The Lightning Project

The ongoing saga of the PNG Lightning Maroon Clownfish Breeding Project

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The first retail offerings of Lightning Maroon Clownfish are only days or weeks away!

Blue Zoo Aquatics Lightning Maroon Clownfish Shipment, Group 1, 6/17/2013

One of the two mystery destinations for today’s Lightning Maroon shipments is indeed Blue Zoo Aquatics.  If you’ve been paying attention to their newsletters, or to Reef Builders, this should come as no surprise.  Way back when starting this project, I made the unilateral offer that I would provide Blue Zoo Aquatics with the right of first refusal on these fish, and of course, they’ve accepted my offers.  I’m excited about the introduction of these fish to the masses.

Blue Zoo Aquatics Lightning Maroon Clownfish Shipment, Group 1, 6/17/2013

Initially, the plan is to offer these F1 PNG Maroons in public, WYSIWYG auctions via eBay. Everyone will have a fair shot at them. This way the market truly sets the one will be able to accuse us of “gouging”. We’re playing no favorites either; initially I we had discussed holding back the lesser quality fish (some of which normally would be culled) to provide them to commercial breeders in private auctions.  I suspect some fish will go surprisingly inexpensively, while others may fetch a handsome sum.  We have no set time limit as to when these auctions will occur, but with the F1 fish now close to a year old and getting quite large, as we start pulling from the group tank, we may have to move quickly to prevent murders etc. We had also planned to drop ship the fish directly from Duluth, MN, but that plan has changed too.

Blue Zoo Aquatics Lightning Maroon Clownfish Shipment, Group 1, 6/17/2013

Like all good plans, the simple logistics of running what is probably the 2nd largest online retailer of marine livestock, combined with delays this winter, followed by the arrival of my new daughter, caused Mark Martin and I to reexamine some of our more detailed plans, ultimately streamlining things a bit for me and giving Blue Zoo a little more hands on control in fulfillment of winner’s purchases.  These first 5 will be our test scenario, and if it goes well, you can probably expect most or all of the Lightnings I sell to be offered through Blue Zoo Aquatics.

Blue Zoo Aquatics Lightning Maroon Clownfish Shipment, Group 1, 6/17/2013

In the process of shooting photos and bagging today, I photographed all of the F1 PNG offspring individually to create an “inventory” of sorts; each fish will be posted individually going forward, which will allow for individual reference.  Some of the general white stripe offspring might be difficult to differentiate, but the Lightnings by and large should be easy enough to follow as they leave here and go through the sales process.

Blue Zoo Aquatics Lightning Maroon Clownfish Shipment, Group 1, 6/17/2013

The main reason for shooting ALL fish that I currently am considering for sale is this – I don’t want anyone thinking that we held out and sold the “worst fish” first.  Nor do I want folks thinking there is an endless supply – there isn’t.  The one spawn that produced babies this spring gave me TWO FISH that are smaller than my pinky fingernail…I still have my work cut out for me with the wild pair.  Now, not every fish that I post up will necessarily be sold, and there may be some surprises if I opt to release other fish I’ve currently earmarked to hold onto personally for for other special projects.  Bottom line, it’s not 100%…but it’s going to be a pretty good idea of what’s likely to come.

How to get your Lightning Maroon Clownfish

Bid bid bid!  Until further notice, assume that you’ll be going through the Blue Zoo eBay auctions to get your fish. There are not going to be any other sources.  If someone approaches you with an offer to purchase a “Lightning Maroon” or a “Sibling” of the Lightning Maroon, feel free to ask me directly; chances are the offer is fraudulent.  I am not selling direct at this time for a number of reasons (one of the main ones being logistics and being a man of my word).  Here’s some tips on how you get your Lightning Maroon or siblings from Blue Zoo Aquatics.

1.  Register with eBay if you haven’t already.

2.  Add Blue Zoo Aquatics on eBay to your list of favorite eBay sellers.

Hit the “Add to favorite sellers” link in the righthand column on this page, and on the subsequent page, be sure to hit the checkbox to subscribe to email updates.

3.   Sign up for the Blue Zoo Aquatic’s newsletters (Both of them)…

so you get email notifications from Blue Zoo (the subscribe box is right on the Blue Zoo Aquatics homepage).  eBay favorite sellers may not email you every time or every item, so double down to be sure you don’t miss a listing.

