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FAQs on Mandarins/Psychedelic "Gobies"/Dragonets/ "Scooters" & their Relatives 1

Related Articles: Psychedelic "Gobies"/Dragonets/Mandarins, real Gobies & their Relatives,

Related FAQs: Mandarins 2, Mandarins 3Mandarin Identification, Mandarin Behavior, Mandarin Systems, Mandarin Compatibility, Mandarin Selection, Mandarin Feeding, Mandarin Disease/HealthMandarin Reproduction, Microcrustaceans

Pterosynchiropus splendidus

Dear Bob, 

I have almost always kept fish of one kind or another and after a twenty-two year break and moving to Scotland I decided to return to keeping tropical marines. What a technical revolution has occurred during that break!  

In two years I have set up three small reef tanks from 190 to 250 litres and two 75 litre quarantine tanks one of which is furnished with live rock and which has never been medicated. For a long time I have admired the Mandarin fish and I can remember them from the eighties. Despite their reputation for being pernickety feeders requiring natural live food, I decided to give one a go and approximately two months ago I purchased a Spotted Mandarin fish which I placed in the rock furnished and longest established quarantine tank. I was therefore amazed to find that this fish relishes frozen brine shrimp, mysis shrimp and small mosquito larva. Not only does it pick them from the bottom just after I feed but will also swim up and take the food mid water! 

Is this really unusual behavior or am I just very lucky? 

Stuart Crooks 

Greetings Stuart, and yes! What a difference a few decades CAN make! There have indeed been great strides forward in the last years'¦ in terms of gear, its sophistication and happily, also improvements in the quality and selection of livestock. Your notes re Mandarinfish/es (aka Psychedelic Gobies or Dragonettes, family Callionymidae) are part of this latter category. The two most common species of Mandarins used in our interest (the green or spotted Synchiropus picturatus and blue Synchiropus splendidus) used to be collected with (toxic) chemicals and held under abysmal conditions prior to shipping. Nowadays they are collected utilizing 'little spears' (barbless, shot through the dorsals mostly) and healed up in-country ahead of being shipped abroad. Add in better bags (corner-less) and boxes, higher-quality oxygen'¦ these changes account for most of the reversal of fortune for these species in captive use. 

            Of course, even with improved systems, water quality and initially healthy livestock, the advents of live rock, live sand has further added stability and optimized water conditions and foods for more touchy livestock. All have contributed to higher survival rates, longer longevity and vitality, and yes, reproduction/propagation of the life we keep.

Re: psychedelic mandarin I think tequila works best for sanitizing your stomach and it's a good thing Mexico has plenty supply of tequila. :-) <hmmm...you sound pretty confident of this... do you have any proof or experience to back this up?> The book is out of print. I found it on barns & noble used. It should arrive in a couple weeks. <excellent and well worth it. A nice little book and an excellent speaker. If he travels back to this country to speak and you have a chance...don't miss him> Do you have a suggestions where I might be able to find an adult mandarin. the fish stores around here seem to only have very young/small mandarins and it's hard to tell what sex they are. <yes, e-mail Jim Newman at Flying Fish Express and see if he can handle the special order for you. there is a link for them on this site) I didn't know if there was a breeder or supplier that specialized in mandarin fish.  <nope...too difficult for most people> Perhaps I just have to keep my eyes open. <indeed, they are not rare> I'm so impressed with your quick response. what is your business...do u own a fish store?  <have over ten years in the business...used to own a store, a discus fish hatchery, a coral farming greenhouse, and even wrote a book about it (Book of Coral Propagation... www.readingtrees.com)> Do you guys manage all of wetwebmedia.com? <just friends of Bob...we're helping to answer mail and do a little posting> I am really impressed with the website. Great information, and lots of it. <and about to grow light years bigger/better thanks to Bob, Zo, Mike, J, et al> How do you find the time? < I'm a hit man for the mob... I have a lot of free time...hehe> :-) Janelle <Anthony Calfo>

Dragonet? Hi again Robert, Thank you for such a fast reply. I think the Synchiropus morrisoni or Morrison's dragonet might be the ticket but he ( and I say "he" because of the super long fin, like a Indian chiefs feather. The fin stands straight forward laying on the top of his head, instead of straight up.) <Some specimens do have this... larger, healthy males...> Also, none of the pictures show the little legs, please excuse my ignorance, (name?) <Likely pelvic fins> that they use to scoot along the bottom on. I assume the Morrison's dragonet at fishbase.org has red on her because of the sex? <Possibly> I have a friend who has a refugium, made out of a large Tupperware container that has tons of buggies he could eat. But then I would have to give him up. LOL, I hoped it would be easy, just change the food , maybe?  <Perhaps... worth experimenting, trying other live, frozen/defrosted foods> I was setting up a salt tank for an octopus that my local fish store has but a friend insists that no octopus can survive more than six months tops in a warm tank. (beside a blue ringed). Is this true? Sorry for so much. Kasandra <Many species only live a year or so... in the wild or captivity. Some larger ones live a few years. Bob Fenner>

Re: Dragonet? Hi again, Wow! I finally figured it out with your help, Thanks! My dragonet is a fingered dragonet or Dactylopus dactylopus. I think the name refers to his little fingers or legs right under his gills. I have finally gotten him to eat frozen Mysis shrimp soaked in vitamins. <Ah, great!> I was so thrilled when he stared eating it off the bottom that I was yelling and clapping. LOL that's a fish enthusiast for you. Anyway, Thanks again for all the inf., its is very appreciated. Kasandra <Congrats. Life to you my friend. Bob Fenner>

