Just over a year ago, as I wrapped up the 2010 Marine Breeding review, I found myself wondering if 2011 would build exponentially on the successes of 2010. 2011 was another year in which we all learned from what we shared with each other, and with the growth of marine breeding as a serious hobbyist endeavor, there was no shortage of news from the commercial, academic, and hobbyist realms.
There is probably some truth in saying that 2011 may well have been the year in which no one single person could truly keep up with all that was happening. Indeed, 2011 proved to be a year where it took the collective eyes of my fellow breeders and Reef Builders readers to keep us informed as the breeder news at times came fast and furious. I’m pretty sure that something didn’t make this massive review – if I overlooked it, or we didn’t cover it, be sure to send us a tip! On with the review of marine breeding in 2011 – such a massive year that we had to cover it in two installments!
While fish remain the obvious choice for breeding efforts, the first half of 2011 surprised us all some good news on the invertebrate breeding front. ORA ended February by announcing it’s successful breeding of the Variegated Sea Urchin, while Reef Aquatica in Canada shared with us a rare look at captive-produced Upside-Down Jellyfish just over a month later in April. In May, we saw a new Berghia Breeding book become available – great to see that these Aiptasia-eating machines (which are always in short supply) may get a bit easier to propagate commercially with Dene Banger putting a protocol down in print.
In a year that seems simply plagued with legal wranglings over the marine aquarium trade, the news of breeder Marcel Triessl being jailed in South Africa for supposedly breeding marine fish as a hobbyist without the proper licensing had us all shocked. Of course, it was Marcel’s origination of the first Albino Ocellaris Clownfish that got him noticed for doing something that many South African marine aquarists were already doing without any legal questions being raised. The last we’ve heard is that the charges against Marcel may have been dropped for the time being, but at the end of 2011 we have yet to see any Albino Ocellaris leaving the country, and conversations with Marcel earlier in the fall of 2011 suggested that the ongoing legal battles had taken a toll on his personal life and breeding projects. We can only hope for Marcel to have a vigorous comeback in 2012.
Of course, with Clownfish really being the foundation of the marine breeding world, this update would’ve been more than full just reporting on clownfish-related happenings. For starters, we saw Joyce Wilkerson’s landmark book, Clownfishes, go out of print at the start of 2011. What had been a book you could get for less than $30 suddenly became a rare commodity. At the time, a new copy could have cost you $450! It’s only worse now – at the start of 2012 a new copy of Wilkerson’s Clownfishes on Amazon ranges from $356 to $2,015, and a used copy starts at $85 and goes up to $900!
Keeping up the clownfish theme for the moment, Proaquatix kicked off 2011 releasing captive bred Akyndinos Clownfish – while perhaps not the first to breed the species, the commercial release was certainly noteworthy. Bali Aquarich pleased the designer clownfish collectors with the release of Picasso Clarkiis, which show a spotted overbarring mutation strikingly similar to the preexisting ORA Spotcinctus (Amphiprion bicinctus). ORA stepped forward with tales of surprising accidental hybrid clownfish that originated from clutches spawned by broodstock in shared system water. It was assumed that sperm would have had to travel from one spawning pair, through central filtration and into the tank with another spawning pair of a different species. ORA also announced the release of a Black Snowflake Ocellaris created through a well-planned selective breeding program to introduce the snowflake mutation from the normal Ocellaris into the Black Ocellaris form. Who could deny being fascinated with the the oddly miraculous “Color Changing Ocellaris” debuted from Sustainable Aquatics, which can rapidly shift from the regular deep orange coloration to a smokey black version without a moment’s notice. While some of us were certainly missing Marcel’s Albino Ocellaris coming stateside in 2011, ProAquatix introduced their own in-house mutation, the Tangerine Albino Ocellaris, which caused quite a stir as breeders speculated over the genetics of this unique clownfish, somewhat different in that it shows some melanin production whereas the Albinos produced by Marcel seem not to. While the biggest non-news event for 2011 may have been the fact that while paired, there has yet to be any spawn on the famous Lightning Maroon Clownfish, Mike Hoang surprised us all by showing of some very heavily patterned Goldflake Maroon Clownfish babies. Even LiveAquaria got into the breeding action, touting a very unique cooperative partnership with ORA to increase productivity of the F1 Mccullochi broodstock by shipping live clownfish eggs to ORA. Every bit of breeding we can do with this very rare species is a good thing given it’s extremely small range in nature and no legal access to more wild caught individuals. LiveAquaria didn’t stop there in 2011 – Kevin Kohen and Steve Krogh worked hard throughout 2011 to join the ranks of the few people in the world who’ve successful spawned and reared another rare clownfish – you’ll get to read about that story it in a forthcoming 2012 issue of CORAL Magazine!
