The first installment of our 2011 Marine Breeder’s Year in Review was probably more breeding news than you thought could have happened in a single year. Suprisingly invertebrates, new breeding products, and clownfish releases like the one pictured above only tell half the story. Read on to learn what else happened in our second, and final installment, in the 2011 Marine Breeder’s Year in Review – we’ll wrap it up with some forward-looking thoughts on what you might expect in 2012!
Organizationally, two efforts led the way in 2011. The Marine Breeding Initiative (MBI), started by MASM in Michigan, grew by leaps and bounds in 2011. They held their second annual Marine Breeder’s Workshop in the summer of 2011, and this event grew from 2 speakers to 5 and easily grew to fill the entire day. It’s events like this that will help grow breeding as a hobbyist effort, as well as keeping everyone interested – afterall, it’s here where we first learned of the long-forgotten Albino Sankeyi Dottyback! A surprising offshoot of the project’s core functionality is a new “captive bred marine fish & invert” list – perhaps the most definitive listing of marine fish and invertebrate species that have been successfully bred in captivity as it is maintained by communal input and each success listed has been vetted. If you know of a marine fish or invertebrate species that has been successfully bred and properly documented but isn’t on the list, be sure to submit it through the MBI Species Classification Form (yes, you’ll probably have to register with the MBI first)
We’ll get to many more fish-related breeding stories in a second, but the other organizational effort that wound up blazing the way forward in 2011 was an effort started by Judy St. Ledger in 2010 – the Rising Tide Conservation Initiative. With late 2010 and early 2011 being the time for this organization to figure out how it was going to work, the group hit the ground running in July by first rearing Porkfish (possibly done only once or twice before). Dr. Wittenrich finished out a personal project, rearing the Lancer Dragonet, and then wowed us later in the year with reports of bringing captive-spawned Schooling Bannerfish, Heniochus diphreutes, to 41 days post hatch – not to settlement, but darn close and a massive leap forward towards the first captive-bred Butterflyfish. Of course, the Rising Tide team was quick to followup with the first successful captive breeding of Koran or Semicircle Angelfish, Pomacanthus semicirculatus. Rising Tide is certainly proving the concept of collaborative, open-source breeding, as a model for progress and success.
When it came to “fish success”, there was no shortage in 2011. We already covered the clownfish and the successes of Rising Tide, but they didn’t stop there. Many individuals, companies and groups pushed the limits of breeding in 2011 and expanded our captive-bred list or toed the line, trying to cross it. When we ended 2010, we were looking at the stunning story of either captive-bred, or tank-raised, Pinnatus Batfish. We really didn’t know who to believe, and past experiences had us collectively thinking that the captive-bred claim was simply too good to be true. In early 2011, their producer, Bali Aquarich, produced an amazing series of photographs and details that proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that these Pinnatus Batfish are indeed captive-bred by Bali Aquarich, albeit with broodstock maintained on a “farm” scale! Meanwhile, another story came out in August that a governmental group in Taiwan had succeeded in captive breeding the Blue Hepatus Tang, yet any and all inquiries for any type of proof or documentation beyond a simple claim have gone competely ignored, raising suspicion that these claims may not be entirely true. This would not be surprising at all, given that there have been countless claims that the species has been captive bred in Asia in the past, only for all these fish to simply turn out to be tank-raised, captured as small juveniles and reared to saleable size. We’d love to believe the story out of Taiwan, so we’ll take this opportunity to again encourage the people responsible for this story to follow the lead of Bali Aquarich and prove their claims.
However, at this point, I’d be more likely to believe a future claim that Darren Nanncarrow, a hobbyist in Australia, was the first to breed Paracanthrus hepatus, given that he shocked us all by documenting the spawning of the species in a tank under 200 gallons in size, and then showing the eggs and resultant prolarvae. Not only did he force everyone to rethink the notion that pelagic spawners require massive height for fertile spawns (a bit of conventional wisdom already in jeopardy) as well as causing us all to reconsider whether tangs could be bred at home by a hobbyist (it is certainly plausible now), but Darren has already produced far more documentation than we’ve seen from the supposedly “successful” breeding of this species in Taiwan.
