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Old 01/25/2006, 08:15 AM   #1
avagelli
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Banggai cardinalfish research update

Hi to all

It has been a while since my last participation here and I wanted to give an update about my research on the Banggai cardinalfish both in the field and in the lab. Also, reading some of the threads, I see that some of the same questions are being posted year after year, but sometimes the answers are not that precise and led to some speculations.
Anyway, I hope that somebody may find this little report interesting and helpful.
To avoid taking too much of the space I am attaching this report as a word doc.
Best regards

Alex


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Old 01/25/2006, 08:35 AM   #2
avagelli
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some biblio

Hi,
I am adding some biblio you may find of interest
Alex


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Old 01/25/2006, 11:32 AM   #3
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FWIW, if you're "thinking" about downloading and reading this report, it's WELL WORTH IT, so DO IT! Not a tough read at all...quick synopsis, insightful observations, great for the average joe like myself

MP


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Old 01/25/2006, 04:26 PM   #4
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Fantasic information. Thank you Alex. Well worth the read.

Steve


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Old 01/25/2006, 04:53 PM   #5
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Interesting reading Alex. If you are ever in Western Australia again drop me a message and we could mabye catch up.


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Old 01/25/2006, 07:04 PM   #6
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Thank you for taking the time to write this for us!

It contains some very good information.

How are your attempts to start captive breeding program(s) with the collectors going?


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Old 01/25/2006, 07:12 PM   #7
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Great info, now i just have ot try to get some of these WA ones and breed them!!!

Christian


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Old 01/26/2006, 08:18 AM   #8
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HI,
I am glad that some of you found this info of interest.

Regarding Pterapogon mirifica (the western Australian apogonid): A pair reproduced a few weeks after being in the lab, and I have about 60 juveniles 8 days of (post-release) age.

These guys are very unusual, first, they are the only cardinals I am aware of that are very solitary (it took me several days of search to find the 10 specimens I collected). They are very aggressive among each other. Even the new recruits! Only 1 hour after release they began picking on each other and taking particular spots in the substrates I added to the tank where I am raising them. Then, the coloration: I never saw a cardinal changing coloration before, and these guys do it in a dramatic way going form black to silver / milk-white while displaying both aggression?? and courtship. They are very puzzling guys, I think it will take me a while before I will be able to understand their behavior, but clearly not an easy species to keep, unless until figure some of their behaviors.
As usual in apogonids, no external sex differences; the female of the pair that bred, almost kill the male after putting back together and being doing breeding courtship for a couple of hours!.

JHardmann: I am not quite following you. What captive breeding programs are you referring to? Banggais?? If so, so far the only program I have is at my lab where I began breeding bc in 1996. But the main goals were to study the reproductive biology of this species, to provide individuals to the aquariums fro public display, and to transfer some of we learn to the private sector. It will take too much space to discuss my understanding and position about the bc conservation salutation. In a few words, I think that the best solution will be to ban its international trade, which will reduce significantly the collecting and increase the internal value, which in turn will give more incentive to the aquaculture industry to focus more in this species.


Looking back to the biblio, I forgot to include a paper that I think will be also of interest, and I saw that the paper regarding ontogenetic shift ( in Copeia) lack the publication year, which is 2004.

The missing paper is also from 2004:

Vagelli, A.A. 2004. Significance increase in survival of captive-
bred juvenile Banggai cardinalfish, Pterapogon kauderni, with am essential fatty acid enriched diet. J. World Aquaculture Soc. 35 (1): 61-69.


Regards
Alex


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Old 01/26/2006, 10:32 AM   #9
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Wow, look at that coloration in the 2nd photo...WOW! The juveniles are freakin' adorable!

Alex, is this run of pics juv., breeding male, breeding female? It looks like the male is stockier, kinda like how bangaii males look....shorter and higher "body" when compared with a female.

MP


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Old 01/26/2006, 11:23 AM   #10
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mpw,

Sorry, iIt seems that the captions did not wok.

