Mandarin Dragonet Fish Facts and Care
Quick Facts About the Mandarin Dragonet
- Scientific Name: Synchiropus Splendidus
- Origin: Indo-Pacific Ocean
- Temperament: Peaceful
- Temperature: 72–82 Fahrenheit
- Maximum Size: 4 inches
- Diet: Carnivore
- Difficulty: Hard
- Reef Safe: Yes
- Tank Size: 75 gallons minimum
The mandarin fish is the most beautiful member of the genus Synchiropus. It is also one of the most breath-taking marine fish ever found in our oceans. It looks more like an intricate painting that it does a fish, with its entire body made up of wavy alternating lines of orange, blue and green.
While commonly known as the mandarin goby and the mandarin fish, its true name is the mandarin dragonet. It is similar to the scooter blenny (Synchiropus Occelatus) in this respect.
Due to its natural beauty, this fish is heavily collected from throughout the Indo-Pacific. I've visited wholesalers with tanks upon tanks filled with mandarin fish with the vast majority sure to perish within a month.
Sadly, these fishes do very poorly in captivity. They have special dietary needs that are not met by the vast majority of hobbyists. Most pick one up and simply assume they'll get by like the rest of their fish. This could not be further from the truth. Most hobbyists cannot provide the mandarin with the proper food, and they end up starving to death.
Mandarin dragonets reach a maximum of 4 inches in length. They require a tank no smaller than a 30-gallon, if they are accepting prepared foods.
If they are not eating anything you offer them, then you need a large established aquarium with a lot of live rock, at a 75-gallon minimum per mandarin.
Mandarins are peaceful fish that are well-suited to community tanks. They are only aggressive towards conspecifics, i.e other mandarins and dragonets like the psychedelic dragonet and the scooter dragonet.
Getting a mandarin to take prepared foods is one of the most challenging tasks for a hobbyist. In the wild, they are carnivores that constantly scan live rock for small crustaceans such as copepods and munnid isopods. This is all they eat in the wild, and this is where the problem lies. They just don't eat prepared foods.
Thankfully, there are solutions.
Use a Large, Well-Established Tank
The easiest solution is to house them in a well-established 75-gallon or larger aquarium that is full of copepods. This, then, requires no feeding as the mandarin will simply graze on the existing copepod populations.
Smaller tanks cannot have large enough populations to feed a mandarin long-term. They'll be wiped out in a matter of weeks.
Train Your Mandarin to Accept Prepared Foods
For this, you need frozen and live brine shrimp, preferably adults.
- First, get them feeding on live brine shrimp, which is simple enough to do.
- Then, mix in frozen artemia with the live ones. Once they start feeding on frozen artemia, slowly scale back on the amount of live brine shrimp you feed.
- Eventually you'll be able to feed them exclusively on frozen brine shrimp.
- But your work isn't over yet. You need to get them on something nutritious like mysis shrimp, krill and a good pellet.
- Start mixing in mysis with the frozen brine.
- Do the same for all the other foods.
Mandarin dragonets have been bred in captivity. They are pelagic spawners, which means the male and female both rise up into the water column to release eggs and sperm. Raising their larvae is a tough job that requires live rotifers, live brine shrimp and phytoplankton cultures.
Identifying Males and Females
If you want a pair of mandarins, buy a male and female and put them together. The very first dorsal spine on males is very elongated and can be seen clearly. Females lack the elongated spine.