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We Have Clownfish Babies!!!

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Fish

Monday, October 22, 2007

David

Stashed on a wet table behind the clownfish exhibit are two tiny acrylic vessels that serve as the nursery for clownfish fry. In the past, the Aquarium has had success breeding maroon clownfish, Premnas biaculeatus. Common clownfish, Amphiprion occellaris, are commonly bred in aquariums which is evident because the Aquarium has an exhibit dedicated to these fish. However, very few people have been able to breed pink skunk clownfish. Finally after two years of dedicated work, we have had success with these tiny critters and we hope to share them with the world soon.

In the wild, clownfish generally live in harems of more than 3 individuals where the largest, dominant member is the female while the smaller less dominant members are males. Clownfish are actually born as hermaphrodites having both male and female characteristics. When the dominant female in a harem dies, the most dominant male will take her place as the new female.

In an aquarium, however, clownfish pair up with one another and remain faithful to their choosen mate. The larger of the pair will take the role of the female and the smaller will take the role of the male. Each of the clownfish pairs in the exhibit then chooses a site to deposit their eggs, which is usually a flat, protected surface. The fry hatch approximately 4 days later. The difficult part with rearing clownfish fry is removing the fry from the exhibit so that they can be reared in peace. The parents take no part in the rearing of the young. They will protect their eggs but once the eggs hatch, the babies are on their own. The fry can get eaten by other fish, swept away or even eaten by their own parents! To prevent all this, the fish were trained to deposit their eggs on a tile so that once the eggs are deposited, they can be easily removed along with the tile and transferred to the nursery.

Once the clownfish hatch, they look like little black specks of pepper in the water. They have to be fed several times a day because when you are that small, you cannot fit much food in your tummy. The fry start off eating rotifers and slowly graduate to baby brine shrimp. When they grow big enough, they can take commercially prepared fish flakes, similar to what most people feed their goldfish. The nursery must be cleaned daily using a hydro-vacuum and the water quality must be pristine. The fry do not fare well in poor quality water.

Amy, the aquarist who made this all happen, has now put them on display in the Jewels of the Pacific exhibit in our Tropical Gallery.

We Have Clownfish Babies!!!
At the time this photo was taken the fry were five days old. They are tiny!  | ©David Chen
We Have Clownfish Babies!!!
At the time this photo was taken, these baby clownfish were 30 days old. They were about the size of a dime.  | ©David Chen
We Have Clownfish Babies!!!
This is the nursery setup for the clownfish fry. Clean water is constantly pumped into the acrylic vessels and soiled water constantly leaks out the other side. It is like a perpetual diaper change.  | ©David Chen

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Joanne Medeiros

Tuesday, October 23, 2007 06:18 PM

I am so impressed with our aquarium! We have so many “firsts” and should be very proud of the wonderful work our Husbandry Dept. has accomplished and the many “firsts” our Dr. Adams has also accomplished! I never knew just how difficult it is to breed and raise (to adulthood) various fish, sea dragons, etc. I was impressed by this BLOG too. Thanks!!

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Josie

Wednesday, October 24, 2007 05:08 PM

Great blog, David.

I was wondering: how do you train fish to do anything, let along deposit their eggs in a specific spot?

Thanks a bunch!  Happy fishes!  me (smile)

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Chris Corpus

Thursday, October 25, 2007 11:45 PM

Josie, I noticed your question and thought I’d toss my 2 cents in. 

One way of “training” fish to lay eggs on a tile actually requires no training of fish at all.  It actually requires training the aquarist! 

The aquarist has to watch the fish and see the spot where they lay their eggs.  Once that pattern has been determined, the aquarist can place a tile or rock in that spot.  If the fish decides the tile or rock is similar enough to the previous spot, they will lay eggs on the tile.  Then it’s as easy as removing the tile full of eggs.

I don’t know if that’s how Amy did it here, but I’ve used this method for other fish in the past.

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David

Friday, October 26, 2007 04:42 PM

First you need to find out where they have been depositing their eggs. Then you introduce the tile to them. Over time, you can condition them to accept having the tile in their usual egg depositing spot. Eventually, they will deposit their eggs on the tile.
Thanks for the question.

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Grace

Thursday, January 17, 2008 10:50 AM

This is so cool

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