Tennessee-based Sustainable Aquatics has been busy with their clownfish. Recently announced, SA is now producing both the Snowflake variety of A. ocellaris (marketed as the SA Snowflake Clownfish – pictured at right) and the Platinum variant of A. percula (marketed as SA Platinum Clownfish) as well as some unique new crosses of their own like the SA Black Ice, SA Fancy White and the SA Snow Onyx.
While these first two varieties (the Snowflake and Platinum) are not new, the breeders at Sustainable have been hacking away at the guppification of the Percula and Ocellaris species complex, mixing and matching newer varieties with other well established forms to create ever more varieties. If you love the man-made clowns, you’re in for a treat. If you dislike ’em, well, commercial producers have to make money to stay in business, and it seems that over the past several years, this is what your fellow hobbyists are willing to spend a premium for. The popularity of Designer Clownfish and their prevalence is classic example of producers responding to a perceived market demand. For the species enthusiasts, might we also remind you that Sustainable Aquatics is also producing captive bred Blackfoot Clownfish (Amphiprion nigripes) and Red Sea Two Stripe Clownfish (Amphiprion bicinctus). A full rundown of the new clownfish strains from Sustainable Aquatics are after the break.
Anyone who knows me knows I’m not a big fan of designer clownfish, but credit where credit is due, Sustainable Aquatics is fully disclosing the parentage of these new crosses, a move seldom seen in the freshwater ornamental trade. In this regard, SA continues to show a responsible, forward thinking attitude towards the future of marine fish breeding. We applaud Matt Carberry and Sustainable Aquatics for this “open source” approach to their breeding, and encourage them to stick with it.
Here’s the rundown on Sustainable Aquatic’s new releases, including some insights on what is likely the best way to fully label these fish based on precedents from other breeding arenas (such as Orchids, Hostas and Cichlids) :
SA Snow Onyx (left) – a crossing of Amphiprion percula “Onxy” with A. ocellaris “Snowflake”. So, the “Snow Onyx” is a “Percularis”, a form properly denoted as Amphiprion Percularis “Snow Onyx”, Percularis being the general term used for the hybrid of A. percula X A. ocellaris.
SA Fancy White (right) – a crossing of Sustainable Aquatic’s selectively bred “Fancy” form of A. ocellaris with the A. ocellaris “Wyoming White”. Thus, the “Fancy White” is Amphiprion ocellaris “Fancy White”.
SA Black Ice (left)- a crossing of Amphiprion ocellaris “Darwin Black” and A. ocellaris “Snowflake”. For the time being, we’ll think of these as Amphiprion ocellaris “Black Ice”, but if the Darwin Black Ocellaris ever gets designated as a distinct species, we’ll have to rethink this proper name of the cross, as well as the “Mocha” ocellaris (A. ocellaris “Darwin Black ” X A. ocellaris) and Sanjay’s “Black Photon” Percularis (A. ocellaris “Darwin/Black” X A. percula “Onyx”).
It should be mentioned that ORA first introduced this cross as the “Black Ice” around June 1st, 2010. Less than 2 weeks later, Fish Eye Services added the product “S’more Clownfish” to their online catalog. This may be a case of convergent developments, and it seems both names are in use (Fish Eye Services even acknowledges the “Black Ice” name on their website). While the marine fish breeding community currently lacks any governing body for the proper registration of hybrid names, the rules of precedence are well established in the taxonomic / scientific community, and should be followed here. Thus, “first to originate”, or in this case “first to publish” since technical origination dates are unknown, is the first and appropriate name. That points to all fish of this parentage technically properly being called A. ocellaris “Black Ice”, and Sustainable Aquatics is playing by those rules and utilizing the name bestowed on the cross by ORA (as I believe it should be). Of course, we are dealing with a “wild west” situation where I can only point to well-established protocols in other interest groups and hope that all marine breeders rise up to meet, or exceed, such standards of practice. These practices, some centuries old, exist for the mutual benefit of everyone who participates.
UPDATE – thanks to Pioneer’s commentary below directing us to an earlier forum post, it does appear that an earlier documented naming for the cross of a Snowflake Ocellaris X Black Ocellaris was in December of 2009, as a S’More. Rules of precedence would now suggest that S’More is the correct name for the “Black Ice” cross (until someone comes back with a yet earlier published example of the latter).
It’s interesting to also note rising popularity of the practice of appending a breeder’s name to the varietal name, such as “SA Onyx”, “Rod’s Onyx”, “Sanjay’s Black Photon”, or “DFS mccullochi” for example. I think this is a straightforward way of branding a propagator’s output without creating a new, deceptive name for something that already has a name. This is a unique naming convention that is showing up here in marine propagation, and as such it would seem to suggest that any future new varietal names ought not start with possessives or initials. There is a semi-parallel; in the orchid world, awarded cultivars and clones carry the awards after the varietal name, i.e. Paphiopedilum rothschildianum “Big Wings” AM/AOS. Curious to hear how you think such “branding” should be applied in this new naming convention, should we write our branded names like Amphiprion percula “SA Onyx” or Amphiprion Percularis “Sanjay’s Black Photon”? And what happens when we talk about a natural location, such as A. percula “SI Onyx”, where “SI” actually means “Solomon Islands” and not “Simon Ingersoll”? It may seem frivolous to fret over names until you realize that names, and naming conventions, provide several key insights into what something actually is. Following a standard protocol and framework allows us all to have uniform conversations across borders and languages. Thus, it does matter, especially when breeding. While we may continue to debate the best practices, organizations like Sustainable Aquatics will continue to develop the new varieties that cause us to ask these questions!
All images in this article appear courtesy Sustainable Aquatics, and are copyright 2010.