The juvenile is about 1hour after release from the male.
The all black in a phot from an individual that take in the wild, close to North Cape in WA.
The other, with the courtship?/ aggressive? coloration was taking in the lab. NO idea about the sex. Again, they have no secondary sexual dimorphism.
As you can see the second dorsal of the "displaying" specimen, was heavily damaged during a fight (after few days of isolation it healed completely).

So far I only was able to obtain one reproduction. So, so far I identified only male and a female for sure. The male during the mating displays got that coloration. But, other individuals also did get that color during what it seems agonistic (aggressive) displays, and I have not idea about their sex.
For the banggais, well the differences you mentioned may work for your specific individuals, but again, there is not significant differences between sex, that means that if you at random take 2 individuals, both would have the same chance to be "shorter with higher body" etc. If you check the biblio I posted before, the paper dealing with reproductive ecology of bc include a morphometric study that i did to resolve that issue in particular and included measurements of the body, head, lower jaw, etc.
Alex


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Old 01/26/2006, 11:55 AM   #11
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Sorry Alex, memory is not what it used to be.

I thought I recalled that you were working with the local collectors to establish a captive breeding program.

Keep up the good work!


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Old 01/26/2006, 03:32 PM   #12
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Hi Alex

So what is the best way to establish some breeding fish for Pterapogon mirifica, sounds like a fairly large tank and just the pair is the go? or should/could they be crouded in?

When you collected them what was the social structure, how far apart were the individuals?

In your main link you talk about this virus, a mate of mine had heaps that got struck down by something (probably viral), and we had no way to stop it killing heaps of animals 100+, is there some research being done on what this virus is, or is it a secondary thing that no one is really studying at the moment?

Christian


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Old 01/27/2006, 08:22 AM   #13
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JHardman:

Well, the idea was ( and still is somehow) to work with the local people to see if we can transfer some of what we learn here in the lab and to accommodate that in a way that can be done with locally available materials, natural food, in a more “extensive” and cheap way. However, it is very difficult to start a project that involves not only training and lot of commitment for the local people, when they get pay about 2 cents / fish. For them, to catch hundreds of banggais only takes a couple of hours, while to obtain the same quantity through some aquaculture method ( even just rising juveniles extracted from the males), well you know very well how much time they will need, plus other factors like mortality, storms destroying nets, rubbery etc etc. This is why I am convince that the only way is to ban the importation of wild caught, unless they will be locally artificially produced, and somehow be certified by MAC or a similar system. That will give the locals much better price / fish and therefore incentive to spend the time and effort raising them instead to collect them. Again, still is an idea that I am trying to develop with a local NGO and some of the villages involved in the bc trade, but so far we are still in the planning , education , and (seeking funding) phase.

Christian:

Still I am trying to find out that myself. Yes, a large tank with appropriate hiding substrates is important if you are keeping more than one. For what I saw so far, they are very different to any other species that I worked so far (including the apogonids I mentioned before, many gobies, clowns and a bunch of other creatures). They are very aggressive towards each other and it seems that usually one guy will take over the tank and keep the rest scared and within any hiding spot they can find, once you remove the bad guy, immediately another take its position and so on., until you end with two or three and then eventually dividing the tank and get everyone isolated.
So, getting a pair is not easy.

Regarding how far apart were the individuals, that was the big surprise. They were very solitary ( I never saw that behavior in apogonids, at least all the species I saw in Indonesia / Australia). To give you an idea, I was able to find only about 15 (I collected 10) in 5 days. The closets I found were separated by I would say 20-30 m, but most were 100s m apart. However, I am not sure whether or not this is the normal group structure of this species. I collected them around the North West Cape in Western Australia, but this area may be the southernmost point of the species distribution. P. mirifica range extends to the around Broome area (Kimberley region) where it is likely that it is more abundant. On the other hand, what I see regarding the newly released juveniles aggrieve behavior suggests me that very early on they spread and do not form groups.

