The Lightning Project

The ongoing saga of the PNG Lightning Maroon Clownfish Breeding Project

Browsing Posts tagged Reef Builders

I totally neglected to share this here – Jake Adams came to visit me back at the end of January, 2014, and we recorded an interview that focused heavily on designer clownfish, including the Lightning Maroon.  There’s some great video shot by Jake that you won’t see anywhere else, so dive into ReefBuilders The Show (aka. just “The Show”), episode 2, and enjoy.

 

After the initial press release, there were a lot of unanswered questions that people had regarding the newly announced exclusive exporter for marine fish from PNG – EcoAquariums PNG LTD.  The leader of the new company, Daniel Navin, corresponded with me via email to help give further insights into the new company and how it would be similar and/or different from the efforts of SEASMART.

While far from the last chapter, a lot of questions got answered and the interview with Daniel Navin was posted this evening on Reef Builders.  While some of you may be wondering why you should care, let me be blunt – if there are to be any more wild caught Lightning Maroon Clownfish collected, they will very likely come from this new company.  For the next year, if you want PNG marine aquarium fish, EcoAquariums is going to be the only source.

The last installment of this 4-part series ran this morning on Reef Builders.  Check it out – http://reefbuilders.com/2011/02/17/ecoxotics-25-gallon-led-aquarium-stunner-strip-final-impressions/

I know some of you are kinda going “what does this have to do with the Lightning Project?”.  Well, in a hobby that is currently having a bit of a reality check where sustainability is the new goal, LED Lighting options are one more way in which we’re going to lower the impact of our hobby and even save money in the process.  For a captive breeding project born from a sustainable wild harvest project, using LEDs with the energy savings and material savings they represent (you’re not throwing out bulbs every 6-9 months) is just a natural extension of a project that is rooted in sustainability and reducing our impact.

This is arguably the most special part of the ensemble.  No words spared, it’s another in-depth unboxing article you’ll want to check out if you’re into LEDs.  Bottom line for me – Modular LEDs = a win for consumers.  Check it out on ReefBuilders – http://reefbuilders.com/2011/02/10/panorama-led-review/

One of the big questions I asked when writing about the shutoff of SEASMART funding last week, was “why?”  Well, once again, we now have answers.  Overnight, PNG’s NFA (National Fisheries Authority) released a response to EcoEZ’s press release announcing a lawsuit to recover funds owed to it for the last 3-4 months of 2010.  It seems that two versions of the same basic press release are now available on the internet, so I’ll provide links to both:

The “short” press release, first released on Reef Addicts and then on Reef Builders with a bit of commentary from Jake Adams.  Then, there is the “long” press release, which appears more official, and includes a bit more insights on the dispute.  So far, I have only seen this longer press release at CORAL Magazine’s website.

Again, I’m going to refrain from writing very much about the general situation here.  It does sound like a bridge may have been burned.  Suggestions are that PNG will continue working towards a sustainable marine aquarium trade, but that EcoEZ may not be a part of the governmental project.  The largest question remains…why, so close to the end of the contract, did PNG’s FMA opt to pull funding vs. just riding out the program.  While this press release gives us general reasons why,  I wonder if the damage in terms of PR, but also in terms of continuity of business, might be greater than the amount of money that was withheld in the short term.  Being outsiders, we are certainly left to speculation and theorizing with only the facts we are provided.  It seems like the premature “pulling of the plug” on funding may have been the right move for the FMA from a short-term stewardship perspective, but perhaps not the right move from a business perspective in the long-term.