Meanwhile, Richard Ross at the Stienhart Aquarium wowed us with documentation of the captive spawning and birth of the Ornate Ghost Pipefish, and later this year did the same with hybrid a hybrid pairing! Proaquatix broke more new ground with the announcement and release of captive bred Y-Bar Watchman Gobies, and brought back captive-bred Pompanos, fish which haven’t been available in years. Lovers of Elasmobranchs got to enjoy the appearance of Albino Bamboo Cat Sharks at the Denver Downtown Aquairum (and I personally drooled over some of the ultra-cute captive-bred Epaulette Sharks coming through the LiveAquaria Diver’s Den late in 2011). Captive-bred Angelfish raised eyebrows in 2011, first with the announcement that commercial scale quantities of captive-bred Flame Angelfish would be available via Renaissance Aquatics, and then when RCT founder Frank Baensch took down another species first successfully captive breeding of the Caribbean Pygmy Angelfish, Centropyge argi.
Indeed, Frank Baensch threw us not one, but two firsts this year, the second of which would put him in contention for “breeder of the year” with the likes of Dr. Wittenrich and one other aquarist we’ll get to in a minute. Perhaps it was a matter of time, as the breeding community had been “eyeing” this genus for a couple years, but leave it to Frank to be the first to rear a Xanthichthys triggerfish, in this case breeding the rare and highly-desired Crosshatch Triggerfish, X. mento. The species represents only the second triggerfish species to have ever been captive bred (the first being Dr. Andy Rhyne’s success with the Queen Triggerfish), and with a larval period of over 100 days, puts the rearing challenges in line with the most difficult Centropyge angelfish reared to date. In every respect, this acheivement puts a serious dent into the vast unknown of marine fish breeding, and we eagerly await all the gruesome details being released in 2012!
And the last story for 2012 would be our final contender for “breeder of the year” – Todd Gardner’s success breeding reef basslets, specifically breeding the Swissguard Basslet, Liopropoma rubre (and we hope, soon, if not already, the Candy Bass, L. carmabi). Todd’s open sharing of his progress on a project spanning over 2 years is something we should admire and praise. Todd stands as a role model for the hobbyist breeder and demonstrates that dogged persistence is certainly required, especially when trying something you (or in this case no one) have never done. If I was to personally pick a single accomplishment as the hallmark for 2011, it would be Todd’s success with this odd, rare, and highly desirable genus. More than any other success this year, the successful first captive breeding of Liopropoma unlocked a genus that others had worked with and failed; a genus that may ultimately provide new and useful techniques to try with other groups we’ve yet to accomplish. Todd has already promised a full rundown of his hard-earned Liopropoma breeding success in 2012 – the breeding community eagerly awaits the details of this fantastic accomplishment.
As we look forward to 2012, we almost find ourselves wanting a breather to take it all in, but the reality is that the captive breeding of marine fish and invertebrates is a long term race with no clear ending. We already know we have important downloads of breeding information coming to the public in 2012 which will further inform breeding efforts. We know that the marine aquarium trade is already facing increased pressure in 2012 (see the most recent news about anti-trade efforts targeting Hawaii Petcos on Reef Builders and CORAL Magazine); with other Hawaiian Trade Agreements coming online in 2012 that limit the harvest of Hawaiian species and the reemergence of pressure to ban all wild-fish collection in Hawaii, it goes without saying that Hawaii’s endemic species must get immediate focus for breeding projects if we hope to keep them arked and available in the trade. This means fish like Flame Wrasses, Bandit Angelfish, Masked Angelfish, Potters Angelfish, Kole Tangs, Achilles and even Yellow Tangs (which have been a breeding research focus for years but as reported in 2011, Yellow Tangs are still not captive bred)! Our fantastic invertebrates truly deserve equal attention in 2012 – I personally would love to see the hobbyist embrace the concept of an entirely captive-bred “cleanup-crew” even if it requires a financial premium.
I’ll leave you with these forecasts and predictions for 2012. First, we will see the first captive bred Butterflyfish become a reality – 41 days post hatch is “almost there” – I’m confident Wittenrich and his team can pull it off if they get enough attempts under their belts. Second, I’m pretty sure that since multiple people are working towards it (including Bali Aquarich and Rising Tide), we’ll see the first captive breeding of the Emperor Angelfish, Pomacanthus imperator (afterall, how different could it be from the P. semicirculatus, P. maculosus and other Pomacanthus angelfish that have already been done?). And a third, more long reaching prediction – we’ll see the first captive-bred Anthias. Why not? My last prediction for 2012? I think we’re due for some unknown hobbyist to come out of the woodwork and wow us with a success no one saw coming. Could it be you?