Mandarins Mr. Fenner (or to whoever reads this), <You reached Steven Pro working his shift.> My question is regarding the different types of Mandarin dragonets. Although I have read The Conscientious Marine Aquarist several times, and am acutely aware of your general thoughts on the fish, I wanted to know what you thought was a better choice: the Green Mandarin [Pterosynchiropus splendidus] or the Psychedelic Mandarin [Synchiropus picturatus]? Which is hardier? <No real difference between the two. Same care and same generally awful track record in most tanks.> I have a one-year-old reef system, substrate FULL of worms (not bristles), 60lbs live rock, twelve pieces of coral, etc. I would absolutely love to care for one of these animals, but if it's some type of impossibility, I won't attempt it. <Not an impossibility, but does have some very particular care requirements (live food and plenty of it).> Please let me know your thoughts. <My general recommendation for attempting one of these creatures is a tank that measures 8 square feet or more, is mature (over one year old), with thriving corals, preferably has a refugium, and does not contain a lot of competitive fish. My best guess, is that with 60 pounds of liverock, you have a tank no bigger than 75 gallons, maybe less. Anything under 120 is probably not worth trying. Success with this fish would be keeping this animal alive for over one year and still looks great. Do not listen to anyone that says, "Mine is doing great! I have had it for six months in my 55!" -Steven Pro> Thanks! Sam

Psychedelic Mandarin Sexing hello Robert.....I just discovered wetwebmedia.com.  <Greetings Janelle... Anthony Calfo standing in because Bob heard that their was a sale on film at the hobby shop and he ran like water through a first time Mexico tourist to get it> I have a psychedelic mandarin which is doing really well.  <how old?> It took a while but he/she is eating brine shrimp (preferably live), <hopefully gut loaded and soaked with Selcon or like product...else a useless food/low grade> but I supply him/her with amphipods once every 3 months from www.florida-aqua-farms.com for variety. :-) <outstanding... you are a dedicated aquarist> My purpose for writing is I'd like to get another psychedelic mandarin of the opposite sex. I haven't found any good pictures of male & female for comparison, and I know the male has a longer dorsal fin. do u have pictures/drawings so I can see the difference in dorsal fin length? <most/many collected are males... the difference is stark. Night and Day...even when folded down. The males dorsal is so long that it drapes down lust over the side onto his back... the females is very tiny. For reference... there are male/female pictures in Helmut Debelius' "Fishes for the Invertebrate Aquarium" 3rd edition on page 8 and the front cover has a target mandarin species (S. ocellatus) in a blown up unmistakable view of the female mandarinfish dorsal. Trust yourself... the differences are huge. Anthony> I look forward to hearing from you. Thank you for all your help. Janelle

Mandarin Follow up About Refugium Hi, Anthony, <You will never know who is going to get your email. You reached Steven today.> Thanks for the advice on Mandarins. Your comment about a refugium brings to the fore a nagging question I've had about refugiums. You said "A fishless refugium above and overflowing into the display will help to generate a better diversity of natural plankton with the local staple you collect" Every refugium I have seen or read about seems to be in the sump, right before the "mulching" return pump. Always seemed to me that it would be best to have the refugium outflow drain into the main tank as opposed to pumped so that the food isn't damaged in the pump. Trouble with that is, I would think, the more interesting food is probably deeper in the tank and not swimming around at the skim off. Maybe some sort of deep siphon complement by a surface overflow (more for protection if the siphon loses seal) would be best. Anyway, how much of the benefit of a refugium are you losing by pumping the outflow back to the tank? Just a little? Or a lot? There's the nutrient export angle which isn't effected but the food source seems a more important reason to have a refugium since something like xenia in the main tank has to be a good nutrient exporter. Don't have a refugium yet myself but I've been thinking about how to add one. <You and Anthony are correct. A refugium is best located above the main display so that it can gravity feed to the tank without going through a pump first. You are also right in that most people have there refugiums located in the stands and must pump water from there into the display. The answer for this is it is more practical to hide the refugium in the stand. As to the effect the pump has, it is probably just a little. The studies done on impellor shear (running "plankton" through a pump and seeing how badly they were damaged) used adult brine shrimp. These guys are rather large in comparison to what you want to encourage to grow. They also are free swimming, unlike to typical plankton in refugiums. This brings me to your last point on sucking the little critters from the bottom. You are not looking to send the adults done to the display. Some will swim up and overflow down, but mainly you are targeting their offspring which are much smaller and will swim.> Thanks! -Marc <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

Re: psychedelic mandarin Thank you for the quick response. <quite welcome> I hope Robert got his film....but didn't have the pain of Montezuma's revenge. <the tongue in cheek irony is that Bob really is away in sunny Cancun Mexico... and although Bob is hardly a first time Mexico tourist... you cannot predict how water will run...hehe. But have faith... Bob has a strategy for dysentery in far countries... he sanitizes his stomach with alcohol. He says if you always keep beer in your tummy... then you have no worries (I'm sure!)> I've had my mandarin for almost a year. Simon's (that's his/her name) belly gets really big when he/she eats. I'm almost afraid it'll explode. <outstanding!> :-) I don't know the difference between brine shrimp soaked in Selcon vs. regular brine. Is there a vitamin supplement I can give the brine shrimp to make them more nutritious? <yes... called Selcon (keep refrigerated)... it is an excellent way to gut load brine with lipids/fatty acids to keep your mandarin in peak form> I think I have that book....if not, I will be buying it tonight. :-) <excellent... best regards to you. Anthony> thanks again. Janelle

