The Lightning Project

The ongoing saga of the PNG Lightning Maroon Clownfish Breeding Project

Browsing Posts tagged video

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.


On 5/21/2014, initially the hatch didn’t appear so good, but by afternoon, it was clear I had a solid hatch with hundreds in the BRT. I checked the tile, looked like 50% had hatched perhaps, so I let it go in the BRT overnight again, with only ambient light.  THAT might have been a mistake, because this morning, there was no additional hatch, but many of the larvae had perished. Seems like I have a pretty reliable hatching protocol with H2O2 dip and broodstock water yielding reliable results on the first night. Moving the batch for a second night hatch might just be the ticket.  The OTHER interesting thing – I do have to wonder if we have hatches going on during the day. I’ve long since wondered if that could be happening…

On the other front, Mike sent me an update video of Spawn #27.

Looks like I’m gonna owe him a Gold Nugget Maroon from ORA.

Lots of updates with no photos, so why not take a moment and remember what we all really enjoy – seeing these fish grow up.

First up, my one-ventral-finned holdback so I can keep tracking developing photos of the pattern on this fish.

Before I left on my fishing trip last week, I took the liberty to move one of the last summer offspring up into a vacant cube on the cube system, thinking that would free things up for another batch of clowns at some point.  I thought it was big enough to NOT go through the holes.

You might remember LM17…

Well LM17 now has a buddy, which I will now dub LM18

At the moment, LM18 appears to be just about “perfect” as a clownfish.  I discovered LM17 and LM18 cohabiting earlier this week, perhaps Monday (it’s now Friday) and opted to take the ‘wait and see’ approach.  So far not a nick or scratch.  I moved all neighboring fish in the cube system as far away from this “pair” as was possible to help foster whatever pair-bond might form between these two fish.  Might be seeing these two offered as a bonded pair sometime in 2014….

For the moment, here’s more of LM18.

Video of the pair – proof it happened:

So last week I was busy busy busy; wrapping up the Banggai Recue Book and off to the MBI workshop.  Sometime last week, in the chaos, the Lightning Maroon pair spawned, a nice big nest in their new tile home.

Of course, chaos this week continued, another book to edit, another freelance gig, and when I went to pull the nest on the anticipated hatch night, it was GONE. @!#%!#!#%!

In other news, during the chaos last week gave us a first look at the two Lightning Maroons, BZLM1 and BZLM2, on a pay date.  It will be very interesting to see how pairing goes for these two…we’re several months away from stability in my opinion.  Case in point, watch the smaller fish (destined to be male).  Those are submissive shakes – those are TAILBEATS…an aggressive behavior designed to attempt to knock your opponent off balance.  Here’s the video, and for more, check out the Lightning Maroon Playdate on

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.

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

Yes, that “surprise” that happened today was the honestly unanticipated 2nd spawning of the Lightning Maroon.  The massive flooding in Duluth the last couple days prevented Barb from making the trip to teach me how to do a skin scrape on the Lightning Maroon; had she come yesterday as originally planned, I very well may have a) fished out the male, or possibly even the Lightning Maroon herself for a skin scrape and thus b) probably delayed or prevented this very spawn from happening.  Serendipity at it’s finest.  It was still the plan to skin scrape the fish today to rule out any external parasites, but when Barb called to say she was on her way, I had to tell her that the fish had started spawning behavior, and that maybe it wasn’t a good idea to touch them today.  This was shot right after I got off the phone with her:

By the time she and Heidi had arrived, things were looking pretty serious, so much so that I had to excuse myself from being a good host to immediately film the fish’s behavior.  Lucky thing I did, because I caught the very first few eggs being laid as it happened (left the audio commentary on, if you can imagine me shooting while talking and pointing to the tank…)

Afterwards, believe it or not, I actually tore myself away so that we could do some skin scrapes on some other fish downstairs just so I could learn how to do it.  Turns out it was really easy, but honestly, it’s one of those things that I think you simply want to see done the first time, just so you know you’re doing it right.  And between my two microscopes, I really a) don’t have one powerful enough to look at the sample and b) wouldn’t necessarily know what to look for, whereas Barb has that experience.  The samples we took from the fish downstairs were clean (no pathogens noted).  Always a nice thing to hear ;)

After Barb and Heidi departed, I sat down and took some additional video of the post-spawn behavior.  You can clearly see both the mark on the male right between the eyes, as well as the inflamed tissue around the left eye of the female.

