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Madagascar Clownfish Breeding Update: An ‘N’ of One

By Ross DeAngelis - Posted Aug 12, 2014 09:00 AM
Let's all welcome the first Madagascar Clownfish baby born in captivity! Breeding a rare species of clownfish has been a goal of mine for many years, and it seems fitting that after 7 batches and thousands of eggs I was able to achieve this with an ‘N’ of one!
Madagascar Clownfish Breeding Update: An ‘N’ of One

The first captive bred offspring of A. latifasciatus.

Since receiving this Madagascar pair in March there has been a lot of excitement. I initially had them set up in a 20g tall quarantine with a HOB filter, sponge filter, heater, and clay pot for shelter.  After a day or so the female developed a swollen left eye. While swollen eyes are easy to recognize, they can be difficult to treat. Was it physical damage? Bacteria? A parasite?  The correct diagnosis is critical to choosing the correct treatment and so I decided to leave them in quarantine for another couple of weeks and watch the situation.   Although the eye did not get any worse, the female became pugnacious with her mate.  After the male’s fins became extremely tattered and torn I had to do something.  Reluctant to separate them (I know from experience how difficult it can be to repair fish after they have been separated), I decided to move them into a 40g tall anemone tank (where they currently are now).  Ultimately I was worried about the male, and thought the tank was just too small for the pair to remain.

Because I was already moving them, I decided (with helpful advice) to also give them each a three-minute dip in a freshwater bath in hopes to ameliorate the symptoms of the swollen eye. The bath contained a myriad of antibiotics and other medications.  This was not an easy decision, and watching your new fish leaping in and out of a blue/green freshwater mixture is a gut-wrenching experience.  After the bath, the fish were rinsed and placed into a new tank where they instantaneously engaged in symbiosis with their new anemone hosts. The stress level of the fish went down immediately and they almost instantly became comfortable in their new home. As far as I can tell (although there is some deliberation about that here), the eye is completely back to normal. You can take a look at the pictures and videos and make your own judgment; I’m certainly curious what others think.  Weather the eye went down due to the medical treatment, or just from a stress free environment is also a debate.


Photo, right: Water changes are performed slowly with a drip line in the larval tank

The first spawn occurred on May 30th, which was reported previously here on Advanced Aquarist. Since then they have spawned six more times, and the average spawn period is just over 11 days. Although I was hopeful after each subsequent spawn, every batch of eggs was eaten again and again by the male.  Finally, on July 14th, their 5th spawn was kept! The eggs were laid on a large rock, the only one in the tank, and removing it is not an option.  Following knowledge and experience with other species of clowns we expected them to hatch on either night 8, 9 or 10.   Going in on night 8, Vossen larval trap in hand, larval tank set up and ready to go, none of the eggs hatched. We showed up again on night 9 and around 10pm three eggs quickly released. Not wanting to risk losing these three larvae, they were collected and transported to a larval tank within a few minutes of being in the trap. We stayed until around midnight and no other eggs were released. I assumed (incorrectly) that the remaining eggs would hatch the following night. When I showed up the next morning, all the eggs were gone.

An interesting note, about 10 days prior to the first spawn, I cross-fostered some eggs from an ocellaris pair into the Madagascar tank. I have tried this several times with other resident pairs and have had a decent success rate. Cross fostering involves taking a good batch of eggs from a known breeding pair and placing it in the tank of the pair you would like to breed. For unknown reasons it elicits parental behaviors and seems to engender future spawns. This was only a few weeks after their transition into the new tank, but I felt they seemed confortable. And while I have had other wild caught pairs in the past, this pair is unique.  They are extremely territorial and even sitting in front of the tank will get them aggressive, biting the glass and performing interesting lateral and frontal displays.  They also started breeding remarkably quickly. In the past, I’ve had pairs for years with no success.

The next batch arrived right on time, July 26th, and was laid on a tile we had placed in the tank. This was an auspicious moment, they were keeping their eggs and we would be able to remove the tile to hatch eggs if needed. My plan was to go in with the larval trap on night 9, stay as late as I could and then remove the remaining eggs and place them above an air stone in the new tank. However, when I showed up the next day, the eggs were gone, presumably eaten again by the male.

On August 5th, they laid their 7th clutch of eggs; again on the tile placed in the bottom of the tank.  This time I planned to watch the male’s behavior very carefully for the next 36 hours making sure he wouldn’t eat all the eggs.  After observing for 24 hours and finding about half the eggs missing, I decided to move the eggs out of their tank and place them with a good parenting ocellaris pair. This ocellaris pair always keeps all their eggs and I felt confident they would not eat the Madagascar clutch.   It looks like the Madagascar male is eating the eggs in part due to a poor fertilization rate. I can tell that many of the eggs are not fertilized by the color after the second day. However, current as of today, there are about 40 eggs being meticulously cared for by the ocellaris pair. I am expecting them to hatch on Wednesday night.

But wait; remember that batch from July14th where three larvae were collected?  Well, after a day, two of the larvae didn’t make it. But one did!  Breeding a rare species of clownfish has been a goal of mine for many years, and it seems fitting that after 7 batches and thousands of eggs I was able to achieve this with an ‘N’ of one! I am hopeful that the Madagascar pairs egg laying will stay consistent, fertilization rate increase, and egg eating go down, but…. you can never count your clownfish before they hatch.



Fresh batch of eggs. These are much smaller in size when first laid than the eggs of A. ocellaris and also more red in color.



A good parenting A. ocellaris male cares for the eggs of the Madagascar pair. Note that the brightly colored orange eggs are not fertilized.




This is the female just minutes before laying her eggs. She is extremely gravid.



These images show the broodstock tank and the pair preparing to spawn.


From this batch of eggs laid July 14th, one offspring survived and was reared to the juvenile phase

Author: Ross DeAngelis
Location: llinois

I have been an avid reef aquarium enthusiast since 2005. All aspects of reef keeping interest me, however, it is clownfish and their host sea anemones that brought me into the hobby and led to my research career at the University of Illinois


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