If 2011 had only been clownfish breeding news, it might have been a rather “bland” year for the rest of us, but the pioneers out there did more than just clownfish. In fact, a lot of the advances in 2011 came in the form of new commercial support for breeding in the form of cultures and supplies. Companies must be seeing growing interest and need for the things of captive propagation, and breeders are generally quite grateful to have anything that makes their lives a bit easier. AlgaGen led the way introducing 4 new commercially available copepod cultures in 2011 – Acartia tonsa (with a proven track record for rearing some Damselfish and Dragonets), Parvocalanus crassirostris (most notable as a known first food for Centropyge Angelfish), “Tangerine” Pods and Pseudodiamptomus pelagicus – two more whose value is not yet know fully, but certainly will provide new avenues for experimentation.
The other big news came from Reed Mariculture, long known in the breeding world for supplying many different types of useful breeding products, most notably their many algae pastes. However, Reed Mariculture has always been really focused on commercial (foodfish) producers, selling products in commercial sizes, while their consumer facing products, in the form of Reef Nutrition, were in small quantities and weren’t the products that small scale breeders and public aquariums were looking for.
Enter APBreed, the new brand and product line meant to fill the gap. Bar none, the most notable product release for 2012 has been APBreed’s TDO (which stands for top-dressed Otohime). Reed Mariculture had been selling Otohime for years, and hobbyists had been adding various top-dressings (most notably Astaxanthin) to supplement / alter the Otohime diet to meet their exact needs. This was a messy, laborious process, so breeders were among the first to rejoice when the product was released, and their experiences proved that the excitement wasn’t blind optimism. With TDO being available at every size, hobbyists are rapidly finding additional uses for this pellet food as coral feed and food for small fish or fish with small mouths and throats (my personally favorite – my Foureye Butterflyfish LOVE TDO in the C1 size). We can only wonder what other new formulations of TDO Reed Mariculture could offer in the years ahead, and we eagerly await many of the newly-planned products in the APBreed line to be released in 2012.
Other manufacturers haven’t forgotten breeders as well. Chad Vossen, a local breeder in Minnesota, continues to quietly churn out his elegantly simply larval snaggers – we’re somewhat surprised that we haven’t already covered them here on Reef Builders (they’re certainly worth a look). Rod Bhueler, creator of Rod’s Food, finally caved to overwhelming pressure in 2011 and released the Rod’s Food “Breeder’s Blend” that had been featured on his website as a “coming soon” item for years. Of course, Rod took his time and released a product that really has merit – while only anecdotal, I personally saw a start of breeding and increased egg production in my reluctant Black Ocellaris pair, which stopped spawning once I stopped feeding the Breeder’s Blend. Dr. Alex Vagelli released his several hundred page book on the Banggai Cardinalfish, keeping interest in this iconic marine fish alive as we continue to struggle with a species that’s routinely imported as a wild-caught fish yet remains listed as Endangered on the IUCN redlist. We even wrapped up the year with a story on the custom-made-to-order top-of-the-line Mini Kreisels offered by My Reef Creations – you know breeding has come of age when companies known for producing high-end products target marine breeders. And I didn’t even get to another high-end breeder product that’s “new” but isn’t – the AquaMedic Plankton Reactor – which we have on-hand and will be writing up very soon in early 2012!
Stay tuned for more on the organizations that helped shape the year in breeding, and the many fish-related breakthroughs at the hands of these academic, commercial, and private breeders – There’s a lot more to come in Part 2 of our 2011 Marine Breeder’s Year In Review.