So that’s where we’re at.  A new batch of eggs, and new hope that maybe, just maybe, I can take some of the pressure off if things go our way and we get some baby Lightning Maroon Clownfish.  Wouldn’t that be great?  If we have success, it’s realistic that 1-2 months from now we might have our first ideas at what we’re looking at.  Of course I’ve just now done the math and realized – I will be speaking in Boston the weekend these eggs are due to hatch.  THANKFULLY I have not one, but TWO local hobbyists here in town who have both hatched and reared maroon clownfish.  Looks like I’ll be asking both Mike Doty and Jay Hansen to do some pretty serious fish sitting next weekend!!!


With SOPA and PIPA making news this week, it’s all too timely to bring up a brief discussion about copyright.  I was 100% against these measures because they lacked the necessary protections of due-process…all it takes is an accusation to bring down an entire server, a server which could house dozens or hundreds of unrelated websites.  Never-mind whether the accusations are even true.

That said, copyright is some pretty serious business.  What people don’t realize is that some of the aquarium industries most valuable photographers are actually reducing what they publish because rip-offs are simply too prevalent.  To date, there have been only three people here in my home shooting high-quality photography of the Lightning Maroon Clownfish.

First is Tony Vargas.  He shot for over an hour, to the point of almost ignoring the other 16 tanks in my house!  Tony takes copyright so seriously that he releases few if any images from his work, and when he does, he’s forced to watermark right over the subject,  like this:

It’s a shame that Tony must do this, as a watermark is, in my opinion, very obtrusive.  However, Tony has been driven to this as a stern measure to help enforce the copyright over his work.  You (the vague, amorphous, internet community at large) are to blame.

Marc Levenson has been here too and photographed the Lightning Maroon.  It’s fair to say that Marc shares my dislike of watermarking over a photographs subject.  So instead, he places a photo credit within the picture, but off to the side or bottom so it doesn’t interfere.  For example, this:

Better yes, but certainly such a mark is easily cropped off this image.  I implemented such an image strategy in an earlier business, and routinely found my images being used by my competitors to sell competing products….they’d just cut off the watermark and use the image as if it was their own.  Policing this was a nightmare.  I invested thousands of dollars to create this photography to sell my products and they’re stealing it and underselling me.  You bet it drove me insane.  It was HIGHLY wrong and quite illegal to do what they were doing.

But in the end, I still did not choose to watermark my images as Tony had done.  So really, if I’m not going to watermark every image I put up here because I want this audience to enjoy unfettered images, what am I asking of you, the reader?

Well for starters, I’m asking you to not steal my images.  We’re not even through the first month of 2012, and I’ve already been notified of 2 unauthorized uses of my Lightning Maroon photography.  Certainly some of you may ask “what’s the big deal”?

First off, it’s because they didn’t ask.  Yes, often times all it takes is to say what image you want to use, why you want to use it, and often you’ll get positive response from the average photographer who isn’t doing it for a living.  Yes, Tony and Marc both gave their blessings for me to share their photography here on the website.

Of course, Marc and Tony were invited to my house.  They shoot photos of my property, without offering any compensation to do so, so there’s an understanding and respect there from the get go…i.e. I’d hope that these friends of mine would contact me and suggest me first if anyone came to them looking to license Lightning Maroon photography.  By the same token, Tony has one image that I’ve said “that’s the cover of my BOOK Tony, that’s awesome, and I’d hope he’d be kind enough to simply let me use the image gratis (since it is my fish in my tank afterall, shot with my permission)..but I’d still make sure he’s compensated in some way because man, a book cover of that caliber…he deserves it.

So yes, even with ALL of this “unspoken understanding”, I still showed my friends the courtesy of ASKING before using their images here on TLP.  And still, it’s important to note that technically, if Marc or Tony wanted to commercially use their photography of the Lightning Maroon in my home, they’d have to obtain a property release form from me in order to do so (and if I wanted to be a jerk, I could make them pay me for that release)- it’s that much more important because the Lightning Maroon is a one-of-a-kind, instantly recognizable fish that over time has also become synonymous with me.  Still, so much of this in the aquarium world functions on mutual respect and the understanding.  And despite that, every image I use in a story on Reef Builders is either creative commons, my own, or one that I’ve ASKED to use first.

But the fact that this month’s infringers didn’t ask to use my photography is almost trivial…in both cases this year if infringers had asked for permission, I would’ve said “no”, you can’t use this image in this manner.  But still, understand that I might say “yes” just as easily to some future inquiry, or I might say “for that use, I’d be willing to license the image”.

