We've posted some new photos on Liveaquaria of our McCulloch's Clownfish eggs and larvae. Click here to view photos of the eggs' progression, the larvae, and the rearing set-up. I took some of these photos, but the best one is the "Day 2" larvae photo that Kevin took.
I've never seen clownfish babies before, and my first reaction was how big they are! I know that doesn't sound right, but really, they aren't that small. They were just as big as some other freshwater egg-laying species' fry I've seen. They swim a lot faster than I would've expected, making it even harder to get a photo. The first to hatch are eating voraciously and growing exponentially. They've been segregated from their smaller brothers and sisters, who are catching up to them in size now.
Any we've lost have been donated to my microscope. It's clear to me that since day three, they are starting to develop a crude tail. You can tell from the photos that they are turning black already. Some have more black than others, and it seems that the larger ones are darker. Under the microscope, you can see neuron-shaped spots of black and some smaller, rounded yellow pigments.
This is such a wonderful and exciting learning experience. I'm grateful that even in these hard economic times, Dr. Foster and Dr. Smith have enthusiastically supported this expensive experiment. It is my hope that someday, the rare McCullochi clownfish will be just as numerous as "Nemo." The best news you'll hear all week? The parents are cleaning the glass again...
06/18 Update: Unfortunately, all the babies died a couple days ago. This isn't uncommon with a first spawn, so we're being optimistic. The second batch of eggs is much larger and due to hatch on Saturday. This time around, I hope we'll be more successful.
06/29 Update: Our second batch of eggs only produced five larvae. Maybe our pair is young and inexperienced at spawning. They spawned again on Friday night; this clutch is much larger, and the eggs look healthier and brighter. Hopefully we'll get a larger hatch this time.
07/02 Update: We still have one little fry swimming around in the nursery tank. He is past the larval stage now and doing great. The newest spawn is starting to look really mature; the eggs have eyes! These eggs look great.
07/08 Update: We've got about thirty hatchlings with fat, healthy bellies and one lone ranger from the last clutch who has finally metamorphosed into his sub-adult form. He is about a centimeter long and is obviously a mini-adult. He's jet black with two white stripes and yellow fins. His eyes look absolutely enormous compared to the rest of him. He's our little mascot; I have named him Pierre. Here's a link to some photos and a video of him chowing down on some baby brine shrimp.
Oh, and by the way, they spawned again tonight. This clutch is even BIGGER than the last one!
07/14/09 The newest eggs should be hatching any minute now...
08/22/09 We now have four large babies that have gone through metamorphosis, and one getting ready to. They look completely different from the adults. The babies have three stripes instead of one, and yellow markings on their fins. Some of them are mis-barred, but you won't be able to tell when they are adults, they lose their stripes. We have about a hundred (I don't know, I was an English major) swimming around in the fry rearing tank. The parents spawned again last night, right on time. You could set your watch to them.
08/30/09 Kevin says he successfully collected the entire batch this time using his larvae collector. I can't wait to see all the babies tomorrow, I bet there's a lot! He said all of them hatched at the same time this time. That's been a major problem for us in the past. Before today, a few would hatch out before the majority of them, and would be stronger and outcompete their smaller siblings.