What about the impact, if any, on The Lighting Project?  At the moment, there’s no change of plans.  This press release suggests the earliest exports would resume is the middle of 2011 – 6 months off.  This means no chance at potential PNG broodstock for 6 months at least, and that assumes that the PNG FMA is able to deliver on that promise.  I’m not one to hold my breath at this point, nor am I going to make the Lightning Maroon wait that long on hope.  Besides, in 6 month’s time, the Lighting Maroon could be laying eggs…

So, two totally unrelated comments to make quickly tonight.  First, I really think my suspicions of a fin nipper are correct.  Why?  Because a new chunk showed up missing from the TOP of the Lightning Maroon’s right pectoral fin.  I’d be a lot more worried if there wasn’t also a chunk missing from the tail of my female Mandarin and multiple chunks removed from the fin edges of the 6″ long Labrador Maroon, the undisputed boss of the tank.  I can only assume that one of the Bristletail Filefish, probably the male, has gotten into a bad habit of fin nipping.  It is conceivable that this could tie in with increased reproductive activity or something.  Regardless, I am now thinking about where I can house this pair of fish.  GRR!

I also wanted to point the readers to check out the post by Jake Adams on Reef Builders today regarding ORA’s “misbar” Maroons – http://reefbuilders.com/2010/09/13/misbar-maroon-clownfish-showed-ora/ – certainly a fundamentally different stripe mutation (again, only guessing that it’s genetic but I think it is).  Arguably very similar to the Picasso Perc and Snowflake Ocellaris, both of which I think are the “same mutation” as it appears on 2 different species, and now here it is again on a Maroon.  Very interesting, but again, all this about genetics is just speculation at the moment.

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So, in a situation like this, I think it is INACTION that generally “seals the deal” as it were.  Leave a fish that’s lost its desire to swim lying on the bottom wedged under the live rock and that fish will be somewhere, dead, by morning.  That’s my general prognosis.  Which is why inaction is not an option.  I’d rather kill the fish by trying to save it than sit back and just let it die.

Water Params in the QT Tank

Water tests came back normal…pH maybe slightly low at 8.0 but nothing alarming at all…all my reefs like to run at 8.0 most of the time.  Ammonia maybe a trace, but certainly below 0.25 ppm.  Nitrite and Nitrate undetectable.   SG 1.010 or every so slightly higher.  This, combined with the outwardly healthy and happy Lightning Maroon clownfish is an important indication that there aren’t environmental problems.

Can’t be the water…

So what is it then?  Tank has had low level Formalin treatments, and I’ve followed a strict regime of Formalin dips.  Tank has been at hyposaline conditions for several days, which may not outright affect a cure of any disease, but certainly should not hurt and likely has helped (I may have said it before…it could just as easily be that both fish would be dead were it NOT for hypo…we just don’t know).  We’ve seen signs of Brooklynella, but certainly not the rampant infestation that takes fish down quickly.  Likely I kept that at bay.  There has also been Cryptocaryon.  Nothing serious, certainly not to the levels where a fatality would result.

We have pretty good water parameters overall, so that’s not been a source of problems.  Even got a protein skimmer going and yes, the Seaclone is pulling out foam, even at 1.010.  So much for “not working” like some folks out there will tell you.  Yet still, in the last 24-48 hours I have noticed elevated repiration on the Maroon Clown, and this evening, a fish on the bottom, clearly stressed.  Honestly, without visual cues, the only thing that is really coming to mind is Amyloodinium, which I’ve seen before and can totally take a fish down fast.  Could it be that in a week alone I may have seen all three diseases on the female Maroon?

Making Educated Guesses

Well, anything is possible.  It could also be that the fish is now succumbing to starvation, secondary bacterial infections, organ failure, or even has just given up the will to live.  All of those are possible.

I have to operate under the following assumptions.

1. I could STILL be facing an infection with Brooklynella.

2. I could be facing an Amyloodinium problem now.

Since neither can be comfortably ruled out at the moment, I had to think this through carefully.