4.  Polish your credit cards and request a limit increase! (just joking around). 

Note – you probably won’t need to use something like Paypal to pay Blue Zoo, although I assume they’d take it.

5. Make sure you’re ready to have these fish.

Make sure you can quarantine them.  Potentially have on hand Formalin and Cupramine, just in case – Brooklynella can just as easily be lurking in your systems, and Formalin is the only effective treatment.  Maroon Clowns are notoriously susceptible.  Make sure the tank is set up, established, you have breeder nets on hand should you need to segregate anything, and have a good fitting lid to prevent jumps.  These fish aren’t small, they’re good size and most all can eat Spectrum Thera A 1 mm pellets with ease.  I do not want to hear that someone got these fish only to kill them quickly.

6.  Review all the photos of potential fish in the “inventory” here on The Lightning Project

Note that “SOLD” fish are obviously not going to be available. Just make sure you know what’s out there so you’re not feeling like you missed out or didn’t get your fair shot later.

Understand that the quality on some fish is definitely sub-standard, and few are without blemish (in my opinion).  There may be fin deformities or other qualities that ordinarily would warrant a fish be culled.  MOST of these issues are likely cause by rearing and specifically FIGHTING as young fish, and are not presumably genetic.  We will do our best to disclose any shortcomings in any particular specimen; the importance of genetic distribution and diversity are what drive the decision to sell fish that normally would be culled (it’s not a “greed” thing…the more F1 fish we have creating the F2 generation, the better it is for heading off inbreeding problems).

7.  Get ready to bid. As with any auction, there can be only one winner.  

As a seasoned auction buyer myself, know that most of the bidding happens at the beginning and end of the auction.  While I’ll advise you to bid your maximum from the get go, I know that we generally hate to do so because we often feel we got “bid up” at the end and if we hadn’t bid so high early on, we might get a better price at the end.  Perhaps, but most of the time I’ve found that not bidding your max just lets someone ELSE win it for less (because you didn’t really bid your max).

If you win, please make sure you can receive the package immediately upon arrival.  For me, this means take a day off from work if you have to…because these aren’t really replaceable fish! Don’t have the package sit outside in the sun all day – it took me almost 3 years to get these fish to you…so be a responsible aquarist.  Blue Zoo will set their own terms in terms of DOA etc.  Direct ALL customer-related questions to Blue Zoo Aquatics.

An Important Note to Would Be Lightning Maroon Clownfish Breeders

I cannot really legally enforce upon you an agreement that you’ll only breed these fish with other PNG White Stripe Maroons, but I implore you to do just that.  Be a responsible aquarist and conscientious breeder.

Please do not make Gold Stripe X Lightning hybrids; these have the potential to destroy the efforts of conservation minded breeders. It is possible that the Gold Stripe Maroon is a distinct species of Premnas (in my opinion) and hybridization between species cannot be undone.  The results of Gold Stripe X White Stripe Maroons are disappointing anyways, a mixture of the traits, which means only a pale yellow infusuion at best would occur.  If you want to work with really unique Gold Stripe Maroon variations, please work with the Gold Flake Maroon Clownfish lines out of ORA.

Always seek out the best possible mate for your Lightning Maroon Clownfish.

In the absence of wild PNG Maroon Clownfish to purchase as mates, the next best possible mate is one of the F1 siblings.  I am working on producing other lines of PNG White Stripe maroons at this time, so please be patient…I may have other options for you in the future, and breeders who are holding my F1 Lightning Maroons will get extra consideration from me should I have distinct bloodlines to offer in the future.  Should wild caught PNG Maroons once again become available, these are IDEAL outcrosses and would be the best choice to create a diverse, stable genetic base in captivity.  If you’re forced to go outside the PNG provenance to find another white stripe maroon mate, note that the PNG provenance cannot be “recovered”..once that purity is lost, it is lost.

Keep EXCELLENT records, and pass along that full lineage with your offspring…if you outcross to non-PNG white stripe maroons, please do denote that with any fish you sell.  DO expect a rather harsh public criticism of any efforts to hybridize these fish – they are far too valuable and need your efforts in preserving good clean bloodlines.

If you are one of the lucky winners to receive my fish, welcome to the “inner circle”.  Please do reach out to me and make a connection.  I may opt to start up an email chain or private forum for people working with breeding the Lightning Maroon Clownfish to further facilitate cooperation and  coordination in our efforts.