Dragonet Hello Robert, First I would like to thank you for all your help in the past. Your advice on my surprise anemones package helped out a great deal. I will go over my system first so you can get a better idea. I have a 125 gal. setup all parameters are great. Ammonia, Nitrates, Nitrites, and salinity are good. I have 100lbs. live rock, 80 lb.. live sand. Many, many small snails, crabs, brittle stars, unknown various crustaceans etc.. mushrooms, xenia, sponges, gorgonians, and a ton of macroalgae. (I am constantly pulling out just to control amount). <Good signs, practices> I have male, female mandarin dragonets for about 8 months, spawning almost every night, just as the lights go out. <Neat> One sleeper goby, lawnmower goby, watchman goby and one small yellow tang. doing great!) Six Seahorses, captive breed) doing great! Had about 5 successful broods of ponies, and believe it or not a green bird wrasse who gets a long (so far) with everybody, even my horses. My question is... I just got a dragonet who is brown, camouflage color, with a little purple on his top fin. Blends in with the sand and buries himself. Only the large upright fin protruding. Small legs in front. He is not eating at all. He is constantly buried or skimming the surface of the water ( as if he's trying to escape). What kind of dragonet is he?  <Take a look on fishbase.org under the family name Callionymidae... likely a Synchiropus morrisoni or ocellatus...> And is there a food type or tank parameter that he needs? He is very skinny and I haven't seen him even look for bugs. <Do you have a system to place this fish in with more/different crustacean, worm fauna?> Your help is tremendously appreciated! I have looked for him in my marine books but haven't been able to find any inf.. Also if anyone would like to ask me on advice or inf. for Seahorses I would be glad to offer any assistance! <Ahh, thank you for this. Perhaps Zo will/would make an area for you, this group of fishes on our chatforum: http://talk.wetwebfotos.com/ I will ask> I have learned a little. :) and I know I would have loved to talk to someone when I first started. Have a great day, Kasandra <We are one my friend. Bob Fenner>

Growing Pains Hello Bob, Sorry to ask another question so soon but I am a little panicked. I think I need to find a new pet store. As mentioned in my other question, I have recently bought a Coral Beauty, Gold-banded Butterfly, and a Mandarin Goby. The salesperson at the fish store told me that all will do well with a variety of frozen and flake foods. I had a Mandarin Goby in the past that did take to some frozen foods. Tonight I read over previous questions and answers regarding these fish on WetWebMedia and am beginning to think I am in over my head. Clearly, I should have researched these fish more before buying. <Always the best way to go about buying anything.> I trusted the advice of someone I'm beginning to think only cares about making a buck. The store had 4 or 5 of these awesome creatures and apparently sells them regularly. I've only had the fish a couple of days, but the only thing I see them doing is pecking at the 35 pounds or so of live rock in my 45 gallon high tank. <Not unusual. Actually to be expected.> The rock was added over the period of a year and is probably full of things they like, but I am worried about how long they can sustain pecking on this rock. <The problem is that they will compete against one another for available food and eventually exhaust the supply.> I tried a clamp that is supposed to entice the fish into eating frozen foods with no luck. Normally I wouldn't be so concerned since they were just added, but after reading the testimony of others I am very worried. Do you have any suggestions? <Taking them back may be your best option or finding another hobbyist who can care for these creatures.> Thanks again. David <Steven Pro>

Copepods and UV Sterilizers Hi, Will running a UV sterilizer kill beneficial copepods and amphipods? <If it is powerful enough, the flow rate through it long (time-wise) enough, yes> I had a large bug explosion a few months ago so I got a dragonet and he was eating like crazy. Now, he still looks like he's constantly picking through the rock and sand, but he is getting skinny as if he can't find enough to eat. I'm thinking about setting up a refugium under the tank and getting a amphipod breeding mat and starter culture from Indo-Pacific, but want to find out why the visible bugs are gone? (Still see larger bugs from time to time.) <Likely consumed by the Mandarin/Dragonet... they can/really mow through such fauna. I do agree, urge you to go ahead with your added sump/refugium plans. Many benefits, much fun. Bob Fenner> Thanks for your time, Michael

Questions... (mainly re Mandarins) Hi Mr. Fenner - have been reading your webpage and am learning a lot - much of which I've already done wrong! <No need to repeat my... many mistakes> I started a SW tank about a month ago...purchased about 30 lbs. of liverock (29 gallon tank), which came with some inverts...some died, but some made it through the cycle (I had thought the tank was cycled, having started with 10 lbs of liverock and 2 damsels and never having any ammonia readings. Anyways, long story...so now I have gone through a TRUE cycle, and have NO ammonia, no nitrites and little or no nitrates (color on card seemed between 5 and 0, so we'll say maybe a 2) <okay> Anyways, I finally added a skunk cleaner shrimp, and after having him for a week, have added a mandarin fish. Wish I'd done more research! I DID pull it up on the internet before purchase, reading that it was non-aggressive and reef-safe. Unfortunately the site didn't say how difficult they are to keep and feed. HOWEVER, I DO have quite a population of those little "white bugs" (copepods and amphipods???)  <Likely> crawling around on the glass of the aquarium and down in the live sand bed. I just bought the mandarin last night - should I even attempt to keep him? <What are your alternatives? Easier in a larger system, and/or one with a sizable refugium, as you now know> Other inhabitants of this tank are several unidentified bivalves (sold to me as "live rock" and covered with other life so I hate to be rid of them), 2 serpent stars (at least 2) that also came in the live rock, several very small featherdusters, and one Condylactis anemone that was a "freebie" thrown in by the company that shipped the live rock. <Mmm, may someday consume your Mandarin in the dark of night...> I didn't ask for it, and was upset that they sent it - but it seems to be doing quite well. I just replaced my regular fluorescent light (tank was freshwater) with a power compact. It's only 55 watts - but the folks that sent the anemone said these don't need as much light as some other species. I feed it only 2 times per week, as you mentioned in your articles on anemones. So far, it's eating salmon (no additives) and seems to like it! I put phytoplankton in the tank every day (just a small capful) for the bivalves, etc. Oh, and I was sold about 20 tiny blue-leg hermits and 7 turbo snails, but again, think I got more of these type critters in the "package" of liverock and sand...have seen some burrowing type snails as well, and some tiny tiny little hermits that don't have blue legs. <You have a good, clear mind> Please give me your recommendations on the mandarin fish and the anemone, as well as if you think these little white bugs are indeed copepods. (The scoot along on the glass - I tried to look with a magnifying glass, and they do look sort of like brine shrimp) <You have them here, and posted on WetWebMedia.com Be chatting, Bob Fenner> Thanks, Belinda

