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Clownfish Nursery - Save The Babies

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Mark Peterson View Drop Down
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    Posted: April 15 2011 at 6:03pm
(Updated in posts on 2nd page with description and pics of success. Smile)

Well, most of you may have seen my thread about the Clownfish Nursery. We really want to save the babies but so far our attempts have all been futile. Last night was the latest. We had a rock of Ocellaris eggs that hatched and also picked up a 5gal bucket of 100's of Maroon larvae from davser(thanks David). Today only a few survive.

As I explained to visitors on the Reef Tour, we're trying figure out how to do this in large volumes. We're not just trying to save a few babies, we want to save them all...from everyone. Big smile
We need your help.

Here's a little background. A month ago we moved Nicks batch of baby Clownfish over to the 30 gal Refugium under the 80 gal frag tank. The flow through this Refugium is about 1100 gph. Their growth rate doubled in that high flow environment. They averaged 3/8" and are now over 1/2" long.

Working on this premise, considering that larvae survive in the ocean where the water is turbulant, we set up a natural filtration system and separated the larvae from the filtration. Filtration is a Refugium where water is pumped over to the larvae tank and returns via a screened siphon. The larvae tank is bare except for a bubbler, the siphon and return. That's the system. We would like to hear your questions and comments about the system.

As far as food, the rotifer count is high and because everything is circling around, the larvae can catch many rotifers swirling around them. The larvae that remain seem to be fat so we believe they are eating good. We would like to hear your questions and comments about the feeding.

As far as transport, the Ocellaris eggs were transported 10 minutes in their water in a bucket and acclimated to the nursery tank by water exchange for 1/2 hour. The Maroon larvae were transported 1/2 hour in 4 gals of their collection water and acclimated for something less than 1/2 hour. It took some effort to discard most of the water. I'm sure the transport and acclimation is stressful especially for newly hatched larvae. Most of the Maroon larvae were near the bottom of the bucket when they arrived. We probably should use an air bubbler during transport. Since the eggs all hatched, we believe the transport was less stressful on them but why have so few survived? We would like to hear your questions and comments about the transport.

Please feel free to throw out any and all ideas. You never know when an idea that may seem silly, will lead to something useful.

Thanks. Please help us Save The Babies. Clap


Edited by Mark Peterson - August 07 2011 at 10:01pm
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote dc Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 15 2011 at 9:14pm
as far as transportation ive been told they need to be moved as eggs.
also you dont mention water changes, all the info says water changes once or twice daily. hope this helps and good luck
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote rnkjones Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 15 2011 at 9:28pm
Pam and Troy, picked up larvae from me in a ten gallon tank with a battery powered air pump and a heater that ran off of the car with a inverter from Taylorsville to Granville and they survived the trip. hopefully that will help
Thanks
Russ & Kathy


Edited by rnkjones - April 15 2011 at 9:32pm
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote davser Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 15 2011 at 9:57pm
SO what you're saying is only a few of the maroons survived? Did you feed them right after you got em in the tank?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote phys Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 16 2011 at 4:53am
why do you need to move them to a different tank? Could you build a small clear box or something in the current tank so you dont have to move them and everything stays where its at? You could get something with a bunch of small holes all over it for water flow. Just an idea from someone with no knowledge on the subject. lol
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Mark Peterson Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 16 2011 at 12:32pm
What I am saying is that none survived. Cry

These are good questions/comments. Please keep 'em coming.

dc-  I've done this before with a friend and several survived. We captured the larvae and ran. It was still 1/2 hour but we used all their own water in small tanks where the traditional daily water changes were performed. This time we are attempting to place them in a situation where we can avoid water changes.

phys - these are clownfish spawns from other hobbyist tanks. FYI, Maroon clownfish larvae are the size of this exclamation point ! Ocellaris larvae are 3x larger.

We expected that we would lose some but not all. We are already coming up with some changes but more ideas are needed.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Piscavore1 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 16 2011 at 4:09pm

I am going to preface this reply with the comment that all of my experience is with freshwater fry and is limited to a very specific order –cyprinodontidae (killifish). The killifish are much like Australian rainbowfish in that we could ship the eggs worldwide in either spawning mops or in moist peat. For most species the eggs were relatively hardy.