3 “Lightning” and 4 “White Stripe/Spotted/Horned” Maroons are headed to FedEx right now.  Anyone care to guess where they’re going? (surprise – there’s more than one destination)

Months back I moved the Lightning pair to the basement following the ongoing disease problems the pair was suffering through.  In short, this last ditch effort worked, and the pair (along with their Foureye Butterfly companion) have lived in a 33 gallon extra long since then.  Their Ecoxotic Cube Tank was bleached to sterlize, and then soaked with vinegar to take off all the coraline algae.  The tank was scrubbed, rinsed, and sat dry for months.

This story, combined with a lack of any photos, has led a few crackpots to suggest that the Lightning Maroon had in fact died / perished.  Well…I was down there shooting photos recently and thought “what the heck” ;)

Of course, the long term goal has been to restore them to the original tank, this next time set up with Bubble Tip Anemones and not much else ;)

Tonight I started down the path, filling the tank and adding fresh new substrate (Caribsea’s Fiji Pink).

Let’s see how quickly things clear up ;)


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.

8 days post hatch.  To brine, or not to brine, that is the question.

First noticed this at roughly 1:30 PM on July 7th, 2012.  Dare you to hold your breath…

Larval offspring from the Lightning Maroon Clownfish nearing settlement.

Lightning Maroon Clownfish larvae, nearing metamorphosis

Headstripes forming on larval Maroon Clownfish spawned and hatched by the Lightning Maroon Clownfish

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.

I am still owing the world a full post, but in the interest if simply keeping you all relatively updated, here’s some short tidbits.

Based on an egg photo count, there was 310 eggs on the tile and all hatched.  There have been some larval losses, but that is to be expected.  Mike Doty did an excellent job watching the babies in my absence – plenty of live larvae when I returned from Boston this past Sunday, July 1st.

Since returning, larval maintenance has been a study routine of upping the water volume with drips of pre-mixed saltwater (for those who will ask, I am currently using AquaCraft’s Marine Environment – they donated a palette of it for Banggai-Rescue).  The SG is probably running around 1.021.  I am using Reed Maricultures RotiGrow Plus to culture my rotifers, and using their RotiGreen Nanno for greenwater (I may have preferred the Omega variant, but Nanno is what I had on hand).  I’ve been dosing RotiGreen and CloramX (a solution mixed from the powder) at roughly a 2:1 ratio, and averaging 30 drops twice a day now on the BRT. I have been harvesting up to 4 gallons of rotifer cultures daily (2 in the AM, 2 in the PM) to keep rotifer levels up.  As of tonight, we are at basically 6 full days post hatch, so I introduced the larvae to their first taste of APBreed TDO (Top Dressed Otohime), Size A (smaller than the A1 I’m more normally accustomed to using).  All is going well with these larvae, and I look forward to settlement soon.

The Lightning Maroon herself continues to be a problem…the Foureye has been removed for a while now, the Maracyn + Maracyn II treatment was long since done yet low level bacterial problems persist, most recently some very light markings on the male’s face, and then I found what looked like an enlarged light area on the leading spines of the left pelvic fin.  These fish just can’t get a break.  I am continuing to work with Dr. Kizer on some alternate ideas, as we’re really ruling out all the normal causes at this point.  Me, I’m stumped.  Without diagonistics, I think it’s fair to say that Dr. Kizer can’t really offer any other insights either.  We may try yet another antibiotic course, another one dosed through the food, that seems to be where we’re heading.  But I’m also thinking I don’t want to overreact either, so most likely we will try to have the prescription-based feed on hand, ready, should another large-scale problem crop up.

Shot in the very wee hours of the morning on 6/29/2012:

Impossible to say how many just yet, but after turning out the lights at midnight, I gave them about an hour, and I’ll give it another hour yet before I turn on lights to check for any remaining eggs (split hatches are common).  But in that quick peek with a tiny flashlight at roughly 1:05 AM, I saw all I needed to see.

Ladies and Gentleman; we’re rearing Lightning Maroon Larvae.



(after discovering  a single hatched-out baby in the flashlight’s beam, the tile was pulled under cover of darkness and moved to dedicated Black Round Tub for artificial hatching)

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