This is the story of leaving home only to have the entire trip be a subconsciously gut wrenching experience. last week on the Tuesday before MACNA, Tony Vargas swung into town and stopped by with Boomer. Among other things, he sat glued to the Lightning Maroon’s tank for almost an hour, snapping dozens or hundreds of images. I can still remember Tony saying “I think I know where those fish are going to spawn.” pointing to the back wall of the tank where the pair was actively cleaning. Tony got several good shots, one of which is so good that none of you have seen it. I told Tony “that’s my book cover”. The below image is not the “uber good” one that he’s holding back..this was just a “good” one.

Lightning Maroon Clownfish photograph taken by Tony Vargas on 9-6-2011

I departed for MACNA 2011 (Des Moines, IA) on Thursday, leaving all my aquariums in top shape. They’d be able to withstand a bit of neglect and nothing should’ve gone wrong.
Of course, Friday evening I find I have two missed calls from my wife. I step outside and call her. She tells me that she came home and couldn’t find the Lightning Maroon, so she got worried. I too was getting worried but realized that now, on more than one occasion, this boldly patterned fish still manages to hide from view. It turned out that since calling, she found the fish. However, she hadn’t seen either clownfish eat. This again was cause for concern, so I had her check the APEX for both temperature and pH; the two parameters most likely to be out of whack (it wasn’t until SUNDAY, long after all this, that I even thought to ask her if all the pumps had been running…of course they had been the entire time). Everything was in order.
To me, this was both disconcerting and intriguing. Disconcerting in that for the fish to be off feed, something could be going terribly wrong – i.e. ammonia or nitrite levels rising. However, Renee doesn’t overfeed, and there was nothing big in the tank that could’ve died and caused a massive crash. So, if things are OK, when else have I not seen fish eating? Well, pretty much right before they’re spawning.
Saturday rolled around and I once again got new info. My friend Jay who breeds Maroon Clowns and sometimes stops by the house to watch the fish had come over, and he made the observation that the Lightning Maroon was going to be spawning. Renee said the fish were cleaning like crazy. Talking later with Jay, what he described almost sounded like pre-spawn runs, with the fish doing practice “touch and goes”. Or another way to think of it…mating without laying any eggs. The female would rub her belly down, then the male would follow. That sounds to me like spawning.
MACNA itself reminded me of home many times, with the Lightning Maroon showing up in my presentation, David Vosseler’s SEASMART discussions, and Julian Sprung’s talk too. I don’t remember names, but I know several people came up and asked if I was the guy with the Lightning Maroon. A bit surreal still.
Of course, I get home late Sunday, and a few of my friends at MACNA (most notably Kevin Erickson and Tony Vargas) have heard what is going on and are sharing my possible excitement. I made it home late, and to my relief everything appeared normally. I broke out a flashlight to look for eggs, but found none. Interestingly, both fish were sleeping together on the back tank corner, where I have seen a lot of cleaning activity occurring.
The final bit of excitement came last night, when I was paying close attention to the fish for a minute. I haven’t seen any cleaning activity since I returned home, but I did notice a slight extension coming off the Lightning Maroon’s belly on Monday night. Could this be an ovipositor? Could it in fact be that the Lightning Maroon pair DID spawn while I was away? Afterall, first clownfish clutches are often consumed by the parents.
Based on what I’ve heard and observed, I will go on record to say that I *think* we may have had our first spawn while I was away at MACNA. All of the reported information points to that, and the experiences of many clownfish breeders would support the guess. We will obviously never know (unless I have yet to locate a nest), but it’s possible that our first documented spawn could very well be coming sooner rather than later.