REgarding virus:and whether somebody is studying it at the moment:

I don’t know. As far as I am aware nobody is doing anything regarding this virus found in Banggias. But it is possible that some people interested in commercially breeding bc have done some research about it. As I said, I was able to confirm that a virus was the problem in my case and I am working with a pathologist to trying to determine the type of virus and other characteristics of the infection. But this work takes lot of time and it is very expensive, involving a particular way to fix / preserve the specimens for electron microscopy, special cultures, genetic sequences etc etc. So, hopefully in a near future we will have some answers.

Alex


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Old 03/06/2006, 03:43 PM   #14
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Hello Alex,

Dr. Marini referred me to your thread regarding the P. mirifica...

I acquired two pairs a few weeks ago, and started wondering why they were so different from typical cardinals, so I posted the question to him...

I haven't experience anything close the aggression you've found. THe dealer who got them received 6 in total. I had them hold them in a 300 gallon coral display (8'x4') for two weeks. My friend and I selected two pairs - one pair was under a rock together, and the other was hugging the overflow/return. The other two were at opposite ends of the tank alone...

Not knowing about the agressive tendancies (they'd never been seen to fight overtly in this tank, and they *were* paired off), I placed all four in a 30 gallon long tank (along with a pair of assessors and a six line wrasse).

My wrasse does NOT like these fish, but then again he hates the assessors too. Perhaps his harrasment of them has limited their own inter-species conflicts?

What are yours eating? Mine will ONLY eat cyclops - not mysis, brine, flake, pellet, or anything else I've offered. Only obvious feeding response is to cyclop-eze. The fish store that QT'd them for me was feeding the tank a custom-blend of dried "coral food" (phyto, mysis, cyclops all ground extremely fine). The took this without gusto, but *did eat* and I observed each of them eat numerous times before taking them home.

So -
- has the aggression abated at all
-what are you feeding the adults (and young)
-does the aggression hamper keeping the young together in mass(like problems you might have with Maroon clowns, for example)
-have you found any rhyme/reason for the color changes (which mine do often).
-any additonal pairs forming, or any hints of sexual dimorphism?

Sorry for the long rant, but the scarcity of info on this species is driving me to drink... Being as how you and Dr. Marini are the only ones I've found with them, I'd appreciate any additional thoughts or experiences you might have!

Thanks.


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Old 03/06/2006, 03:47 PM   #15
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Where did you find them roverhere? I'd love to get my hands on a pair to work with - Alex seems to think it won't work in a 25 gallon...but then again, I've pulled off stranger stuff!

MP


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Old 03/06/2006, 03:51 PM   #16
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The Fish Guy, Inc - a store in West Bloomfield, MI is where mine came from.

To my knowledge the remaining two are still there (were this weekend). Again, these guys were NOT hanging together last I saw, though... could have changed with the others removed. They're hard to find, as you can imagine, in a 300 gallon coral tank, let alone given their "hiding" nature...

www.thefginc.com is the site, but they don't do online ordering - you'd have to call and see if they ship (or make the 4-5 hour drive!).


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Old 03/06/2006, 04:08 PM   #17
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Or could see if he could get more...

Thanks Roverhere!

MP


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Old 03/07/2006, 11:06 AM   #18
avagelli
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Hi Roverhere,
first let me tell you that I have been working with this species for only a few months. Second, as I mentioned before, I decide to travel to Australia for collecting them because I was unsuccessful in finding anybody who could sell or willing to collect this fish (what a different situation in a few months!, I am guessing that the Australian collector that helped me during my field trip, and who did not know that mirifica inhabited the place where he has been collecting for 20 years! is doing a nice marketing job). That implies that at the moment of bringing the fish to my lab, I had not clue about their social, feeding, reproductive, etc behaviors, except for what I learned during my short observations in the wild that would help me to prepare an adequate system to hold them. Since sexes can not be distinguished at collecting, I capture 10 specimens to be sure (assuming some mortality during a long transport, which fortunately turned out to be zero!) that I will finish with at least one female and one male. Thus, I find myself with 10 adult specimens and I had only 2 400 L tanks plus some smaller glass tanks available. Therefore, my observations regarding intraspecific agonistic behavior are based on keeping 5 individuals in each of those 400 L tanks. At the end, I finished spreading fish all over and keeping only one pair in each of the big tanks. However, after each spawning I have to separate each individual, otherwise they fight.
Quite probably a 300 gal tank with hiding substrates is large enough to accommodate their territorial behavior, and this is why you did not observe aggressiveness. But, honestly I don’t see how these fish (adults) can be kept in a 30 gal tank for a long time.
In my experience, it was always one individual that picked on one or two while the others were not bothered too much and remained hiding. Once I removed the “bad guy” immediately another took its position and began harassing others, and so on.

