point, the fish are around 1″ total length…maybe a hair more on the largest.  Still quite small.  Not every fish is perfect – in fact, I’m pretty unhappy with how the majority turned out…will be a fair number of culls I think.  Still, a lot of good genetic material is on hand to play with!  I also divulged my basic plan for the offspring at MACNA, so here goes:

Approximately 3 pairs will be held back for my personal breeding efforts.  3 pairs will go to local breeders.  Culls will be offered to established commercial breeding operations for genetic material to work with (the assumption here being that culls were the product of the environment and fighting, hopefully not genetic issues).  The remaining top tier fish will be sold at retail, probably at auction, to the general public.  My anticipation is that there will be maybe 30-40 fish at most to offer, which translates to only 15-20 Lightnings max.  Once again, time to start saving your pennies (and hundred dollar bills).

So we’ve all but forgotten about the original Lightning Maroon, so I figured it was time to first step back and see how she’s faring.  Sadly, the Baytril-laced feeds do not appear to have had any effect.  About 18 days ago, we switched from the Repashy Gel to soaking Spectrum Thera Pellets with 0.05 ML of the injectable Baytril and approximately 0.15 ML of Brightwell’s MaxAmino, which seems to encourage a highly strong feeding response and probably serves to mask the flavor of the antibiotic.  This got us back on track from a dosing standpoint; while there were a few days where the fish completely refused food (generally on days where I’ve scraped the algae off the glass), most days see better than 90% being consumed.  Despite this success in treating, the Lightning Maroon has had more pop eye, more recurring mouth problems, and is currently showing signs of both mouth and fin rot.  There is little more demotivating than this.

Still, the babies are doing great, although there is a widening size disparity which seems to correlate to how aggressive and dominating a baby can be.  I pulled out two specimens to photograph today, and they somewhat show the extremes of the range.  This also happens to be, at least in the Lightning side, one of the individuals showing the heaviest white coverage, with the headstripe connected to the midstripe and the midstripe to the tailstripe, on both sides.  This is a 1/4 gallon (small) specimen cup (to give you a frame of reference).  Sadly, it appears as though the pelvic fins may have already been badly damaged in the fighting of the offspring…I have dozens of breeder nets on hand now to implement plans to start separating out these fish.

The next batch of images, these from 7-20-2012:

Lightning Maroon Clownfish F1 Offspring

Lightning Maroon Clownfish F1 Offspring

Lightning Maroon Clownfish F1 Offspring

Lightning Maroon Clownfish F1 Offspring

Lightning Maroon Clownfish F1 Offspring

Lightning Maroon Clownfish F1 Offspring

Lightning Maroon Clownfish F1 Offspring

Lightning Maroon Clownfish F1 Offspring

Lightning Maroon Clownfish F1 Offspring

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