In the two cases this year, I didn’t get paid either way.  That’s theft.  Granted, I wouldn’t have offered to license these images either.  Doesn’t make it OK to steal them then.  If you can’t afford it, or it’s not available for purchase, theft is not the solution.  You’re not starving and my images are not a loaf of bread.

But the real conundrum here is that along the way, this iconic fish has become synonymous with my personal name.  So when someone uses my photography of a one of a kind fish that I own, people recognize it.  Instantly.  And I’ve found it directly associates back to me.

The use of my Lightning Maroon photography in commercial settings creates a connection between myself and the activities of the person who isn’t authorized to use the imagery in the first place.  It’s interesting because in both cases of infringement this month, I found out not by my own hand (it never happens that way) but because people contacted me to say “Hey, do you know this person that’s using the Lightning Clownfish in this way here on the internet?  What can you tell me about their product/service/business?”

Well guess what kind of response your business / project / service gets when I find out you’re stealing my photography and along the way, creating the illusion of an unspoken, unofficial endorsement by me?  Do you think I have glowingly wonderful things to say about you and your business?

I’m not going to go into the realities of copyright law here.  Yes, I’m trained in it; understanding copyright was crucial in my professional line of work.  Here’s the important pieces of advice, both for me, and in general:

  • If you’re re-posting a Lightning Maroon Clownfish image of mine on a forum or something to say “Hey, check out this new shot” and you attribute it to me and link to the blog, I’m not going to have a problem with that, I get that, and you’re not causing me any harm by doing that.  However…
  • If you find an image of the Lightning Maroon out there in any other capacity, that wasn’t published by me, a vendor who handled the fish (Pacific Aqua Farms, Blue Zoo Aquatics), or someone who’s known to have photographed the fish (Ret Talbot, myself, Marc Levenson, Tony Vargas, and soon to be Gary L. Parr), please let me know immediately as it is probably an unauthorized use.
  • The Lightning Maroon’s likeness will never be licensed out for use as part of any brand identity..i.e. you’ll never see a logo with the Lightning Maroon in it unless it’s something I’ve done, for me (i.e. if  I have babies to sell someday).  Anything even remotely commercial at this point,  chances are it’s unauthorized and I want to know about it.
  • If you want to use any images of the Lightning Maroon, in a commercial or journalistic setting, please ask first so we can discuss whether I’m comfortable with the use, and any potential licensing arrangement.
Some more general copyright advice:
  • Any image, text, etc, is covered by copyright the second it is created.  It does not require a copyright symbol, sign, watermark or any other notation to be copyright protected.  Just because it doesn’t say “Copyright Matt Pedersen 2012″ on the image, doesn’t mean it’s not my image.
  • All you really need to know is a very simple test – if you didn’t create it yourself, and you didn’t license it from someone else who did, then you don’t have any claim of copyright on that work.  Using it in just about any setting could have you violating copyright.  Again, not going to get into “fair use” cases because frankly, in the aquarium hobby world and industry there aren’t many likely scenarios for a fair use claim to arise.
  • In general, if you’re just rumbling around the internet and find a picture you want to use for something, ask first.
  • If you don’t know who’s image it is, find out.
  • If you can’t find out, move on and find another image.
  • Or go find an image on Flickr that’s available for attribution only license via Creative Commons
  • Bottom line, real simple, if you want to stay above board, avoid public embarrasment, avoid nasty emails, and avoid a bad reputation, make it yourself.

It’s really simple folks.  Life is better for everyone if we respect the creative works of other people.  It costs real money and time to create and publish these works for you to enjoy.  It is one thing to share and attribute those works to promote them (although you’re probably still violating copyright law), but it is an entirely different story to use images in a commercial manner of any kind, let alone in a manner that appears to create an   endorsement or partnership where none exists.

Mike Hoang’s new Goldstripe Maroon Babies were announced moments ago on ReefBuilders.  It’s hard to say how excited I was when I stumbled across these baby Goldstripe  Maroon Clownfish being turned out by Mike Hoang.  I saw them and wondered…if you breed two of these together, will you get Gold Stripe Lightning Maroons?
Gold Stripe Maroon babies with extra spots and markings - image courtesy Mike Hoang

Gold Stripe Maroon babies with extra spots and markings - image courtesy Mike Hoang

Of course, it might be very premature to discuss breeding outcomes given that we don’t even know if there’s a genetic component here.  However, there’s been no shortage of discussion around what these fish should be called?  And yes, just to be clear – no photoshop here – the video of the babies at 3.5 weeks post hatch proves it!