Re: Tank setup. l Hello Mr. Fenner, I have a quick question. I have a 55 gallon tank with some corals, 80lbs of live rock and about 60lbs of sand. Only 10-15lbs of that sand was live. I figured I would save some money and seed the sand my self.  <Yes, this is what we do.> I cycled my tank for over about 6 weeks. When it was finally ready I added a purple pseudo Chromis. I waited one month and then added a yellow tang. I waited another two months and bought a Hippo tang and a mandarin goby this past weekend. The hippo seemed to be sick from the get go and died yesterday :( The yellow tang and the Chromis are doing very well. It's been 4 days now that I have had the goby. All though it is quite shy, it seems to be doing ok. My buddy just scared the heck out of me today. He said that these fish are very difficult to keep and most die from starvation. <This is so. Please read: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/mandarins.htm and the FAQs, links beyond> I did do some research on the fish before I bought it but I guess I did not do enough. I just read your FAQ's on mandarin gobies and am quite concerned.  <Oh> I wonder if my live rock and live sand will be enough to keep this fish from starving. Where else can I find a food source for the goby? <A fifty five with the other life you mention should provide enough foodstuffs... you could add a live/refugium sump... buy live crustaceans, worms... as from Inland Aquatics...> Are their places that you know of that will sell me some kind of life that this fish can feed off of? <Quite a few. They are listed on the WWM Links Pages> Oh and my water conditions are as follows: salinity: 1.023-1.024 temp: 78-79 F ammonia: 0 nitrate:0 nitrite: 1.5 PPM -rk <You will be able to see the Mandarin becoming thin if this is going to happen... over a period of days, weeks. Bob Fenner>

Aiptasia Thanks Robert for your very informative article about Aiptasia. I have several of these in my tank. I have a mandarin and wonder if mandarin will eat them?  <No... unfortunately there is a chance of exactly the opposite. The Aiptasia can/might eat the Mandarin> If not, then I will get peppermint shrimp. I cannot get nudibranch because I will not have other food available for it. Thanks!!! Christine, the mother of two cowfishes, mandarin, and two mollies <How nice. Be chatting. Bob Fenner>

Blenny or Dragonet Hi again, Is this fish a blenny or a dragonet. <It is a callionymid... a dragonet... which unfortunately is often called a "blenny"... common names are often confusing. Please read here on our site: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/gobioidmars.htm As you will see, this family/group is more closely related to the gobies...> It was sold under scooter blenny but I understand that's vague. What will it eat, a person at the LFS said it would eat brine shrimp but lots of my diatoms have disappeared over night (not sure if fish is the cause), do dragonets eat critters in the sand? <Mmm, yes... this is the principal source of "in tank" nutrition... won't live indefinitely on brine shrimp...> I only have a single piece of live rock so I may have to take it back if that's what it is, <You likely would be better off returning this fish> also it has a large sail like dorsal fin in front of the smaller dorsal fin which flares up occasionally. you also helped me identify a small tube worm in the rock. do you think it will grow larger and a cancerous tube? <Some species do, most do not. Also of pertinence are your local "growing" conditions. Bob Fenner>

Skinny Mandarin Goby. Hi Robert. I have a very active but skinny Mandarin Goby in my small reef tank. He has been there about 4 months and seems to be happy, however he is getting thin.. I try feeding him frozen Mysis and he occasionally gets one. Do you have any suggestions??? <Please read through the FAQs section on Mandarins on our site: http://wetwebmedia.com/mandfaqs.htm It is imperative that you supply more suitable foodstuffs here... through culture, perhaps a sump/refugium, more new live rock... or move this specimen to a system with more available life to eat> I have a small 65 gal reef tank with 1 Sail Tang, 1 Royal Gramma, 4 Chromis and 1 Clown fish. All are doing extremely well. The reef consists of Anemone, Gorgonians, star polyps, Orange, brown & Green Polyps, a Bubble coral, Red open brain coral, Fuzzy Mushroom and finger coral. All doing well and growing. The shrimp consist of 2 Fires, 1 Harlequin and 3 Peppermint. Only the poor Goby seems to be not getting enough to eat Your help would be appreciated Bob. <Please do follow the thread/links through the WWM site. Bob Fenner>

Mandarin Gobies We have a spotted mandarin that we have had for a few months. He will even eat the flake food we feed the other fish. My question is whether he would get along with another goby? We have a 90 gallon reef tank with 80 lbs of rock. <Likely so... unless the other "real" goby is a species that is very territorial, large. Please read over the following sections of our site: http://wetwebmedia.com/gobioidmars.htm and beyond for an idea of how large this question, groups are. Bob Fenner> Thank you

Mandarin I have a small Mandarin who seems to be extremely under weight.  <Yikes, not good... leading cause of loss with these fishes: starvation> He seems to have stopped eating at least while I am watching where before he ate pretty well. I didn't realize just how thin he was until I saw another at the pet store and saw how fat it was. They told me to soak live brine shrimp in vitamins and use a turkey baster to get it down to him. Is this correct?  <Mmm, well more than just brine shrimp...> Is there anything additional I can do for him? He has 8 pieces of live rock, an anemone, a urchin, a yellow tang, a damsel, and a clown fish. All of the water levels test out well. <Well, ideally you would have a large-enough, well-established live sand bed, possibly an additional refugium type sump with even more life (especially small worms, various types of crustaceans) to grant this callionymid sources of constant forage. Please read: http://wetwebmedia.com/mandarins.htm and the FAQs after it. Bob Fenner>

Curiosity (Mandarin observation) Hello Bob, I was browsing around my LFS when I noticed something I couldn't figure out and I'm kinda curious about. I was watching the green mandarin in my LFS coral tank... beautiful fish.... maybe in the future when I get my huge dream aquarium :) but I noticed the fish just floating around and then it squirted out a whitish cloudy liquid from around it's gills? <Hmm, maybe "something it ate"... just spitting out (albeit backwards) the shells, refuse, sand from a big mouthful of something> I looked closer and it looked like there were little white particles on the fish?  <Maybe> Was this some sort of stress or defense mechanism?  <Mmm, don't think so> I was going to ask someone but it was kinda busy and I didn't get a chance. I hope to get one of these fish someday when I have a big tank with a lot of liverock... so I was just wondering. Thanks p.s. Went to Tropicorium... was very impressed with the selection and price of corals... just wanted to put a little plug in... guess I'm lucky I live in Michigan :) <Say hi to Dick Perrin for me next time you're there. Bob Fenner>

