Sapphire Coast Marine Discovery Centre has welcomed a clutch of clownfish eggs in what is a first for the centre.
The eggs were found on Monday, February 5, by an employee responsible for tank maintenance, Cameron Shanks.
They are due to hatch in seven days’ time, close to Valentine’s Day, and could result in the perfect marine love story.
“We have had octopus babies before, but never fish eggs,” centre manager Kerryn Wood said.
The centre usually houses one of each species and rarely breeding pairs.
However, the centre is home to a male and female clownfish who share a tank. This pairing resulted in a pregnancy, and now eggs.
“The breeding cycle of the clownfish is weird, strange and wonderful,” Ms Wood said.
When the eggs hatch they will all be male, but Ms Wood also explained that if the female dies then the dominant male will turn into a female.
“If ‘Finding Nemo’ was to be scientifically correct, once Coral (Nemo’s mum) died, Marlin (Nemo’s dad) should have turned into a female and mated with his son,” she said. “This may ruin a few things from Finding Nemo.”
While Ms Wood agrees that this may seem like a strange phenomenon, it’s a normal part of the marine cycle for many fish and ocean invertebrates.
Ms Wood has been liaising with Sally Daly from the Merimbula Aquarium who advised them that their main concern would be feeding the babies when they hatch. Ms Daly suggested they feed them plankton.
“We have a plankton net that we will put at the end of the jetty to catch plankton for the babies if they hatch,” Ms Wood said.
The centre has entered new and exciting territory with this “weird and wonderful” discovery.
Ms Wood is aware of the challenges of breeding clownfish in captivity and is undertaking further research to ensure their survival.