Medication options for Amyloodinium vs. Brooklynella

As I’ve alluded to prior, Amyloodinium may or may not be treatable with Formalin – the literature on the subject varies, and genuinely, it is a 50/50 split.  Brooklynella however, is universally cited as treatable with Formalin.  Conversely, the other generally accepted treatment for parasites like these is Copper.  I’m a fan of Cupramine.  Seachem’s Cupramine cannot be used with Formalin – it will create a toxic substance that would probably just kill everything.  Cupramine also may cause problems at hyposaline levels.  No details provided, it’s a “try it at your own risk”.  That said, if I was convinced I was dealing with Amyloodinium at this point, changing course to Cupramine would be a very necessary step, because Cupramine is highly effective against Amyloodinium in my experience, but only if applied early on.  The other problem, Copper does nothing for Brooklynella…at least 90% of sources tend to agree on that.

If I thought (or was convinced) it was Amyloodinium?

So for the benefit of argument, what would I do if I gambled and changed to Cupramine?  Well, the bottom line is any fish that’s going to be treated with Cupramine needs to be removed to another tank, because I can’t clear out the Formalin with any great level of certainty.  Not worth risking a toxic cocktail.  This also means possibly “rinsing” the fish as one person suggested in a comment thread.  I do concur…that would be a wise precaution, and wouldn’t be that difficult to accomplish.  The next thing to do would be to bring up the salinity, as the toxicity of Cupramine should decrease as that salinity goes up (a side note, we’ve also bantied about the use of an anemone as a therapeutic agent in the last 24 hours, which also would’ve required a rapid salinity change to accomplish).  Some of the advisers have suggested raising salinity could in fact be done rather quickly, but their frame of reference has been largely to compare to captive bred fish.  I did however, pick up  good literature-based clues on the subject.

The first clue on rapid salinity rises comes from Matt Wittenrich’s suggested course of action for treating Cryptocaryon on page 161 of his Breeder’s Guide.  The “jist” is that you drop SG to 1.015, and after two days, do a large water change (presumeably with full strength saltwater).  But that’s not really specific.    The more “detailed” clue comes from Joyce Wilkerson’s highly detailed protocol for Amyloodinium treatment on page 114 of her Clownfish Book.  Again, to give only the “jist” (please see the reference for full details), drop SG to 1.010/1.012.  Day 3, add copper and bring SG up to 1.018.  But, “Take a day or more to bring up the specific gravity”.  I’ve always worked under the assumption of no more than a 0.002 rise per day was adviseable, but this advise advoceates a rise of up to 0.008 in only 24 hours, 4X that of my assumption.  Since I’m a young guy who sometimes want’s more than only the solid, highly experienced sage advice of my elders, I realized that perhaps the real kicker is something sitting in the back of my mind.  Most of the bags in the Blue Zoo Aquatics shipment tested out at specific gravities around 1.019/1.020.  Yet  I pushed both a Cleaner Wrasse (Labroides dimidiatus) and a Harlequin Filefish (Oxymonacanthus longirostris) up to 1.025/1.026 in my reef on only a 1 hour drip.  That RATE would equate to 0.120 difference over 24 hours.  60X faster than my base rate, and 15 times faster than even Wilkerson’s literature suggested to do.  And I had NO PROBLEMS there.

Of course, the best example I can think of goes back to when I was 10 years old.  I was breeding mollies and had my first saltwater tank.  I would ROUTINELY net out my Sailfin Mollies and give them “excursions” in the saltwater tank for a day.  No acclimation of any kind, just dropping them in.  Now of course, I do not advocate this at all.  And healthy Mollies are not the same as distressed Clownfish.  But it’s just one more annecdotal experience that my preconceived notions might be ill-concieved or perhaps overly-cautious.  It is clear that fish can and do withstand far more rapid rises.

So, with all that said, if I get to a point at any time where I think I need to switch to a copper-treatment for this Female Maroon, the course of action is clear.  Rinse her with water from one of my broodstock reefs really quickly, and then move her to a 10 gallon tank that is set up with 5 gallons of diluted saltwater (probably from a broodstock tank).  Bring the salinity up from 1.010 to 1.018, while dosing with Cupramine.  That would be the way to affect a change.

