Commonly, mandarinfish are fish that belong to the Callionymidae family or Dragonet family. Because of their special diet requirements, these fish are very difficult to keep. After overcoming the dietary challenges, mandarinfish can be kept fairly easily.
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Below is a list of mandarinfish species identifications, characteristics, compatibility feeding, aquarium care and more. Find out how to care for these delicate saltwater fishes.
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Mandarin fish are one of the most colorful and ornately-looking fish in the Indo-Pacific. These beautiful creatures are rarely seen during the day, but they can be found hiding in the staghorn coral branches. They leave the reef at sunset to perform one of the most spectacular and extravagant of all mating rituals. You can see Mandarin fish almost anywhere in Indonesia. These are some facts about Mandarin fish that you might not have known. Then, we'll show you where to look for them.
How to Feed Mandarinfish
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Aquarists have always struggled to keep mandarinfish alive in closed systems (aquariums) for long periods of time. One belief was that mandarins would thrive on the huge number of copepods in tanks with tons of live rock. This hasn't been the case in many cases. Soon, the mandarins would eat the entire copepod population, and then starve to death. Mandarinfish must be trained to eat high-quality, high-protein foods.
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Diverse aquarists have tried different ways to wean mandarins from live food (copepods), and onto frozen Mysis shrimp. This fulfills all mandarin nutritional needs, and then onto pelletized foods. The best way to get the mandarins to eat was to put them in a small Q.T. or a basket. You can place the new mandarins in a small Q.T. or a breeding basket and then gradually add some frozen Mysis shrimp to your Q.T. tank. With some luck, the mandarins may eventually start to taste the Mysis shrimps and accept them as food. After the mandarins are weaned from the live brine shrimps, they can be safely moved into the display tank to be fed only Mysis shrimp.
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However, the mandarin is not a voracious eater so they will never be able compete with other aggressive feeders in an aquarium. Tankmates should be carefully selected.
We have discovered that mandarins who have been weaned to Mysis shrimp by personal experience will wait for the eyedropper containing Mysis shrimp inside it to appear at their tank edge and then literally suck the shrimp out of that eyedropper.
FUN FACTS ABOUT MANDARIN FISH:
- Mandarin fish (Pterosynchiropus magnificentus) can also be known as the Mandarin Dragonet or Mandarin Goby, Green Mandarin fishes, Striped Mandarin fishes, and the Psychedelic Fish.
- These tiny beauties only reach 3 inches in length.
- This species is most well-known for its ritual reproduction mating dance, which occurs only at sunset. The females will seek out a male partner by gathering together at the reef. Males will then start to court females. The stronger and more powerful males are more likely. Males can also reproduce with multiple females at once. The female and male pair attach at their pelvic fins and swim to the top reef, where they release the eggs (about 200 eggs) and sperm. The courtship ends when the egg and sperm cloud are released. It takes only 18-24 hours for fertilized eggs to hatch into larvae. After two weeks, they settle in the reef.
- Mandarin fish are picky eaters. They prefer small worms, protozoans and small crustaceans. Most of the mandarin fish dive locations have patches of sand, and staghorn (branching) corals. These are great sites because they provide food and protection corals for the fish.
- Scorpionfish are their most well-known predator.
- Mandarin fish are under threat from humans and the lucrative tropical fish tank industry. A single fish can fetch up to USD 150 and it has been recently proven that they live up 4 times longer in wild environments than in captivity.
- Mandarin fish is a small species that measures just 3 inches long
- These fish don't have scales! They secrete mucus instead from their skin to repel predators and prevent parasites. Their bright colors are not intended to attract a mate; rather, they trick predators into thinking that they might be toxic.
- Bold colours but not bold characters: Mandarin fish can be shy and skittish so they avoid other fish. Our mandarin diving site in Lembeh is unique because they can often be spotted swimming harmoniously among the staghorn corals and pajama cardinalfish.
This little fish is also known as the "Psychedelic Mandarinfish" or Synthiopus splendidus. It spends its time bouncing on the aquarium substrate and rocks, eating copepods and amphipods, as well as small crustaceans. The striped mandarinfish is a good choice for those who have patience and luck. They can also be weaned off live foods and taught to eat frozen Mysis shrimp.
This fish is not an aggressive feeder and can be paired with seahorses or other cautious eaters like seahorses.
The spotted mandarinfish (Synchiropus pictatus), like other dragonets spends its entire time at the bottom searching for its favourite foods (amphipods or copepods). It can also be paired with non-aggressive feeders but it cannot compete with most fish for food.
The red mandarin (Synchiropus splendidus) is a variation of the striped or psychedelic mandarinfish (Synchiropus splendidus). The red mandarin (Synchiropus cf. splendidus) is a variant of the striped or psychoedelic mandarinfish, Synchiropus splendidus.
The red mandarin red dragonet's head and body are a maze-like mixture of red, orange, and blue. The extra-long first dorsal spine of male red dragonets can be used to distinguish them from females.
Keep those little white bugs in your aquarium
These "little white bugs" are also known as copepods or amphipods. They are food at the bottom of the ocean food chain and provide natural food for mandarinfish and many other creatures. Mandarinfish will thrive in tanks with a healthy population.
These are our top spots for sightings while diving in Indonesia.
MANDARIN FISH BOUNAKEN
Two Fish Divers, Bunaken Island, has a Subsea dive location where we often see Mandarin fish. This is a shallow dive at 6m in a lagoon. We often stay there for 45-60 minutes. We often see 10-15 mandarin fish fighting or mating at the new moon. This usually occurs around dusk. So we leave at 16:30, and we dive between 17:00-18:00. This is a wonderful opportunity to spend an hour with a species on your "bucket list", whether you've never seen Mandarin fish or are a fan.
MANDARIN FISHGILI AIR
The harbour is home to the Gili Air Mandarin Fish. The Gili Air harbour can be found at the southern tip. It is easy to access the dive site from the shore, without the need for a boat. The entrance of Two Fish Divers Gili Air dive center is only five minutes away. This is where we start the dive. This site is ideal for night diving with all kinds of wild creatures.
To see mandarin fish, we must enter the area near the jetty at night and then surface from our night dive right in front of our dive center. You will find the mandarin fish in the staghorn forests just west of our dive centre. Divers of all levels can enjoy the site, which is accessible from 5m to 18m. The approximate height of the staghorn garden is 13m.
The Gili Air Harbour is a great place to find unique creatures. For some truly unique creatures, the best places to explore are around the jetty or shallow slope, such as frogfish and bobtailsquid, seahorse and strong ghost pipefish.
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