 

The difficulty was in raising the fry. None of the killi fry that I raised were as small as the maroon clownfish apparently are. I am guessing the obstacles are similar though. The biggest challenges were keeping enough of the correct sized quality food source in front of the fry and water quality. As luck would have it, those two are diametrically opposed to one another! Increase the food source and the water quality goes down, increase water quality and the fry can't find enough food to survive.

 

The normal fry food was rotifers, cladocerans (daphnia), phytoplankton, and later brine shrimp. Once the fry made it to day 3 the mortality levels went way, way down. 90% of our losses were in the first 3 days! Which I think says that the ability of the fry to find quality food is the key to survival, as long as there is adequate water quality. I don’t know what rotifer you are feeding, but are they small enough for the smallest maroon fry to feed on??

There is one area where I question your premise. Water flow. Once again I will stress my experience has only been with killes. When killie fry first hatch they are not very coordinated. They often miss when trying to feed on live objects in those first few hours. Too much water flow just makes it harder for fry to get those first critical hours of food intake. We all know that the percentage of fry that make it to day two that don’t make it through day 1 is pretty low! They also appear to key in on motion of the food object. If the food object does not have some sort of motion of its own – it is not food to the fry. We tested all sorts of correctly sized  â€œpearls” and crushed foods on the fry to no avail. The fry apparently needed to see motion in their food.  We used bubble filters on our tanks and set them so there was just enough water motion to keep the food suspended. If water motion was running too high the percentage of food that passed by the fry before the fry could detect motion went up (our theory anyway). Our loss of fry in the first two days went way up with higher water flows. I am guessing they are also using a lot more energy in an attempt to stay stabile in the water flow and find food. They are also not as efficient at retrieving the food due to the higher flows. The ocean may be turbulent, but we also know that only a few percent of a hatch survive in the ocean – which is exactly what you are seeing. What you have are the hardiest of the lot – which is what nature demands. If you really want to maximize the survival ratio I suggest a lower flow rate for the first few days.

 

The rest of this is a poor attempt to explain how we raised the killie fry. Delete and move to the next thread if not interested.

 

The easiest way to keep the fry surrounded by its food is to use a small tank. Which everybody knows makes it difficult to keep water clean - especially when it is heavily stocked with live food sources. Even harder with frozen or flake food – which fry seldom take anyway till week three or more anyway.  

We started the eggs in pre-setup 5 gallon tanks with low levels of rotifers, daphnia, and phyto (both live) and a small bubbler filter. This way the filter has already gone through its bacteria colonization and is ready to help when the fry are introduced. There is nono "break in" period.The daphnia and rotifers are also reproducing in the tanks so there is a selction of sizes of food available for the fry. Once the fry hatched we increased the rotifer, daphnia, and phyto levels. With killies you could tell they were taking food by the short darting motions they would make as they fed. Other somewhat disjointed motions, usually with head pointed down, was a lack of control as they didn’t have enough food and were starving. So increase the food quantity.  

I don’t know how clowns are but too much light put killies in the bottom of the tank and the food source at the top. Too little light and the killies would be only at the surface looking for food.

 The tank bottom was cleaned often (2-4 times/day) with a small pipette to clear any detritus or dead fry. The small bubble filter also helped keep the water quality good and tended to keep the detritus in one area for cleanup. The bubbler was set as low as it could be and still have enough water movement to keep the live food suspended. We refilled the fry tank with water from the adult tank. Approximately 10 -15% of the water was changed each day. The temperature of the fry tanks were usually a few degrees lower (74-77) than the parents’ tanks (spawning around 80) – in the theory that lower temps reduced the fry’s metabolic need.

With killies, by day 10 or so it was time to cull fry to a 10 gallon tank – already setup and running, with adult tank water and bubble filter. With maroon clowns being so much smaller I would guess this would more likely be day 20 or later. The culling was to get the larger, more aggressive fry into a 10 gallon tank and away from the smaller fry. At this stage the larger fry were already feeding on the smaller fry. This also reduced the load in each tank and water quality presumably was better in each tank. The 10 gallon tank also had an existing low level of rotifers, daphnia and phyto. Feeding at this time was supplemented 2-3 times a day with newly hatched brine shrimp. By this time it is easy to see the fry feeding on the brine shrimp and the resulting orange bellies. We also feed once a day with live daphnia. Since the daphnia survived in the freshwater we feed more of those than the fish consumed in 10 minutes as they provided a constantly available food source.

