The Father of the Philippine Blue Angelfish Gene
Kenneth “Ken” Kennedy is a league of his own when it comes to angelfish development, and is internationaly recognized for his discovery of the Philippine Blue gene (pb/pb).
While still in the womb, Ken was already sorrounded by myriad of colorful fishes since his father Earl Kennedy was the pioneer marine fish exporter in the country. He kept various pets as a young boy and was also into bonsai, orchids, and other ornamental plants. Ken took up biology in University of Oregon and had further training in marine finfish hatchery/nursery and fish health management from the Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center.
In the early 2000s, Ken crossed a platinum and an albinao angelfish and discovered a new color gene, the blue gene, in the process. The discovery that put Ken and the Philippines in the worldwide angelfish map was due to Leslee, Ken’s sister, who bought the platinum angelfish from a pet shop even after Ken told her not to. Ken went on to develop several angelfish varieties that are highly sought after both locally and internationally.
Ken welcomed the Pets Unlimited to a whole new world of angelfish.
How did you start with angelfish keeping?
I just happened to join my dad breeding angelfish when I was young. Breeding angelfish though was on and off and I never thought I would be a serious angelfish breeder. I was planning to become a teacher in the USA and I already passed a US teacher’s board exam. It was during my teacher training that I joined a US-based angelfish forum and found out that I have achieved something extraordinary, which is the discovery of a new color gene.
When did you start developing angelfish varieties?
I started developing angelfish varieties sometime in the early 2000s. My initial aim was to develop orange koi angelfish like those in the US and different albino varieties. One day in 2004, Leslee, my sister, telephoned to ask me if I wanted some platinum angelfishes from a pet shop. I told her that I was not interested, but was surprised that she still bought the variety. This started the development of new color varieties in early 2005 when i crossed a platinum angelfish with two albinos carrying a number of color/patter mutations and got the blue angelfishes in the F2 generation. Joining a US-based angelfish forum made me aware that i had accomplished something extraordinary, which is the discovery of a new color gene, the blue gene, now named “Philippine blue pb gene. This further encouraged me to create more varieties.
Do you have any favorite varieties?
My favorite color varieties are the Pinoy (black + blue) and Paraiba (blushing + blue), which can be combined with the many other color/pattern mutations giving rise to many more varieties such as Pinoy Zebra, Pinoy Smokey, Pinoy Paraiba, Pinoy Ghost, Pinoy Paraiba Smokey, Pinoy Veiltail, Pinoy Pearlscale, Albino Pinoy, Paraiba Koi and Paraiba Smokey.
How did you develop the wide fin (wifi)?
The two original albino angelfishes I crossed with the platinum were descendants of my dad’s angelfishes. According to my sister Gaylene, my dad was already selective breeding for the wide fins. Although the albinos I used did not have wide fins, they must have carried the genes for that trait. It is not a fixed trait yet, and it is likely a quantitative trait, which will require more selective breeding to get more angelfishes exhibiting the trait.
What size is your breeding tank?
The aquariums I use are 20 gallons but the water is only around 15 gallons. I use big round plastic tubs with 1,000 liter water capacity and water depth of 30 to 36 inches for the male Sta. Isabel and domesticated female pair.
Some of your tanks do not have aerators, Why is that?
For the small round basins that I used as grow out tanks, I do not use aerator to provide some stress. The weaker ones will be somewhat affected and their growth will be retarded. A form of “natural selection” is applied. The healthier ones grow faster and eventually get chosen as future breeders. The breeder tanks have aeration though.
What is your feeding schedule for adult? How about fry and juvenile?
I feed the adult angelfishes twice a day; fry and juveniles are fed 3 to 5 times a day
How often do you change water? How much water?
In grow out tanks, water change is done as often as needed. In some basins with high density of juvenile angelfishes, daily water change of 3/4 water volume is done. For the angelfish breeders however, water change is about 30% once a month. Please note that I am not a commercial breeder. I would likely use strong aeration and a filtration system if I am into mass production.
