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"Nemo" at the Great Lakes Aquarium: Duluth fish breeder shares lightning maroon clownfish with public

The lightning maroon clownfish is a genetically aberrant form of the white stripe maroon clownfish, Premnas biaculeatus, first discovered in 2008 in the waters of Papua New Guinea. Specimens carrying this naturally occurring mutation have their normally thin, white stripes transformed into wide white patches which, as the fish mature, ultimately take on a lacy appearance, reminiscent of lightning.

A new pair of small, 4-inch-wide strikingly colored fish that resemble the stars of “Finding Nemo” are now swimming their way through the Great Lakes Aquarium.

“It’s exciting to be the first aquarium in the world to be able to showcase these fish,” said Allison Lacone, Great Lakes Aquarium communications coordinator. “The fact that these lightning maroon clownfish were captive-bred in Duluth makes this is a hometown story that we are happy to tell.”

The lighting maroon clownfish went on display at the Aquarium in late August. The fish was first discovered in 2008 in the waters of Papua New Guinea. They carry a naturally occurring genetic mutation causing their white stripes to transform into white patches. The patches look like lace, while giving off a “lightning appearance” once the fish matures.

A second lightning maroon clownfish was spotted in 2010 by officials in the Seasmart program. They decided to send that fish to Matt Pedersen, an international marine aquarium fish breeder in Duluth.

Pedersen received that maroon clownfish, a female, on March 31, 2010. He then mated it with a male white stripe

maroon clownfish in 2011 and produced their offspring, classified as lightning maroon clownfish, on June 29, 2012.

Pedersen donated the fish to the Aquarium nearly six months ago. However, the fish had to be quarantined before entering the saltwater tank.

“The main reason we quarantine animals is to ensure that we are not introducing any diseases into our aquarium, and the animal is healthy and happy before we introduce it with other fish that we already have,” said Jay Walker, Great Lakes Aquarium operations manager. “The quarantine lasts for a minimum of 30 days, and within this time we do prophylactic treatments for diseases, developing husbandry practices and observations. This process can last for more than 30 days depending on the situation.”

Great Lake Aquarium officials believe they are the first aquarium in the world to have these fish.

Pedersen could have donated the fish to any aquarium or kept them to himself, but he eagerly wanted to share the fish with the rest of Duluth.

“The pair at the Great Lakes Aquarium is a genetic backup/failsafe should something happen to the pair or offspring here in my home fish room,” Pedersen said. “More importantly, this is a Duluth success story. Having these fish presented an opportunity to give something to the GLA that could be a draw, could shine a spotlight on our great public aquarium and our wonderful city.”