That’s right.  Officially put all those impatient and uninformed critics out of business.  It was fun pointing out how you were wrong – a great distraction while I patiently, and methodically, worked to do this RIGHT, which is very different from simply doing it “FAST”.
Of course, it did take a leap of faith.  Here’s how things went down.   Following the success with the pairing downstairs, I switched up the upstairs pairing and placed the Lightning Maroon in isolation for a few days, starting on July 13th.  We had a fish club meeting here on the 15th, but I didn’t feel like we had quite waited long enough.  I worked overtime the entire weekend, as in waking to sleeping, and time got away from me…before I knew it Monday, July 18th, 2011 had arrived.  I had “contaminated” the system containing my Percula juveniles with a couple new fish – while not worried for the Perculas, I refuse to take any risks with the Lightning.  That meant that I had inadvertently ruled out having any culled percs on hand to use as dither fish.
So on Monday, July 18th, I let the Lightning Maroon out of isolation and back into the main tank.  There wasn’t a big flurry of aggression as I had seen in the past, so I kept an eye on it.  Still, by evening, the two fish were at opposite ends of the tank.  I tried to catch either one out briefly, but got sucked back into work and ultimately forgot about the pair.  Late that night, after the lights had gone out, I noticed that they were not fighting, and there had not been any damage to the smaller male.  This wasn’t the first time they cohabitated without damaging aggression, but the male was pinned in the upper corner, out of sight and out of mind.
Tuesday, July 19th, found me once again busy with work but also busy with preparing for a trip to work, and ultimately, the MBI Breeder’s Workshop in the vicinity of Detroit, MI.  After everything else was done, I finally turned my attention to the Lightning Maroon’s tank, under the assumption that I’d be trying to catch out either fish to separate them for the trip.
It was that point at which I shot the video above.  While the fish had remained separated all day, there was still no damage to the male.  The behavior I saw, the more controlled and non-violent pair bonding behavior, and the close vicinity in which the Lightning Maroon allowed the smaller male PNG Maroon to be, was something I had never witnessed between these two fish before.
However, this behavior is what I saw in the other White Stripe pairs I had managed to create.  You see, it was experience that told me what to look for.  So while outsiders may have harshly criticized me for not “rushing” the pairing of the Lightning Maroon along, I will toot my own horn and say I was very wise to practice with OTHER fish that did not matter as much as the Lightning Maroon.
Still, come Wednesday morning, I considered the options one more time.  Things could turn ugly.  I’d be out of town for almost 6 full days.  At some point, as a breeder, you may find yourself in a position that requires a leap of faith, and that is what I did.  That, and left very explicit instructions for Frank, one of only a handful of extremely talented and capable aquarists, that if ANY damage was seen, to separate the fish immediately.  3 days of not hearing anything had me calling Frank  saying “I hope no news is good news”.  Saturday morning, at the MBI Workshop, I ended my talk with the “reveal” of the above video.  Yup, they saw it first.  Pays to go to the only marine ornamental breeding convention for hobbyists in country, if not the hemisphere or more.
Well, a week later, I can tell you that the leap of faith panned out.  Not a scratch on the little male PNG Maroon, and this evening, after returning home from a very long road trip, I took a moment to watch the pair a few times.  While still a young pair, they are quickly moving into more solidified roles, perhaps helped by the fact that the male was actively spawning with the GSM female I have downstairs before I separated that pair.
The course from here is VERY clear and very easy.  Just feed the heck out of them, then raise the temp by 1 or 2 degrees F, and hope that kicks them into their first spawn.  Once again, we find ourselves in a waiting game.  You can’t rush nature.