However, I am not at that point yet, and I think that honestly, the time to switch would’ve been before the fish was trying to wedge itself under the live rock.

So what DID I DO?

One of the things routinely cited for treatment of both Amyloodinium AND Brooklynella is a Freshwater Dip.  The FW dip is said to knock off the parasites in the case of Amyloodinium, and for anyone who’s not familiar with Amyloodinium, it can kill a fish by completely coating the gills and you may never even see it on the fish’s skin (one of the main reasons I have suspicions I’m dealing with a case of Amyloodinium now – heavy respiration, stress, and yet no think mucus – generally I’ve only seen the actual cysts on a fish when it’s commonly past the point of no return because I left the fish in the reef too long).

Formalin dips have also been good so far.  Every time I did a dip, the fish always seemed “better”.  Dosing the tank with Formalin this last time appeared to make things “better” as well.  So I’m not about to just outright abandon this medication at this point.  Especially since if I am still dealing with Brooklynella, it is THE medication to use.  Amyloodnium?  The jury is out, but enough people suggest it that there must be some basis for it.

The decision was to combine treatments.  I admittedly have no basis for this other than the fish is now clearly on the decline and drastic steps are needed.  If it’s Amyloodinium and Formalin isn’t fixing it, perhaps the FW DIP will help alleviate the stress, clear up the gills, and buy me some tmie.  If Formalin IS doing the trick, why cut it out?  Admittedly, I have no clue if there’s a basis for this dual purpose dip.

I had thought about doing a FW DIP with Methelyne Blue (which helps deliver Oxygen during the dip and is a often recommended practice).  However, in the back of my head, I hadn’t researched it.  I didn’t know how MB and Formalin would interact, and didn’t want to inadvertently cause some other problem when a fish, dipped in MB, was returned to the main tank.  I have to research this more.  There are potential merits.

The net  result of my thinking was to use the dosage for a Formalin dip at 20 drops per gallon in a Freshwater dip to last anywhere from 5-15 minutes as tolerated (I think in the past I’ve gone even longer, but generally shorter FW dips are suggested).

Prepping the FW Dip

For anyone who’s never done a FW dip, it is not scary.   I don’t have RO DI here unless I buy it, so I had to use good ole tap water.  Matched the temperature coming out of the tap with the tank temp, and them measured out 1 gallon.  Dechlorinated it with Seachem’s Prime.  Then checked the pH..

First pH Test

First pH Test, QT tank sample on left, FW Dip water on right.

The results of this first test showed that the FW from the tap (right sample) was just slightly lower than the tank’s pH.  A very small dusting of Seachem’s Reef Buffer was added to the dip water, swirled and aerated for a minute.  I took another test.

Second pH Test, FW dip water on right.

They are now very close, close enough in my opinion, with the FW maybe ever so slightly elevated.  But you can barely tell at all.  Once the pH was matched, the FW dip was “good to go.

But, as I mentioned, I opted to combine FW with Formalin.  While I completed the requisite 3 dip treatment already, if I was continuing on an “every other day” Foramlin dip regime, today would’ve been the day.  So 20 drops of Formalin were added to the FW dip water.

The FW + Formalin Dip

Being aware of timing on a dip is critical.  Not freaking out is also critical.  So, first things first, get the female Maroon out of the tank and into the dip.

Stressed out Maroon Clown in a Freshwater Dip

Into the bucket she goes...

Stressed out Maroon Clownfish in FW Dip

She goes stiff as a board for a minute, all curled up...

Next, look at the time it is and SET AN ALARM for 10 minutes.

beat up old cell phone

Alarm SET!

And now observe the fish’s behavior.  No better way to convey this than video! This first video was maybe 3-4 minutes in.  This is basically how the fish has been acting in the main tank since I found it this evening.