Mandarin (et al.) question(s) I read over your Mandarin FAQ.  <Hopefully we can add to it here> I have a 30 gallon reef tank, with 40 lbs of live rock, three Chromis and a clown, cleaner shrimp, had a wrasse (I have not seen him in like a week, I think he wasted away, unfortunately I did not know about your website before buying him), <Ah, glad we have found each other> and the cause of this email, a mandarin. I have a protein skimmer and a set of power compacts. Anyway I actually have two questions. The first one is concerning the mandarin, I read the FAQ and I see that the mandarins eat copepods, well here is my question, within putting the mandarin in my tank it only took him like 4 days to wipe out all the copepods. <Yes, a thirty alone is too small to support one of these fishes...> My tank has been up for like 4 months now. Do the mandarins eat live amphipods (Gammarus) , I can't see to find any place that sells copepods.  <They can eat many species of small crustaceans, worms... Do check the "Links Page" on our site and contact "Inland Aquatics"... they have many cultures, information also on growing your own... Perhaps an attached sump/refugium is in your Callionymids future> I have a tank on the side ready to breed copepods but I think that will take too long and I don't want the little guy to die on me. My second question is concerning coralline algae, the live rocks I initially purchased where covered with purple coralline, I got lucky and ended up getting some rocks of a guy who needed to sell his well established reef tank. Since putting them in my tank, the purple coralline has been fading. Is this normal, since I guess my water and tank is not established like his.  <Possibly... do check both your alkalinity AND biomineral content...> I use B-ionic alk and calcium component, as well a coral vital and black powder. What do you think about those two products: coral vital and black powder.  <They're unworthy. One is a simple sugar solution that can/does cause trouble with continuous use, the other? I would take them back to your dealer, request a refund.> Well thanks for you help in advance. <Be chatting my new friend. Bob Fenner> Alfredo Carrion

Mandarin fish Bob, This is more of a posting than a question....I was reading through the section on mandarins and was surprised to see how many people had problems with them and that they were labeled as a poor choice for almost anyone's tank. I have had 2 mandarins over the past 5 years. The first one was a blue mandarin that was doing fine for about two years and then died most likely from neglect (I was away at college at the time). I bought another one (psychedelic this time) and have had her now for about 2 1/2 to 3 years. The mandarin has grown from probably 2 inches to 3 1/2 - 4 inches and is doing just fine. The odd thing is that up until about 3 months ago, I only had a 20 gal reef type tank (I've since moved to a 37 gal tank). I probably have about 8-10 mid sized pieces of live rock (plenty of algae, sponges, mites, and other assorted critters), some mushrooms, an ocellaris clown, a pseudo springeri and a few assorted snails and hermit crabs. The mandarin can always be found hovering about and picking at the rocks for extra bites to eat but for the most part, it eats the frozen brine shrimp that the other two fish eat. The mandarin is not shy at all about joining in on eating and definitely eats a fair share. My only thoughts when buying a mandarin are the same as with any fish, it should look good and eat at the fish store in order to consider buying it. If the fish looks good at the sore, keep an eye on it for a week or two before purchasing. Good Luck. Chris D. <Do agree with the gist of your message re "benign neglect" of systems... Historically, most of these Callionymids do still die of starvation... and the vagaries of collection, shipping, holding till they get to the end user. Bob Fenner>

Spawning scooters Hey just a real quick question... I was watching my tank last night and saw my scooter blennies (dragonets) were sort getting along. I just purchased a male last week and usually the female brains him until he goes to his own side of the tank....well last night he was flashing his big dorsal at her, fanning his pectorals at her, and shimmying around.  <Irresistible> He would chase her about the tank but not in the aggressive manner that she chases him, he would stick right to her side, flaring and shimmying. It was really beautiful. At times they would race towards the top of the tank and then stop to slowly drift down. I would say it went on for about an hour and then I shut the kitchen light off and with their twilight ended they promptly buried themselves in the sand. Is this a courtship display? Will they eventually spawn?  <Yes, and they may have already. You just saw "it"> I know that I will never see babies but this was really cool anyway and it would make me happy to know that my fish are happy enough to continue their natural behavior in my tank. Also are there any snails that I should be worried about in my tank? I have been noticing that several different types of inverts are all of the sudden coming off my rocks....weird things like spiraling worms, gigantic "bristle" worms (just one really and it's about 1cm wide and maybe 8cm long. I have never seen the entire worm as he never comes out of his hole.) clear shrimp that are roughly 1cm long and look like fleas, bright red and pink "feather worms". But most of all there are tons of snails. Tiny pointed shells and round shells one that is black has a roundish shell and doesn't like the light...I heard that some snails are bad news and I don't want "bad news" in my tank. <Not likely a problem here. Some snails do/will prey on sessile invertebrates of various kinds... and many are vectors/carriers of disease/parasites... but in captivity, not generally a large concern> I also would like to know if there are any types of inverts such as shrimp and crabs that are safe to put in my tank...It's mainly a fish only with a few other inverts (anemone and a sea Cuke some clean up crew of Turbos and reef hermits) I had others but the deco crab I had ate them (Bad bad crab!!!!!) I would like to get starfish as well (I still have the blue star that is in R&R at the LFS, would he be safe now that the crab is gone?) <Maybe... some others are better choices. These are mentioned on the "Seastars" section of our site (WetWebMedia.com)> Any way so much for my quick question!! Thanks for all your help once again. whitwyrm <Chat with you soon. Bob Fenner>

