Anyone who’s been following The Lighting Project or has an interest in Lightning Maroon Clownfishes probably knows that SEASMART fishers were responsible for the two specimens collected in the waters of Papua New Guinea.As released moments ago @ ReefBuilders, the official word today is that EcoEZ’s SEASMART sustainable marine fish collection operations in PNG suffered a setback in the fourth quarter of 2010 as the governmental funding for the program was prematurely withdrawn.  Rather than rehash what I wrote at ReefBuilders, please read the article and press release from EcoEZ at
Needless to say, when I first learned of the shutdown my response was “crap”.  Probably followed by “WTF?!”.  While I don’t know how long this has been going on, it’s not like operations were suspended today, given that funding was withdrawn at least 3 months before it was supposed to be.  Meanwhile, the entire time members of SEASMART had been trying to continue to help with the Lightning Project, obviously despite these obstacles.  Of course I’m a patient guy, and I figured at the time that my needs were simply very low on the scale of priority compared to the LA importers.  Needless to say, despite everyone’s efforts and my ongoing requests for another large female PNG Maroon Clownfish (and several other items of PNG livestock to help make things worthwhile), SEASMART and their partners were unable to deliver what I had requested in the 4th quarter of 2010.  And now I know why.
It’s unknown whether exports will resume in a month, a year, or a decade.  Given the uncertain future of SEASMART at this point in time, it means that patiently waiting for the ideal PNG broodstock isn’t a viable option.  Therefore, hoping that a large female PNG Maroon will show up is false hope.  Hoping for another Lightning Maroon is out.  Hoping for any more juvenile Maroon Clowns that show irregular markings is out.  All of these possibilities keep me focused on protecting the Lightning Maroon from any external damage while trying to encourage breeding with a large White Striped Maroon Clownfish of unknown origin.  Keeping the Lightning Maroon a “male” had many advantages, especially when considering the possibilities of future broodstock.
So ironically perhaps, this turn of events made the forward path of the Lighting Project extremely clear.  As always, I’ll share the thought process.  First, as of today, here is an inventory of every Maroon Clown in the basement.
1 PNG Lightning Maroon Clownfish, assumed male, paired with 1 XLG “Labrador” White Stripe Maroon almost 6″ in size.
1 PNG Maroon Clown proven male, paired with 1 XLG proven female Sumatran Gold Stripe Maroon, about 5″ in size, actively spawning.
1 Pair of inactive proven spawning White Stripe Maroons from Greg in Iowa, the male having questionable characteristics.
1 lone Medium to Large White Stripe Maroon, Lucy, who is only slightly larger than the Lightning Maroon but has never been with another Maroon.  Sex unknown.
1 PNG Maroon Clown, in a 10 gallon QT tank with a RBTA.  A second, slightly smaller PNG Maroon Clown resides in a small breeder basket in the same tank.
Most of the non-PNG Maroon Clowns were brought into the program to perform one of two functions.  A)  Serve as  females to keep the myriad of PNG juveniles I had on hand as “males”.  B) Serve as a female semi-suitable mate for the Lightning Maroon until a more suitable, PNG-bloodlined Maroon Clown female could be paired with the Lightning Maroon.
With the loss of access to any WC PNG Maroons, the chances of obtaining a large adult PNG female are truly slim to none at the moment.  My only source would have to be a PNG maroon that had already been imported.  The simple truth however, is that very few, if any owners of PNG Maroons, KNOW that they have a PNG Maroon from the SEASMART program.  Any fish I took in would be coming with an extra layer of  “doubt” unless the hobbyist owner still had the paperwork documenting the fish as being from PNG.  In fact, such documentation is atypical at best to start with.
My only other option to obtain a female PNG Maroon at the moment is to ‘make’ one.  In truth, the 2 PNG juveniles sharing the 10 gallon tank have been undergoing my efforts to create a pair for some time now.  Since the two fish are the same size and fight when they are introduced, I’ve been feeding the one in the main tank 3 times per day, but feeding the small one only once per day.  This differentiation in feed should, over time, produce a significant size difference and ultimately, allow me to pair these two fish.  But that could take months or even years.  All that time, what about the Lighting Maroon.  And what if, just what if, that female doens’t work with the Lightning Maroon?  And what if the skeptics have been right..what if the Lightning Maroon in fact IS a female?
Well, perhaps the biggest bit of game-changing information is this.  I have only 4 PNG Maroons in my possession at this time.  All along, I have planned to establish other normally barred PNG pairs, specifically for the purposes of maintaining PNG bloodlines as well as genetic diversity.  The name of the game here – outcrossing.  The simple truth now is that there is really only one good route to go that can hit the most goals in the shortest amount of time.
“What now?” is no longer a question of options.  The small population I have to work with and the timeframes and risks surrounding any “options” are too great and don’t make sense.  The answer is now, for the moment, crystal clear.
The Lightning Maroon will be turning female.  She will be paired with the actively spawning PNG male.  The male will be introduced to her, not the other way around, in a new tank.  Given that the male is actively spawning, hopefully this will be some encouragement for the Lighting Maroon to make a quick sex change and start laying eggs.  This could indeed take weeks or months, but it’s the best shot I have if I want to maintain PNG bloodlines.
If that pairing seems problematic, I will be trying the other small PNG “male” that’s in restricted quarters.  Whichever PNG male is not paired with the Lightning Maroon will be ultimately paired with the other PNG Maroon that I’ve been encouraging to become female.  The net result will be 2 fully unrelated spawning pairs of PNG Maroon Clownfish.  This is the largest foundation population I can currently work with, and provides the best genetic diversity I can offer to the program unless other PNG Maroons are identified or collected in the future.
So there you have it.  Lightning Maroon will be turning female unless something really crazy happens.  Now all I’m waiting on is the Lightning Maroon’s NEW HOME, which seems to have gone missing in FedEx land?