Depending on how large the batch of eggs was there may be one more culling to a larger tank – the final grow out tank – of 20-40 gallons. Most killies aren’t very large so a 40 gallon tank could hold 60 or 100 fry and not have water quality issues.  Once in the larger tanks water changes weren’t as frequent (10% weekly) but the two smaller tanks were cleaned several times daily as long as there were fry in them.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Piscavore1 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 16 2011 at 4:15pm
Sorry about the wierd text - my hyphens, quotes, and apostrophes show up as –!!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote davser Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 16 2011 at 4:23pm
COulf it maybe something wrong with the fish? (parents), how about using a smaller tank?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Mark Peterson Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 17 2011 at 5:04pm
Thanks that's good information.

Between the two batches there were probably 300 larvae so I figure a 10 gal tank was not too large. These saltwater Rotifers are the right size for the larvae and stay alive just like Daphnia in freshwater.

We're going to try slowing the flow by turning off the refugium pump until it's needed and then maybe only 5 minutes at a time which would in effect be a small water change.

We are also going to stop collecting larvae hatches for the time being and just do the eggs on the rock which is much simpler to transport and acclimate.

Thanks for the comments.
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*
 


Edited by ptronsp - April 18 2011 at 6:08pm
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote davser Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 17 2011 at 6:00pm
OH well I guess I will not have to feed my fish anymore :) all you can eat when the eggs hatch
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Mark Peterson Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 20 2011 at 4:12pm
David, that's funny. I hope we can work out the bugs and collect those larvae again soon.

Pam, we aren't in competition here. You can leave your posts up. You posted some good stuff and I believe you were right on by keeping Russ and Kathy's larvae in their own water. I think that's where I went wrong, trying to acclimate too fast.

If anyone can benefit from what we've learned, let's please share it. It makes us all a little better.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Mark Peterson Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 01 2011 at 5:15pm
Donna and I just want to say thanks to Piscavore and everyone that has commented with their advice and suggestions.

A special thanks to Pam and Troy Clap
and to Russ and Kathy. Clap
Thanks to this discussion we may have finally narrowed down the problem in our clownfish hatchery/nursery. During Friday's transfer of eggs, we swapped all 8 gals of water in the larval hatchery/nursery for water from the parent tank. That was the only real change and we are happy to announce that the last batch of babies is surviving. Yea!!!

That's the first thing. Now, here are the next two steps we are taking in the progression to doing large scale clownfish raising.

2- We are growing Rotifers in the larval nursery. We added a small amount of phyto paste to the nursery which was already dense but not too dense with rotifers. The green phyto in the water immediately excited the larvae to more activity, almost as though the green water gave them a better sense of depth allowing them to see the Rotifers better. Another explanation may be that the phyto excited the rotifers which then excited the larvae. Within 4 hours, judging by water color, half the Phyto had been eaten by Rotifers. The rotifer density is only slightly less than before so it appears that Rotifers are being eaten and are multiplying too.
The idea to do this was based on a comment by industry expert and hobby icon, Julian Sprung, passed on to me by Adam. That comment reminded me of my experience 10 years ago with raising Tomato Clownfish in a soup of phyto and bugs.

3- Nursery water filtration
We use the established tank sitting next to the Larval Nursery to do biofiltration. This avoids the laborious and tedious business of doing water changes. The true lasting efficiency of this technique is still to be seen but in theory it should work. Embarrassed A small powerhead, with a ball valve to slow the flow, pumps water very slowly from the 10 gal biofilter tank to the 10 gal Larval Nursery tank. A "U" tube siphons water through a screen back over to the biofilter tank. At this point, we have chose to only run it a few minutes, just enough to do a small water change. We don't want to risk losing them again when we tried to acclimate them to different water too quickly.