Dragonets in smaller systems, A "new" approach Hi, I am one of these hobbyists who are possessed by the beauty of these little Dragonets and wish to place them in our little inadequate systems. I have done a bit of research on the subject, including your postings on these fish and realize the attrition factor associated with the Dragonets due to inadequate copepod supply. After a bit of research I have come up with a plan that might work for these finicky creatures. I would (if you among others don't blow this theory completely out of the water) place the Mandarin in a 40 gal high (36x13...) low bioload (possibly a pair of Ocellaris & a Royal Gramma,) densely aquascaped with the best live rock I can afford. I am willing (if I can keep this little guy both alive and content here) to sacrifice any tankmate for its well being, i.e., no aggressive, no food competitors (I have abandoned all hope of a Centropyge in here). Anyway, one LFS owner remedied this "starvation" problem for a customer by swapping out some of her live rock for fresh (cured) stock. I am still wary of this. My idea is to create a dedicated 20 gal for copepods only. Live rock will be placed in this tank so I have two options at my disposal: 1. Swap out "grazed" live rock for copepod rich rock. The Dragonets has something to eat and the "grazed rock" can (maybe) get "recharged". <Yes> 2. Extract some of these critters and feed directly to the fish. (The least desirable situation). What are your thoughts on the matter? <The separate refugium/culture tank is a good idea... do add some macro-algae and its own set of lighting> Does this theory have any practical value? If it is weak as I have stated but doable under different conditions, than what modifications would you suggest? Ultimately, I want this fish not only alive, but happy. I am sorry to say that I have neither the space or the $$$ for the tank for this fish, only the love for this species and the desire to make it work if it can. -Brad <Your callionymid/s should do fine here... let the tanks run w/o them for a few months. Bob Fenner>

Mandarin tip This is more for people who need info about mandarins and not a question- <Okay... thanks for the input> I've just recently gotten comfortable with keeping a mandarin. They have a pretty high mortality rate due to improper feeding. They eat mostly copepods (the little 'bugs' in your tank). I've had one for almost three months and its doing swell. I had a nice sized copepod population in my 125gal which was quickly eaten by the mandarin. Needless to say I was a bit nervous. Since then I've been slacking on getting some more copepods (which you can buy pre cultured at inland aquatics, http://inlandaquatics.com/prod/products.html) which is nice. anyways I've found out that they will eat roe as well. try using small roe like smelt roe or whatnot (roe are fish eggs, the little orange balls in your sushi). I've found that a good mix of roe and copepods make for a very healthy mandarin. don't take my word on this, but I bet that one could keep more than one per tank if fed roe and lots of cultured copepods. the only problem is that the copepods are a bit expensive, try looking into culturing your own. well, it was fun stealing your spotlight bob/Lorenzo but it was about time I gave a little knowledge instead of taking it. thanks, Jon Trowbridge <Thank you for sharing my friend. Bob Fenner>

Mandarin fish, are they toxic? <Hi Steve, Lorenzo Gonzalez, currently visiting SLC, standing in for Bob, currently visiting Indonesia!> I read in a article that Mandarin fish can be toxic. I think the mandarin fish I have could be linked to the three mysterious deaths in my tank. Can you get me more info on it? <Mandarin fish are only toxic if you try to munch on them. Most fish big enough to munch a Mandarin are also smart enough to leave it alone! I'd look elsewhere for your mysterious death problem... regards, Lorenzo> Steve Grammer Salt Lake City, Utah

Anthias, Mandarins. <Kim, Lorenzo Gonzalez here, holding down the fort for Bob while he's underwater in Asia for a couple weeks.> I just purchased an Anthias, though I thought it was a purple queen I am beginning to think it's not! He is most defiantly no purple for one thing, but a brilliant orange. And there was nothing shy about him at all. I must say this fish was an impulse buy, my husband took me to the store to get my little Singapore angel and he picked this Anthias out as well.  <Glad to hear you feel guilty about the 'impulse buy'... :-) > I was not interested in Anthias in anyway...and from reading your information I am reminded why. Though this fish was a little more then most of my other tank inhabitants, he seems to be the nicest one in there! I worried about him the first night, noting that he had ick on his pectorals and that his color was poor, but the next morning at feeding time....well you would never have known he was the same fish (by the way I really don't know if it's a he or a she but I named it Felix so it's a he)<If she's not a he, she probably will be eventually, without a bigger 'he' around to keep her a she... Anthias are like that.> His color was bright a fiery, his attitude about the food I put in there (plain old brine shrimp) was exuberant! In fact he eats better then the pair of lemon damsels that I have in there. my tank is a 60 gal with about 50 -60 lb of live rock and 40 lb of sand.) He seems to have taken the tank over and has even put the little six-line wrasse in it's place, it kept pouncing on my scooter blenny. The most amazing thing is his curiosity, it overwhelms even the wrasse. He wants to see everything!!! Last night I was mopping the floor this was only his second night with us) and he followed me around the tank as if trying to figure out what the heck I was doing. It was really quite cute. And everybody else in the tank comes out now, I've seen more of my lemon damsels and my wrasse in the last two days then I have in the last four months. <The 'dither-fish' effect, in reverse! (Usually a bunch of small, 'stupid' fish are used to get a bigger, shy one to come around)> But the true reason I wrote was that I needed some more info on this fish or just Anthias in general, since I'm not really sure what he is.  <Go to www.fishbase.org and type in 'Anthias' in the common name search, to figure out which sort you have. Then read Bob's articles, and/or Conscientious Marine Aquarist.> I usually research my fish to death, just ask the guy at the pet store, I think I drive him mad with all my questions. I have to write them down I have so many.  <That's sure a good practice, sure is. > It took me almost 2 years of reading and research before I even set up my tank. But I wanted my husband to enjoy this thing too, so I thought I'll get this and see what happens....well now he's my favorite fish, and I want to keep him happy and healthy, and alive. <Glad to hear you're both enjoying it so!> Another thing I had to ask about was the dismal report on the dragonets, the whole reason for starting my tank was to in the end purchase on of these magnificent animal...but not to have it die. Has there been any good news on these fish? Is there anything extra I need to do?  <Yes. And I hate to say this: You'll need to get rid of the little wrasse, and the 'scooter blenny' (if it's the 'scooter' of the same family as the dragonet you so desire), before you purchase your Mandarin. The 60 gallon isn't big enough to produce food for all these direct competitors, even with the mountain of live rock you're piling up. You should wait until the tank is a year established, as well.> I plan on having well over 100 lbs of rock before I even think of getting one (Though resisting has been VERY hard) I would really appreciate anything you could give me as far as information. <You've got a great attitude, and a responsible approach to all this: very nice to see that. A crop of feather, bubble, cup (harder to keep) or common 'strap' Caulerpa will help provide a breeding ground for the tiny creatures your future mandarin will need to eat. Quite good for the general water quality as well.> Just as a side note: My tank is a 60 gal 6 mo old. It has a emperor 400 And power heads at each end I will be getting a skimmer soon) There are 2 lemon damsels, a scooter blenny, a six-line wrasse, a Singapore angle, as well as a cleaning crew of sundry crabs and snails, and soon some shrimp. <Sounds just like one of the tanks we have in the living room, even the Emperor 400, which we had leftover from our freshwater days. The only thing we have on there that you don't is a skimmer. Get one. I would highly recommend a Remora from AquaC. (www.proteinskimmer.com). Compact enough to hang between the wall and the tank, and very effective and safe. (no overflow) You won't believe what the skimmer will pull out of your water...Best regards, Lorenzo >