Perhaps even more interesting is that these babies are the offspring of normally-barred captive-bred GoldStripe Maroons:

Parents of Mike Hoang's unusual maroon clown babies - image courtesy Mike Hoang

Parents of Mike Hoang's unusual maroon clown babies - image courtesy Mike Hoang

Initial reports called the fish Teardrop Maroons.  Arguably you could say I pursuaded (bullied) Mike away from this name given the prior use of it to describe a common pattern in misbarred Ocellaris Clownfish (not genetic). Mike joked online that maybe they should be called Picasso Maroons. Perhaps a fitting name in my opinion.  However, after futher consideration, I would argue that the somewhat Piebald Maroons show off by ORA at the 2010 MACNA are more fitting and similar to the barring pattern displayed by a Picasso Perc, and thus, maybe Picasso might be a good name for that variation.

Mike Hoang's Maroon Clownfish, a specimen with a "Pearl Eye" - image courtesy Mike Hoang

Mike Hoang's Maroon Clownfish, a specimen with a "Pearl Eye" - image courtesy Mike Hoang

Mike’s baby Maroon Clowns truly look somewhat like the spotted Amphiprion bicinctus that ORA produces and calls Spotcinctus, a variation that seems to have repeated itself in the fish called the Picasso Clarki Clownfish.  Heck, just this morning (9-20-2011), Mike sent photos of a baby he discovered in this batch showing what we’d call a “Pearl Eye” mutation, and this patterning is seen in many of the Spocinctus and Picasso Clarkii.

Similar variations in Maroon Clownfish barring and striping have appeared before from Sustainable Aquatics (SA) and also from wild fish that have been called Horned Maroon Clownfish by SEASMART (the Horned Maroons lacked spotting).  If SA already gave their variants a name, it could take priority over anything Mike could want to call them if they’re the same thing.

While waiting to hear back from Sustainable Aquatics, Mike and I discussed the issue of naming, and after some back and forth, in trying to pick something unique, I proffered “it’s a Maroon, right?  We have a Lightning Maroon.  What about a Hailstorm or Raindrops Maroon?”  Mike’s final answer, and a tentative name – Thunder Maroons. Unique and different with a bit of whimsy.

Goldflake Maroon Clownfish - courtesy Sustainable Aquatics

Goldflake Maroon Clownfish - courtesy Sustainable Aquatics

Of course, the discussion continued once we had Matt Carberry of Sustainable Aquatics get back to us – indeed, there was a prior name that SA applied to fish with this phenotype (appearance) -Goldflake Maroons.  Matt elaborated on their work with the Goldflake Maroons, writing, “We have seen some aberrant maroons show-up occasionally. The oldest pictures I can find are late 2007; I’m sure that most breeders of maroons on any scale have noticed some of these types of markings. It isn’t extremely common, but we regularly find them in hatches from multiple spawning pairs.”  Matt went on to elaborate some initial genetic findings, relaying that they “formed a pair from these, but their offspring have produced only normal maroons (working on the next generation might yield something, but we haven’t explored that). It might be similar to the clarkii pearl-eye or more recent picasso-esque mutation. We have formed pairs of pearl-eye clarkii, but their offspring are no different from normal parents. It seems to be something that happens during larval development.”  So the jury is out.

Goldflake Maroon Clownfish - courtesy Sustainable Aquatics

Goldflake Maroon Clownfish - courtesy Sustainable Aquatics

I am the first here to say that this situation has me perplexed.  In comparing the “SA Goldflakes” to Mike’s new babies, it is clear that they are similar, but that Mike’s offspring are a more extreme form of the aberration, with more spotting, more irregular and split barring.  Mike and I both see the merits of calling his offspring “Hoang Goldflake” – a nod to the preexisting name for what currently appears to be the same basic variation in the same species and a continuation of a process becoming well-entrenched in marine fish breeding (Booyah’s Onyx, Rod’s Onyx, C-Quest Onyx…see the pattern?). So that makes sense for the moment.

It’s fair to say that Matt Carberry would agree that for the moment, “Goldflake” may be a the right name for Mike’s fish.  “To be clear about the namings, I am happy that people use any names that we have made and happy if Hoang calls his fish Goldflakes. SA hasn’t and has no plans to trademark a fish/coral name. I’m happy about this too–it makes a consistent presentation to the hobbyist/trade that makes it easier to see what you are getting. We call our fish “SA XXX” just to designate where they were bred versus another breeder working on the same morph. Use of different names for the same morph is confusing to the hobbyist.”