This species is not quite similar to the Banggais, even though they belong to the same genus,[i]Pterapogon[i/]. It was originally described as a new genus and species ([i]Quinca mirifica[i/]) but later it was placed into [i]Pterapogon[i/] and 2 sub-genera were created to separate them from the Banggais ([Pterapogon Quinca mirifica, and [i]Pterapogon Pterapogon kauderni[i/]).
However, it seems to me that they should be place back into its original genus ([i]Quinca[i/]). in fact we have already conducted some molecular analysis that indicates they are not more related to each other than to other genera.

Among the differences that may matter to you are its social behavior, and feeding habits. It seems to me they are not planktivore. I feed them entire large krill, chopped fish, squid etc, nothing small, and the fish eat very well. The juveniles eat very well too, and take chopped krill, pellets etc.

The juveniles from the first breeding showed territorial behavior since the first day, they are now about 1 month old ( after release), and I still keep them together in a circular 120 L tank with plenty of small rocks / substrates. For now they are ok (and beautiful!)

Regarding color changes. Well, I have been busy lately and I did not have much opportunity for long and systematic observations. Having said that, it seems to me that color change is both a sign of aggressive behavior towards conspecifics, and they use it during courtship displays. I am not sure if both sexes change color during aggressive behaviors, but during mating, I had observed only males changing color.
So, besides the dichromatism display by the males during mating, no other sexual dimorphism is apparent (probably is a coincidence, but the two males so far identified are smaller than the females).
As soon as I have some time I will write a (popular) article to describe more in detail all my experiences with the collecting, keeping and breeding of [i]Pterapogon mirifica[i/].
Alex


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Old 03/09/2006, 12:44 AM   #19
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Thanks for the wealth of info...

So far, so good in the 30 gallon long... No overt squabbling yet. Again, I think the 6-line Wrasse keeps them under its fin so firmly, they don't have a chance to bicker with one another... They are clearly "kept in their place" by this fish...

Color changes seem to occur almost at random - have not established a pattern as to why.

They're eating cyclops, even took some Bioblend pellets today. Chopped up some krill per your post, and sure enough - strongest feeding reaction yet. Mysis is still met with luke-warm response (except of course the wrasse and assessors go nuts).

I hope to remove one of the pairs (they swim within 2"-5" of each other at all times) within the week - once I'm more firmly assured they're healthy. They'll go into a 12 gallon cube. However, if I see aggression there, I'll have no choice but to remand them back to the frag tank, or the 90 reef - I'm reluctant to put them in the reef tank, as I'm sure I'd never see them again (they really like to be up against or beneath stuff, and they don't ever "swim in the open" like a bangaii...

All in all, I can see why they're not a common fish:

Need large tank volume to prevent aggression, but given their cryptic nature, you'd never see them again in a large tank with lots of rock - plus they're smallish (2" tops, according to Burgess).

The other pair will be off to my friends new tank in the next few weeks (a large reef....) unless he changes his mind based on this new info, then I'll just keep that pair in the frag tank, and the other pair, if the nano doesn't work out? - well, always need to a good reason to start up another tank, right?

Again, it's a short term result, but after about 2 weeks with four of them in a 30 long, I've not seen this aggression. All four had some degree of fin damage when I brought them home (minor, but apparent). All of them - even the "4th" as I call him - doesn't hang with the other three - have fully healed and look stunning.