Do you let the parents rear the fry?
Most often I raise the fry artificially but once in a while I let some parents raise the fry.
What size is your grow out tank?
The grow out tank for fry and very small juveniles is basically the round basin or palanggana. Eggs are hatched in a rectangular/oval basin of about 3.5 gallon capacity and the fry are raised in there until a week or two. Sometimes I leave them longer in such set-up depending on their number. As the fry get bigger, I move them to a bigger basin, then to a large plastic tub (1/2 and 1 ton capacity) and finally to large concrete tanks.
What do you feed the fry?
The first food for my angelfish fry is newly hatched brine shrimp. When the fry are about once cm or a bit less, finely chopped tubifex worms are given. The chopped up tubifex worms are washed a few times before they are offered as food.
When do you start culling?
When the biggest from a batch reaches about an inch in length, the runts are culled. In terms of physical deformities (oddly shaped bodies and fins), culling gets done when they get placed in an aquarium, or often when they are about to be sold.
Do you infuse wild angelfish bloodline?
Having wild blood in my angelfish is now a standard. Actually since I have crossed the wild variant Sta. Isabel with my domestic angelfishes, I would like all my angelfish varieties to have at least 50% Sta. Isabel blood.
What is the rationale behind infusing wild bloodlines?
Wild angelfishes undergo natural selection and are almost free of bad mutations. Also some variants have large size, high body shape, and colors that are very desirable.
Using a wil angelfish variant, one can develop a strain or even a breed of angelfish based on that particular variant. One particular variant that is now in demand is the Sta. Isabel. It can grow to about a foot tall and has red color on back and fins. Do you know that the price of an adult wild caught Sta. Isabel is more expensive than a wild caught Orinoco S. altum of the same size? Surprising but true, isn’t it? This is because the Sta. Isabel can only be found in a limited area and can only be guaranteed as the real deal when caught at adult size with the characteristic red color on back and fins. Unlike the S. altum, which can be found in may parts of the Orinoco and can be distinguished from S. Scalare even at the small size, juvenile Sta. Isabel cannot be guaranteed as the real deal unless it is tank bred and from a reputable breeder. As far as I know, no one has bred pure Sta. Isabel yet.
When did you start exporting angelfish?
So far, i have only shipped three times abroad; twice to the US and once to the UK. The first shipment was in 2007 and it was made because of necessity. I had to ship to the US to show living proof that i have developed blue angelfishes.
What future angelfish development projects are you working on?
Having crossed the Sta. Isable angelfish with domestics, the goal now is to recreate all existing varieties to have at least 50% Sta. Isabel blood. These 50% Sta. Isabel varieties will then be back crossed twice more to pure Sta. Isabel to produce different angelfish varieties with 7/8 Sta. Isabel blood. These angelfishes having a minimum of 7/8 Sta. Isabel blood will be considered purebred Sta. Isabel. However, the fact that they have the domestic color/patterns, they cannot be considered as pure original Sta. Isabel, and so, They shall be called Philippine Sta. Isabel Angelfish. Hopeully, these Philippine Sta. Isabel Angelfishes will be one foot tall and with the body form just like the pure wild one, but in different color varieties.
Other future projects that can be done simultaneously are to bred pure Sta. Isabel and S. altum with pure and cross bred Sta. Isabel.
What is the role of the Philippine Angelfish Council (PAC) in angelfish variety or breed development?
A breeder can easily develop a variety of angelfish alone, but in the development of an angelfish breed, it can only be acheived and officailly recongnized nationally and internationally if the development was done by a group of breeders. As a group of breeders, the PAC has a big role; without it, it will not be possible to have an official recognition.
What advice can you impart to individuals who are interested in development of angelfish varieties or breed?
To begin with, if one wishes to develop/achieve something significant, not just in angelfish breeding but in other things, you must have a dream or goal and the bigger the dream is, the better; research and work hard to accomplish that dream with focus, dedication and patience; and most important for me, ask God for guidace and favor. These made it possible for me.