Of course, is it perhaps premature to discuss a name at all?  Personally think the name should tentatively stand as Hoang Goldflake until we either see that this is clearly different from the SA Goldflakes, or if we learn this form of misbarring is caused by the rearing conditions and not genetics (in which case these may simply be classified as “ovebarred” vs. “misbarred”).

Goldflake Maroon Clownfish - courtesy Sustainable Aquatics

Goldflake Maroon Clownfish - courtesy Sustainable Aquatics

If in fact Mike’s fish prove to be genetic, or continue to develop a much more extreme variation, it might be very fair to call these fish Goldstripe “Thunder” Maroon afterall, in this case owing to the distinctiveness of the form and being the first proven genetic.  But then again, we could very well be looking at simply something analogous to the various gradiations of the Picasso mutation in Percula Clownfish, where we acknowlege they are all Picassos, and show varying levels of misbarring and overbarring across the population that go further and further from the norm.    In that case, perhaps Hoang’s Goldflakes represent more “A Grade” Goldflakes vs. the “B Grade” Goldflakes originated, named, and shown in some of Sustainable Aquatic’s earlier images.

Of course, we don’t yet know if the SA Goldflake and Hoang’s Goldflake are the same, but it certainly seems that they could be.  Still, there is that outside chance that Mike’s fish could all grow up and look like the Lighting Maroon…

Mike Hoang's Maroon Clownfish, a specimen showing hints of complex patterning - image courtesy Mike Hoang

Mike Hoang's Maroon Clownfish, a specimen showing hints of complex patterning - image courtesy Mike Hoang

My personal opinion – if I was to guess how baby Lightning Maroons might look at this age, I’d say Mike’s fish would match my imagination.  Seriously – look at that midstripe above…it looks as if the stripe is starting to split and have a dark area in the middle.  Take another look at this particular baby from the other side.  Could Mike be sitting on a goldmine of baby Gold Stripe Lightning Maroons?

Mike Hoang's Maroon Clownfish, a specimen showing hints of complex patterning - image courtesy Mike Hoang

Mike Hoang's Maroon Clownfish, a specimen showing hints of complex patterning - image courtesy Mike Hoang

Time and breeding will tell whether Hoang’s Goldflakes stay named as “Goldflake”, get a new name in “Thunder”, or even somehow wind up being the foundation stock of the Lightning variation in a Goldstripe Maroon population.  Until then, our imaginations can wander as we take in these thought provoking photos of Mike’s funky babies.  Keep track of Mike’s progress by following his breeding posts over on

Gold Stripe Maroon babies with extra spots and markings - image courtesy Mike Hoang

Gold Stripe Maroon babies with extra spots and markings - image courtesy Mike Hoang

Gold Stripe Maroon baby with extra spots and markings - image courtesy Mike Hoang

Gold Stripe Maroon baby with extra spots and markings - image courtesy Mike Hoang

Gold Stripe Maroon babies with extra spots and markings - image courtesy Mike Hoang

Gold Stripe Maroon babies with extra spots and markings - image courtesy Mike Hoang

Mike Hoang's Maroon Clownfish, a specimen with a "Pearl Eye" - image courtesy Mike Hoang

Mike Hoang's Maroon Clownfish, a specimen with a "Pearl Eye" - image courtesy Mike Hoang

Mike Hoang's Maroon Clownfish, a specimen with a "Pearl Eye" - image courtesy Mike Hoang

Mike Hoang's Maroon Clownfish, a specimen with a "Pearl Eye" - image courtesy Mike Hoang

We are 110% on the right track. I know I alluded to the nest cleaning behavior here and other places, but today I caught it on camera. The Lightning Maroon was getting into it too, but the male PNG White Stripe Maroon Clown was doing the bulk of the substrate clearing. Of course, we know people who’ve had clownfish pairs do this behavior for months, or even years. Still, based solely on my clown pairs, you don’t see the female doing any of this unless she’s actually in the mood. I didn’t catch the Lighting Maroon doing any cleaning – I think my getting closer to the tank this evening kinda put “her” off. This is at least the third time I’ve seen them both going at it around the 6:00 PM hour…normally right when we’re having dinner. At any rate, enjoy the videos!

Forgive my wife’s laughing at the start of this one – our son was tasting lemonade for the first time and we’re pretty sure, based on the hysterical facial contortions he was making, it’s a love-hate relationship.

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