Maybe it's the result of the tankmates? Maybe I did indeed get lucky and wound up with two pairs...? Can't say for sure. Will keep an eye out for reproductive behavior, but I'd assume with the ever-present 6-line wrasse threat, the reproduction will be unlikely.... My assessors don't either... Did once, but that was it.

Thanks again!

I'll post pics in a few days.


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Old 03/09/2006, 07:14 AM   #20
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Roverhere,
If I understood correctly, you mentioned that P. mirifica is “ smallish” and according to Burgess the largest are about 2 inches. If this is correct, then it make think that your specimens are not larger than 2”, and therefore that could count for some of the different observations you did regarding aggressive behavior and suitability of a 30 gal tank.

The individuals I brought from the wild and bred are basically of two sizes, the larger are about 12-14 cm TL and the smaller ( including the two males identified) about 8cm TL. So, the adults are much larger than Banggais, and more than double of the size cited in your reference.

For what I observed both in the wild and in the lab, yes, it is a rather cryptic species and prefers to be well hiding under ledges or inside crevices. Do not expect to see them hanging out in groups as other cardinalfishes, except when they are very young.
Regards
Alex


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Old 03/09/2006, 08:29 AM   #21
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12-14cm? WOW... yours *are* much bigger than mine.

Again, I'd say the largest of the four is about 2" (5cm) give or take... So they've got some growing to do.

I could be recalling incorrectly, but I thought Burgess cited then at 4-6cm, that's why I *presumed* they were full grown... I must be recalling incorrectly, or when I did the CM-to-Inches conversion I screwed it up?

Well then, I've got juveniles, for sure. At 12-14cm, there's no way they'd fit in a 12 gallon nanocube at full size...

Given their less than active behavior and that they aren't big swimmers/movers, what would be the smallest tank you think a pair would be doable in? 50 gallons?

As pets, sadly, it sounds like these fish are problematic as they grow larger!


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Old 03/09/2006, 02:42 PM   #22
avagelli
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Ok, now that I know you have juveniles everything is much clear and makes sense.
To give you a reference point, the white pipe that can be seen in the picture showing the specimen changing color is 4” in diameter ( by the way, you also can see it dorsal fin with some damage from a fight, which was healed very well within a few days).
Also, in the other picture, which was taken in the wild, a couple of cardinalfishes can be seen partially (left side) and beneath P.mirifica a goby (all these were about 5-6 cm long).

Regarding tanks size, again I am keeping a full full-grown pair in a rectangular 100 gal, and most of the time they get along well and keeping their distance, but sometimes I need to divide the tank and keep them separated. However, I am keeping them just for studying their reproductive behavior. If you have a tank with other species, enough hiding spots and different substrates, then I guess they will be fine in a smaller tank; maybe a 50 gal will do it.

Just be aware that, although not necessarily will happen with only 2 individuals, when they are full-grown they can be Very aggressive and are able to inflict important injures to each other.
Regards
Alejandro


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Old 03/22/2006, 06:46 PM   #23
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Alex, Thanks for all the info you have given so far

I am the friend who roverhere spoke of
I now have one pair of them home

So far they are in a 55g with plenty of rock until I decide where they might go
I also look in Burgess it says 8cm

They seem to hang out in different areas of the tank but are not aggressive toward each other

But looking at your pictures and see what little there is out there
leads me to believe we have something different maybe Apogon melas?

The picture is not very good as they are hard to catch out but it will give you an idea of what we have. I do see the color change as you describe

Thanks





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Old 03/23/2006, 07:28 AM   #24
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Mustang,
You are correct, your fish is not Pterapogon mirifica, and this explains the discrepancy between our observations regarding their behavior. It seems quite possible that your fish is indeed Apogon melas.
I am enclosing a couple of (very low res., sorry) pics of adult individuals A.melas, form the Banggais Islands.
Regards
Alex



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Old 03/23/2006, 08:18 AM   #25
roverhere
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Apogon melas it is...

Still, they are not very nice to each other!!!


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