I’ve been thinking, planning, and waiting, and for no reason whatsoever, tonight was the night.  Time to allow the Lightning Maroon out of the jail cell for some exercise in the yard.  Perhaps also time for a no-barriers meet-and-greet with the Labrador Maroon (a White Stripe variant of Premnas biaculeatus from unknown origins).
I could write about it, but why when I shot the whole thing on video?

So I realized I was wearing a white shirt, and with the metal halide pendent lighting I was totally getting in the way of the shot.  After watching for a bit, I ran upstairs, changed into black, which is marginally better.
My initial take is that the Lightning Maroon MUST be male.  This is the second time it has been introduced to a much larger Maroon and has not been mauled immediately.  No, in fact, I am more worried about the male Centropyge argi (Caribbean Pygmy Angelfish) who is in this tank, and immediately wanted to show the Lightning Maroon who was boss (until the Labrador Maroon came to the rescue).
There are still people who will doubt that this video is actual “evidence” that the Lightning Maroon is in fact a male.  So, I thought I’d do a bit of a demonstration.  You may recall weeks ago I posted a note about one of the juvenile PNG Maroons jumping out of a breeder basket and getting attacked.  Well, why not reintroduce this small male to the other fish in the tank.  Once again, I don’t think I need to write anything, the video shows it pretty darn clearly.  This is what happens when two Maroons of the same sex are introduced to each other.

And yes, as soon as I stopped the video I put down the camera and separated the two fish. The rest of this evening has been me sitting, anxiously, watching and observing, stepping away, coming back again, and wondering what’s next. The Maroons seem to be having a very good first date so far…

I personally believe the most telling observalble clue to the Lightning Maroon’s acceptance (and thus likely sex)  is how the Labrador Maroon reacts to any other fish that enters this area. Totally different than the reactions to the Lightning Maroon’s presence.   Seriously – check out the very tail end of this next video and watch how the Labrador Maroon reacts to the Dwarf Angelfish being in the “general area”.

So, I’ve kept the lights on late while I try to figure out my next moves. When I started this project, I pretty much planned on returning the Lightning Maroon back to “jail” for now, probably to live there at least until next week. But honestly, I figured if I was FORCED to remove the Lighting Maroon from the main tank, it’d be very easy…I figured the Labrador would be chasing it and keeping it OUT of the rockwork. Of course, the Lightning Maroon instead appears well accepted by the Labrador, and is hiding in the absolute least accessible area in the tank. Do I dismantle just to retrieve the fish?
There are two concerns. My first concern is that this initial pairing may be going well, but we all know stories of Maroon Clownfish females “turning” on their males. Would that happen here? Hard to say, but do I want to risk it? Honestly, right now is not really a good time to risk it as I won’t be in the ideal position to monitor things as often as I would want. My other concern is that the Centropyge argi male will beat the crap out of the Lightning Maroon. I’ve watched this huge pygmy angelfish (it’s the largest C. argi I’ve ever seen, longer than my thumb) go after a smaller Fire Clown (Amphiprion ephippium) who accidentally got out into the tank multiple times.  Ultimately the Fire Clown did not recover. Do I want to risk the Lightning Maroon? Hard to say. It does seem that the Centropyge argi keep the Labrador Maroon preoccupied, which means that the Labrador is actually protecting the Lightning Maroon from them, but ALSO that they are keeping the Labrador Maroon distracted from turning aggressive towards the Lightning Maroon.
As you can see, it’s a really tough call. Another week or two and I’ll be in a much better position to monitor things. Of course, seeing these interactions further bolsters my insistence on obtaining a wild female Maroon Clownfish from PNG. That is truly the proper mate for the Lightning Maroon, and for now, while I lack the hard evidence I want (fertilized eggs), I do feel this video makes a strong case for not giving up on finding a suitable female from PNG.  Either that, or I have to undergo a potentially arduous task of “creating” a PNG female out of the 4 juveniles I have on hand.  That could take years!  However, in the meantime, the Labrador Maroon seems to be doing the job I asked of it – keep the Lightning Maroon a male, and if you don’t mind, maybe start spawning so we can get some of those Lighting genetics preserved.
In the end, I pulled the tank apart and returned the Lighting Maroon to the safe-haven. I noticed that the Lightning Maroon had three splits in the rear portion of his dorsal fin as I captured it and put it back in jail. Was this from the Labrador Maroon? Or was it the fish I suspect more…the male Centropyge argi? I won’t know, but I do know that I think the next free-interactions between the Labrador Maroon and the Lighting Maroon may occur in slightly different circumstances.
For now, the lights are out.  The tank is slightly rearranged.  The Lightning Maroon is once again in a protective cage.  It is back in the hands of the Labrador Maroon – please please please decide to spawn on the back wall of the tank so the Lightning Maroon can fertilize from relative safety!!!