Since 2010, in fish breeding circles the name ‘Morse Code’, which was first applied to a singular fish, has come to represent White Stripe Maroon Clownfish who display extra spots and bars, in some respects similar to the extra spots and bars seen on Gold Flake Maroon Clownfish (occurring in the Indian Ocean variant, the Gold Stripe Maroon Clownfish). Ongoing breeding with fish from this phenotype, particularly by Sea & Reef Aquaculture, has suggested there is a genetic basis for the trait, although details are lacking at this point.
Earlier this month, Reef Lounge USA showed off a wild-collected Morse Code Maroon Clownfish, Premnas biaculeatus. What is interesting about this wild Morse Code Maroon is that unlike virtually all prior wild fish, this one was not collected in Papua New Guinea, but came from the Solomon Islands, and is possibly the first wild-caught Morse Code Maroon Clownfish to arrive to the US for a while. The fact that this fish was collected in the Solomon Islands suggests a tie between the Papua New Guinea (PNG) and Solomon Islands populations of Maroon Clownfish, given that this phenotype doesn’t seem to have been noticed in other populations of Maroons from the Indo-Pacific region.
Perhaps the most interesting part is that this fish represents a great foundation for a new lineage of Morse Code Maroon Clownfish, but with a pure Solomon Islands lineage. The appropriate mate for this fish can only be another Solomon Islands Maroon Clownfish; doing so allows for provenance-minded conservation-oriented breeding, while still allowing a propagator to work with what some might call a “designer fish”. Of course, there is no guarantee that this trait is genetic and heritable, but that’s the risk one takes when tackling a new breeding line from a wild-sourced aberrant fish.
Last we heard, the folks at Reef Lounge USA were waiting for an appropriate mate to be imported for this very special fish; my hope is that this isn’t the last we see of it!