About now, some of you are probably saying, Hey Mark how about some pics? Patience my friends. If all goes well, I'll post pics tomorrow.  Smile


Edited by Mark Peterson - May 01 2011 at 5:53pm
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote ptronsp Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 01 2011 at 6:10pm


We swapped all 8 gals of water in the larval hatchery/nursery for water from the parent tank. That was the only real change and we are happy to announce that the last batch of babies is surviving. Yea!!! 


**This is exactly what we do. We set up the nursery tank up the day of hatch about half way in the 10 gallon. We get a foam filter going, a bubble wand and heater set at 80. When it's time to hatch we transfer the larvae over to the 10 gallon and finish filling the 10 gallon tank up with the parents tank water.**

2- We are growing Rotifers in the larval nursery. We added a small amount of phyto paste to the nursery which was already dense but not too dense with rotifers. The green phyto in the water immediately excited the larvae to more activity, almost as though the green water gave them a better sense of depth allowing them to see the Rotifers better. Another explanation may be that the phyto excited the rotifers which then excited the larvae. Within 4 hours, judging by water color, half the Phyto had been eaten by Rotifers. The rotifer density is only slightly less than before so it appears that Rotifers are being eaten and are multiplying too.
The idea to do this was based on a comment by industry expert and hobby icon, Julian Sprung, passed on to me by Adam. That comment reminded me of my experience 10 years ago with raising Tomato Clownfish in a soup of phyto and bugs.

* This is exactly how I do it. At first I didn't think it made a difference but I expirmented a bit and I decided I liked the results of using the phyto in the Larvae tank to help Co-Culture, it not only helps the Co culturing which saves me some time it does seem to benefit the larvae over all as well. I always keep their tank a hint of green from days 1-roughly 14, while they are going through meta. I also from time to time will add *green water* to the older babies tank as well and they like it as well. I know Russ and Kathy do not do this and are successful not doing so.
 

 I do not touch the tank for the first 2 days. I leave the Larvae alone and only start doing water changes on day 3. I then do water changes daily. I have a seperate bucket of water mixed up for the nursery tanks which have a heater in them as well and I use that to do the water changes. After the initial hatch I do not use the parents tank water anymore.

 Some people also cover the sides of the tanks, I do not. I do however put a piece of white paper on the bottom, it makes cleaning the bottom a lot easier. Hope that gives you a little idea ... or a lot of idea.. hahah of how we do it

 My clowns are:
1 Month old
2 weeks old
3 days old

And a new Clutch being laid as we speak Big smile. BTW the frame work of the Breeder is done!!!ClapClap
 Pam
 

 


Edited by ptronsp - May 01 2011 at 6:52pm
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Good luck mark, and good job yahoo!
Russ & Kathy
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Originally posted by rnkjones rnkjones wrote:

Good luck mark, and good job yahoo!
Russ & Kathy
   
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Mark Peterson Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 01 2011 at 7:15pm
I have noticed that Rotifers are attaching to the glass, like 10/cm. I swish them off with a stick.

I once watched a 10 day old Clownfish go up the glass and flip it's tail to dislodge a Copepod. It quickly turned and gobbled up that Copepod.
Amazing that something so tiny can be so smart. Smile
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Mark Peterson Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 15 2011 at 4:13pm
Big smile It's working.Big smile
Today we have ~17 two week old baby clownfish. They were born April 30. They passed through Metamorphosis while we were away this last week. Our 22 yr old son took care of feeding them rotifers and keeping the water slightly green with algae paste. He has no experience caring for fish, only what he saw me doing while he was growing up.

I'm really happy to report that the system works. We have done none of the typical water changes in this system. A small pump on a timer exchanged about a gallon of water with the Refugium at regular intervals 8x/day. These baby fish are growing up in aquarium water just like they will live in for the rest of their life.

The system was up and running for the Reef Tour. The pic below was taken today.  The Refugium on the left has lot's of Macroalgae and Cyanobacteria, LS, LR, a Chromis and two 1/2" Clownfish (the two smallest of the remaining 8 clownfish we got from Nick801. The seventeen 1/8" baby clownfish are in the tank on the right. The dark green tank below is the Rotifer culture.




Edited by Mark Peterson - May 15 2011 at 4:31pm
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Piscavore1 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 15 2011 at 6:20pm
Great report! I am glad to see everybody sharing in the success. If my clowns ever figure out their part I will have to give it a go also.
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