Watch, this was around the 9 minute mark…you’ll hear the alarm go off towards the end.  Note how the fish makes a couple mad dashes in the bucket, and then just goes listless again.  This IS the erratic behavior I mentioned earlier.  The “mad dash” and then nothing.

Shortly after this vid, around 12 minutes, I felt the fish had “had enough” and returned it to the main tank.  It promptly dashed around the tank and wedged itself under live rock again.  But, when I left to come upstairs to document all of this, the fish was looking a tiny bit better, at least now sitting rightside up in the cave, clearly still very stressed.

EDIT – almost forgot – capped off the work with a 5 gallon water change and a full dosing of Kordon’s Fish Protector.  Dosed 5 drops of Formalin as well to make up for the removed water.

But What About the Lightning Maroon?

Yeah, this IS a blog about that awesome little fish, right?  Well, Edgar Diaz of AZ was the only one quick enough with the email trigger to shoot me any thoughts on my predicament this evening.  He made but one suggestion in response to my many questions.  To paraphrase, “Dip the female.  Not the male.  Female is replaceable.  Male isn’t”.

It’s also come to my attention that Jake Adam’s little April 1st prank on Reef Builders STILL has a lot of people thinking that this entire fish is a myth, a photoshop job (or rather several extremely good photoshop jobs).  Well, Jake has been all over me wanting dibs on the first HQ Video of the Lighting Maroon.  Well Jake, it ain’t HD, it ain’t HQ, and it ain’t on Reef Builders.  It’s a tease.  Just enough of a tease to let everyone in the world know that this fish isn’t fabricated (unless I am now the ultimate Adobe After Effects guru, at which point you should just all bow down before me…)

Wet your appetite Jake?

Being down at the TCMAS frag swap today, many folks asked me for clarification…how many Lighting Maroons are there and how many was I actually sent by Blue Zoo Aquatics?

Well, according to Reef Builder’s Jake Adams…there have been two collected.  Three if you count the fish that Jake and Guin helped report about on April 1st, 2010.  Check out the report, here – http://reefbuilders.com/2010/04/01/lightning-maroon-clownfish-collected-seasmart-program/

For those international readers who many not have already gathered, this day is commonly known as “April Fool’s Day”.   Let me tell you know that EVEN I was suspicious that this was one of several exceptional April Fools Pranks perpetrated on the aquarium hobby & industry by Reef Builders Staff.  Nevertheless, Guin Burnard’s exceptional Photoshop Artwork had even this software guy (trained in Photoshop I might ad) to buy…or rather believe…the story.  I say believe, because there’s no way I could “buy it”.  Not after the first financial outlay this week!!!!

So yes, I was sent only 2 Maroon Clownfish.  One was a large female normally-striped PNG Maroon Clownfish, the second was the PNG Lightning Maroon Clown documented on Reef Builders here – http://reefbuilders.com/2010/03/30/lightning-maroon-clownfish-from-blue-zoo-aquatics-will-be-entrusted-to-an-accomplished-fishbreeder/

So that’s ONE legitimate Lighting Maroon Clownfish.

The OTHER legitimate Lightning Maroon Clown was the FIRST ever collected back in 2008, as reported here – http://reefbuilders.com/2008/09/21/wicked-maroon-clownfish-emerges-from-the-png/ – I have heard multiple stories about this fish, but cannot confirm any one to be any more true than the other.  Best to say that from my standpoint, the fate of this first Lightning Maroon is indeterminate.

So that’s TWO legitimate Lightning Maroon Clownfish.  I own one, the other is not something I can currently account for.

The third, as posted on April 1st, was a classic April Fool’s prank.  And such a thoroughly plausible and believable prank that in fact, I was so fully convinced despite my own skepticism that I actually have been left wondering…what was the actual prank?  Was the prank to concoct a 3rd Lightning Maroon, or in fact, was the actual prank to present the real 3rd Lightning Maroon, and then tell us all that sorry, it was just an April Fool’s prank?!

Chew on that for a while ;)

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