Latin question... Just curious... what does the prefix ptero mean? I've been reading up on mandarins. any new species that I pick up I try to figure out what their 'discovering' biologist was calling his new-fangled critter. thanks. <Ah, a use for the time/effort of my classics minor from first degree... "Ptero" as in dactyl refers to "wing", ofttimes as something related... as in Pterophyllum (the genus of freshwater cichlid angels), "wing like" finnage... or the Order of modern ferns Pteropida... At any length, if you're decidedly curious, you can "run down" the original (re)description where the namer tells all re their naming. Bob Fenner> Jon Trowbridge (to ease your skepticism I've got 120gal with a copepod infestation.... never thought I'd have to get a mandarin!!!)

Mandarin Fish Mr. Fenner- Unfortunately, I have done all the wrong things to my mandarin. I had the best of intentions. I researched his compatibility with tank mates. I asked my fish store about compatibility, and I asked about my tank size. They said he would be fine with a dwarf angel, he lost his dorsal fin. They said 29 gallon tank was fine as long as I had "some" live rock, I had 3 or 4 pieces. I asked about feeding, and they sold me Mysis shrimp, which I don't always see him eat. In short I have severely shortchanged this creature. Now, he is divided from his tankmates with a screen, and he is starving. What is the most humane thing to do?  <Trade this fish, give it to someone who has a large enough, well-established enough reef system with a paucity of competing fish life to house it... and quick> I have had him since 2/15. Unfortunately, I did not find your website until after this purchase. I will definitely rely on it in the future to prevent any further disasters. Thank you for any information you can give me. Jennifer Schababerle <So heartwarming to hear of your revelations and tribulations with this fish... you will do well in future. Bob Fenner>

Another Mandarin Dead I had emailed you about my mandarin goby because his head was grey and you said most likely that nothing was wrong with him. he did die. I read about the mandarin on the wetwebmedia website. do you think the grey head was a sign of lack of nutrition and that is why he died? Thanks, <Not necessarily... in looking at thousands of these fishes (Callionymids) in captivity and the wild, there are ones with "grey heads"... But assuredly, the two principal species sold in the trade (the green spotted and blue...) have very dismal survival records in aquariums... most die from outright stress... if they live through collection, handling, shipping, acclimation to the aquarist's tanks... and then most succumb to a lack of nutrition within a few weeks from then... NOT GOOD "beginner, intermediate" livestock... NOT. Bob Fenner, who is disgusted by other pet-fish writers for encouraging the keeping of these "gobies".>

Re: Mandarin Goby I agree with you, I think they are really neat but if it is so difficult to keep them in an aquarium, I wish they would leave them in the ocean. It is not right to take them out to die. <Ah, glad to find we're in agreement... there are folks who argue that "people need a/the challenge"... of difficult species... but w/o being informed up front of what their historical survivability is?> Is there anything that can be done about this? <You/we're doing it... posting such information, attempting to make known what is known...> I had mine for 4 months so I thought he was doing really good and I was so proud of him.  It gave me a lot of joy to watch such a beautiful creature swim around but I would never of gotten him if I knew he would probably end up dying.  <Many less than one out of a hundred live this long in captivity... yours is a relative success story> I guess he just didn't have enough of the right food to keep him going. I have read it takes a big aquarium with lots of live rock.  <Yes, a minimum of four square feet per specimen...> If he lasted 4 months could he of just given out of what he needed to survive? I think when people buy them they are not told how difficult it is to keep them. Is there anything we can do to help keep them alive.  <Yes... live food organisms can be cultured expressly, or a refugium set-up to do about the same in a more extensive way...> I know I'll never get another one and I will tell as many people as I can but that still won't be enough. If there is anything we can do I would really like to know because this really bothers me. THANKS!!!!!!!!!! <Read, study from other peoples efforts, and write a short article (I'll gladly supply the images) and send it to the hobby magazine FAMA (first, and if they don't accept it for publication we'll send it elsewhere...). This will help about the best that I can think of any action. Bob Fenner>

Mandarin Concerns If a mandarin goby's head is grey, what could be wrong with him? He is not hiding, still going all around the aquarium. he is slower coming out when I first turn on the light than he use to be but then he acts pretty normal. <Likely nothing wrong here... Bob Fenner>

