I know you’re all excited…well…there WAS a PNG Maroon Clown involved, but it was NOT a “Lightning Maroon”.  No, the spawn I found today was between the large Sumatran Gold Stripe Maroon female from Jonica, and one of the small male PNG White Stripe Maroons which I had placed with the GSM to ensure it stayed a male.  I’d been noticing that the male would occasionally stay hidden in back, not coming out to feed.  This behavior seemed periodic.  Nothing else seemed out of the ordinary.  The female GSM never became noticeably ripe with eggs.  Her aggression level has not increased at all (as you are about to see).  I observed NO cleaning behavior other than the female’s constant digging.  No, the ONLY thing that changes is the male is becomes “shy”.  Being the third or fourth time I’ve observed this periodic shyness, I decided to upturn my live rock, carefully, to see what was going on.  Surprise, we have eggs.

Now, even if I raise these, I will do so only to get some practice rearing Premnas larvae.  After I’m assured I have it nailed down, any babies I raise from this pairing will be destroyed.  It may seem cruel, but the reality is that such “hybrid” larvae are likely to be intermediary between the two variants at best.  Some breeders would argue that you could use such methodology to introduce Lightning genetics into a Gold Stripe variety…ultimately creating Lightning Maroons that have YELLOW bolts on them vs. white.  No doubt, someday, someone may try that.  More realistically, some breeders might argue that such a cross could be used to breed more “docile” genetics into a white stripe form, which is generally deemed more aggressive.  While this is true, you lose the natural form along the way – the fish that are uniquely adapted to a location like the reefs of PNG is lost, and you have a man-made creation in its place which might fail to flourish in the wild for who knows what reason.  Or if reintroduced fish did survive, they could inadvertently introduce a latent gold stripe gene and one day all of the Maroon Clownfish in PNG would be gold stripes.  It’s a slippery slope when we start ignoring the unique traits that make up variants.  To take this “cross” to the most extreme, there are indeed people who believe that the Gold Stripe Maroon Clownfish represents a different species from the White-Striped forms (Premnas biaculeatus).  There is even a different scientific name that gets floated for the Gold Striped form – Premnas epigramma – by people who believe this.  Of course, this name is not currently valid in any sense.
While we may never know exactly where  the name Premnas epigramma came from, it is likely a slight derivation of another name, Premnas epigrammata, published by Fowler in 1904.  If in fact this name was applied to the Gold Striped Maroon Clown from Sumatra, it could someday become resurrected should someone research, and determine, that the form described by Fowler is in fact distinct from all the other forms.  Of course, if Fowler used the name on fish other than the Sumatran Gold Striped form, then that might leave the door open for an entirely new species name to be applied.  Ah…the joys of taxonomy.  There are actually at least 5 names out there for Premnas species, but all are considered synonymous with Premnas biaculeatus – check ’em out on Fishbase.
Nevertheless, scientists often have it wrong, or perhaps more appropriately, incomplete.  Consider Amphiprion barberi from Fiji, which was at first considered a population of the western Australian A. rubrocinctus, but then treated for a considerable time as a color variant of the Cinnamon or Dusky Clownfish, A. melanopus.  Only recently was this species recognized as distinct through genetic analysis, which confirmed the truly unique nature of the species.  Of course, this multi-decade “misidentification” calls into question the “pedigree” of every fish in the trade as “A. rubrocinctus“, not to mention the voracity of some captive bred Tomato (A. frenatus) and Cinnamon Clownfish which could very well be hodgepodges of 2 or even 3 species of fish.  Heck, there area already breeders who knowingly sell what should be called Percularis (the hybrids of the Common Clownfish (A. ocellaris) X the Percula Clownfish (A. percula)) as run of the mill common Ocellaris Clownfish.  The worst breeders do so intentionally.  Others may be mislead by vendors who can’t even tell the two species apart and don’t even bother to make corrections when the problems are pointed out to them (for history’s sake…that link points to a pairing of what I strongly believe is a female Percula with a male Ocellaris, being sold as a “True Percula Breeding Pair” and yes, I emailed the vendor about those and other mislabled pairs over a week ago – I am disappointed).
Interestingly though, talented hobbyists and breeders sometimes see differences where a scientist focused on morphology does not.  One of the best examples is the Darwin Black Ocellaris, which is so fundamentally different in breeding from the common orange Ocellaris Clownfish that we treat this variant as a separate entry in a more difficult class for scoring in the Marine Breeding Initiative.  The Maroon Clownfish actually shows some similarities in this regard.  Gold Stripes are generally relatively more peaceful, whereas White Stripes are generally considered downright vicious by most hobbyists and breeders (who have hard times keeping the juveniles from rendering all the fish in the batch too torn up to sell!).  Interestingly, through my own informal observations, it seems that Gold Stripe Maroons are particularly prone to losing their stripes as they mature, and this pattern of loss seems consistently from the bottom up.  It seems conversely that White Stripe Maroons may in fact NOT lose their stripes as they age, but be more more prone to darkening of the stripes.  It is differences such as these that are suggestive that in fact, there may be more subtle differences yet to be uncovered, and in fact, we may find we’re dealing with 2 species, and not one.
So…enough of my ranting for now.  For the record, the female Gold Stripe Maroon was brought in on 7-10-2010, and it is safe to say she spawned by maybe 11-28-2010, although I suspect there had been a few spawns prior…maybe as far back as 2 months ago.  Still, it just goes to show you that even when the fish are mature, clownfish are not “quick” to spawn.  And thus, the Lightning Project continues to be a big, long waiting game.