Lost and Found

Three years ago Brian from Ocean Gallery II in New Jersey imported a beautiful pair of young clownfish from the Solomon Islands.  Upon arrival there was some uncertainty about their identity.  It was unclear if they were Amphiprion leucokranos or Amphiprion thiellei but as they grew older it became apparent that they were in fact A. leucokranos, the Whitebonnet Clownfish.   The pair was housed in one of the store’s 40 gallon aquariums filled with Rose Bubble Tip Anemones. Brian treated the pair as his personal pets and they doubled in size under his care.  Approximately 9 months ago they started spawning.   Clownfish aficionados know how hard this species of clownfish is to find, let alone a pair of them, so a spawning pair is exceptionally exciting.

Unfortunately the young male ate the first small batch of eggs and Brian decided that life in the 40 gallon aquarium might be too stressful since there was quite a bit of activity in the tank.   The pair was moved into a 300 gallon show tank where they  thrived, as did their host Rose Anemone, which grew to 16 inches!   A few weeks ago the pair inadvertently hitched a ride back into a 40 gallon aquarium by hiding in the anemone when it was relocated.   It was then that Brian decided that the spawning pair was so special that they should go to a facility where they could carry on their legacy.   Brian called his friends at ORA to see if we would be interested.

Even though there is plenty of confusion about the validity of the species, Leucokranos are considered by aquarists to be exotic and highly desirable.    We were ecstatic to have the opportunity to acquire a mated, spawning pair.  It has been at least 10 years since we had a pair of Leucokranos in the hatchery and none of us can remember ever seeing a spawn.

On Monday, February 6th Brian carefully boxed up his prized pair of Leucokranos Clownfish for their trip to Florida.  Everything was packed up nicely and the label was placed in a clear plastic envelope on the outside of the box.   He double checked that Priority Overnight was selected and turned the box over to FedEx.   He could not possibly have known that the fish would not arrive at ORA until 9 days later.

At 10:30am on Tuesday morning we were anxiously waiting for the box to be unloaded from the FedEx truck but nothing arrived.  We immediately called the FedEx customer service center in Memphis.  The FedEx rep seemed puzzled as to where the box of rare fish was, but confirmed that the package had not left the Memphis hub.  A trace was placed on the package and the rep promised to follow up as soon as the box was found.  By the end of the day there was no news.  The fish were still somewhere inside the giant hub facility.  Brian from Ocean Gallery called to reassure us that the fish had been packed well, with lots of water, oxygen and 40 hour heat packs, and a second day in transit wouldn’t be a problem.

It turns out that sometime soon after arriving at the hub the shipping label had come off the box and the package had ended up in Overgoods – the FedEx version of “Lost and Found”.   There (thankfully)  the employees had opened the box and realized that the fish needed to get into an aquarium as soon as possible.   With the shipping label gone, and no documents inside the box, there was nothing to indicate that the fish belonged to ORA or Ocean Gallery, so a FedEx employee contacted Richard at a local fish store called Memfish.   Richard agreed to rescue the fish.

This wasn’t the first time Richard had rescued animals from stray FedEx shipments.  Over the years FedEx has asked him to take in all kinds of unusual mammals and reptiles that found themselves suddenly homeless while in transit.    Even though he runs a fish store Richard always agrees to take custody of the animals.   He then contacts a network of colleagues to help the animals get to a better environment and out of harm’s way.

Back at ORA on Wednesday morning we continued working with FedEx but there was still no news.  The FedEx rep reported that they were still actively searching for the box and they were well aware that time could be running out for the fish.

Over at Memfish Richard had no idea about the massive search that was going on back at the hub.  He determined that the Leucokranos pair, now officially his property,  was in excellent condition and fit for sale, so he called one of his best customers who had a penchant for rare clowns and asked him to come by to take a look at them.

On Thursday morning the FedEx rep called with a Good News / Bad News update.   An employee in the Overgoods Department had reported seeing a box with fish inside.   The employee knew that the fish were still alive when they were found and so they had been sent to a local fish store before they perished.  The rep called the shop to explain that FedEx had located the proper recipient but someone at the store told her that the fish had already been sold.  So the Leucokranos were alive and well but living in a private home!

ORA contacted Richard at Memfish to explain the situation and see if the fish could be recovered.   Richard once again, agreed to help and contacted his customer.    When the customer heard what had happened he very kindly agreed to bring the fish back to the store so they could continue on to their intended home at ORA.

Amphiprion leucokranos at Memfish
Amphiprion leucokranos – Photo by Richard Rendos, Memfish

The Leucokranos spent the weekend enjoying the Haddoni Carpet anemones in a  Memfish display aquarium.   Richard sent us a photo and reassured us that they were being well taken care of, realizing how important this pair was to us.

We decided not to have the fish shipped for Valentines Day just in case there was a surge in package volume.   So on Tuesday evening Richard packed the pair again and took them to FedEx.

On Wednesday morning the fish finally arrived safe and sound at ORA.  Our quarantine staff carefully acclimated them and placed them in a one of our coral quarantine systems that has several anemones in it.  As you can see from the picture they have settled in nicely.

We would like to thank Brian from Ocean Gallery for offering us this rare and unique pair that he nurtured for three years.

We also want to express our appreciation for the employees at FedEx who diligently searched until they discovered what had happened to the package.  We are grateful to the Overgoods employees who went out of their way to get the fish to a safe place as quickly as possible.

Most of all, we are thankful to Richard from Memfish for rescuing the pair and taking such good care of them and his customer Todd for agreeing to part with them.

Be sure to check out Memfish on the web and Facebook  as well as Ocean Gallery II on the web and Facebook