It is a known fact that the Oblique-Lined or Mccullochi Dottyback is still a rarity in the hobby. When Cypho purpurascens shows up in the trade, this stunning fish easily fetches $80 to $100+ for the “drab” female, with top quality males from Australia often hitting the $200 mark. When Reefbuilders caught wind that Junkai Ong, a native of Singapore, had reared this gorgeous Dottyback in captivity, the rarity of this species alone lead most to assume that this represented another breeding “first”.
A first for Junkai, but sadly for him not the first time this species has been captive bred. ORA and Matt Wittenrich can claim earlier successes, along with at least one other breeder (unable to find a name at this time). Still, have you ever personally seen captive bred Cypho purpurascens? Why, if other breeders have successfully reared such a valuable species, do we not see them flooding the market with it? A closer examination of Junkai’s work (and the failures of other breeders who’ve documented their attempts) reveals the answer, and in so doing, we realize how people would assume this to be a first, and why breeding success is extremely newsworthy!
In both online literature and hard print, this species is cited as notoriously difficult to get to spawn. Breeders who dare to try this species often wind up with one, or even both potential mates, severely mauled or outright killed. Even when following recommendations that a pair can be housed in a take of 100, or more often 200 gallons, mate murder is a real risk with this species. Not all Dottybacks are willing spawners even when they get along – I can personally attest to that having tried other species where I am still waiting, with no eggs to show for it. The main reason this success like Junkai’s is such a rarity, is due to the prohibitive capital investment, the high risks you run when trying to pair them up, and the difficulty of getting them to actually spawn and produce fertile full-term eggs in the first place.
Ironically, it seems that all those aforementioned problems weren’t the obstacles for Junkai. Full details of Junkai’s trails and tribulations can be read in his breeding log. Having found a pair that had been established in a large aquarium, he placed his breeders in a tank only 20 gallons in size and they were spawning in a matter of days. This early progress was short lived – Junkai spent 2 years working with this species, battling an egg eating female and the dreaded larval die offs that can happen when rearing Dottybacks. Only late last month was he finally reporting his first successful rearing of very cute, peach colored juveniles.
Even this success represents only a handful of juveniles at settlement, far from the quantity that would be necessary for widespread commercial distribution. When you realize all that went into producing just this handful of offspring, you see why they’re not going to be cheap even as captive bred. However, I also want to point out that many of the marine fish species that are routinely listed on “captive bred lists” are just like this fish, having been done once or twice, with a handful of offspring to show for it. So, seeing a species on a list as having “been done” should not give us any false sense of security. The “one time achievement” minimal qualification that drives such a list hides the amount of difficulty and dedication it may have taken, while also not revealing what at times can be a very small number of offspring that resulted.
No, in truth, such a feat demonstrates the need for continued research and refinement of techniques. Junkai’s observations and successes may help him, or the NEXT person in line, to have better success. By the same token, Junkai’s work with Cypho pupurascens may lead to his success with other, rare dottybacks (may we suggest Manonichthys jamali, Psuedochromis dixurus, or perhaps the drop dead gorgeous and probably violently mal-tempered Pictichromis auriforons?).
From all of us here at Reef Builders, I’d like to personally congratulate Junkai Ong on a fantastic success, and thank him for sharing his story publicly and these images here on Reef Builders!