Psychedelic Mandarin Hello Bob, I have successfully been keeping a Psychedelic Mandarin for about 3 months. Although I have noticed that if I am not constantly over feeding my reef/fish he becomes very skinny. <Yes, very common> I have a sump/refugium with live rock, grape Caulerpa, and effluent drip from my calcium reactor, and the sump is lit 24 hours a day. My question is do you think it would be better for me to place the Mandarin fish into the sump? Do you think this will fatten him up?  <Hmm, actually... unless the sump was a prime visiting area, large... no, I wouldn't move the Mandarin... maybe add more live rock to the main/display system... perhaps more sand, finer... take out some competing animals there...> Also, will the effluent from the reactor be dangerous to the fish?  <Maybe... at least more so than where it/they are now>> Finally if you think he should be placed there what should I run the light cycle, ( 24 or opposite of the main tank)? Thank you very much, Rob <Three months is a good long time for this species... most are dead from stress, starvation in a month... Maybe look into food cultures... Bob Fenner>

mandarin goby Hi Mr. Fenner, I had a mandarin goby for 3 1/2 months and I enjoyed him so much. I thought he was so cool! When he died I called the pet store where I bought him and talked to a guy that was not there when I got him or I wouldn't of even tried. He said they are very hard to keep because they usually starve to death. <Yes, way too often> He said he thinks that its what happen to mine. Wish I had known about that before. other people said they eat the algae and left over food and they eat at night. I had about 3 1/2 lbs. live rock and fed him frozen brine shrimp. I heard they won't survive without copepods but I have been desperately trying to find out what they look like to see If they are in my tank but nobody has been able to tell me I have tiny white creatures with legs and tentacles. my husband says they look like shrimp and then I have white dots on the front glass but I know it is something alive because if I look real closely they move. Could they be babies from what ever the other might be?  <Likely a type of polychaete, aka "bristle" worm> Would the goby eat them? <Possibly, if they were small enough> I was so proud of him and I would turn out the light in the tank and sit at the table with the light on and watch him swim. He didn't hide unless you got right up to him. he went all around. I checked the nitrates, nitrites and so on and even got up at night to check the temperature because it was so cold at night. I was concentrating so much on all the other that I only checked the salt in the water that I added. the salt had gotten high but the guy at the pet store said he didn't think that caused him to die but that he starved to death. I sure wish if its that hard to keep them that they would be left in the ocean so they can survive even if I don't get to see them. <Yes...> My mom saw him at night about 5:00 and said he was swimming around and then the next morning she found him on the front rock dead. She said he looked skinny which I guess you could tell in more detail when taking him out from in the tank. I thought he looked okay. I read on here where someone said they thought theirs was okay until he died they saw his stomach underneath and it was sunken in but I don't know if that is what mine looked like. I was waiting to put him in the bigger aquarium because I knew it was not ready but I went ahead and bought him because he was only the second one I had seen and I thought he was so cool. <Better to study up ahead of purchasing...> In there with him was a tomato clown and turbo snail and they are doing fine. one other thing though I tried to put a couple of mollies in with the clown until I got something else and he wouldn't leave them alone. will he do that with every fish I put in there. <Not if the new livestock are a bit "meaner" than the Clown> Does he think it is all his. I had to take the mollies out. oh yea, him and the goby seem to get along fine. Actually the clown mostly stayed in one place until I put in the mollies. I just want to know your opinion on what you think happen goby. I have really had a hard time getting over him. I have had several people tell me that I didn't do anything wrong that they are just hard to keep. just want to know what you think. THANKS IN ADVANCE!!!!! I am trying to get your book conscientious marine aquarist but if I can't what is the next best book to get.? <Maybe John Tullock's "Natural Reef Aquariums", or Martin Moe's "Marine Aquarium, Beginner to Breeder".> I have ordered, well this is the second time. maybe I'll be able to get it this time. Thanks, KG <Life to you my friend. Bob Fenner>

Mandarin Goby Plays Dead Hi Robert, I have a 46 gallon tank with a Royal Dottyback, an emerald crab, some hermits, a few Astreas and Turbos, my mandarin goby, and perhaps 50lbs of live rock. My mandarin ("Fu") has been with me about a month, and he's looking pretty well-fed; doesn't seem to be having a starvation problem. However, if my tank lights stay off more than say 10-12 hours, Fu always appears to be dead when I walk in! He loses most of his color and barely moves. The first time it happened, I nearly fished him out of the tank and disposed of him before the hermits noticed him. I came back an hour later to find him in fine color again and swimming around as if nothing happened. This has happened three different times now. I'm afraid to turn out the lights, but if I don't, the algae gets out of control. I feed brine shrimp and reef stroganoff. Do you know what's up with Fu? Thanks for any help you can offer. Best, Dana <Thank you for your eloquent message. Nothing wrong with "Fu" at all... many "daytime colorful" fishes do what you so well describe. Blanch out and lay motionless during night time/darkness... Many predators come out during this time... and best/better strategy is to appear/not appear appetizing/edible/at all. Bob Fenner>

Re: Mandarin Thanks to all who replied with their information and experiences. The general consensus seems to be that there would be a chance of success, but a high likelihood of the mandarin not surviving long term. I've decided not to get one until we discover why some people can keep them successfully, while they waste away in most people's tanks. There have been a lot of advances in this hobby the last 10 years, who knows what the next 10 will bring! Mike  <<Right on (as we used to say). Have campaigned against the keeping of most Mandarin/Psychedelic Goby/Dragonet (family Callionymidae) species "keeping" for time immemorial... No great secret to their survivability... adequate space, interstitial fauna populations (at least four square feet per specimen) in well-established, otherwise non-competitive bottom reef environment... Bob Fenner>>

Mandarin Hi Bob, We thought we had done all of our research on our fish we are slowly adding to our 40 gal marine tank. We just purchased a mandarin yesterday to add to our clown and damsel. He seems to be doing well today however we just heard from someone that he will probably die because we have only 25 pounds of live rock in our tank and are only feeding brine shrimp frozen). We would hate to loose him he is so cute and such a character. But we do have a friend with a larger tank we could give him to if we have to. Thank you in advance for any advice you can give us. Brenda <<Yes to the possibility of lending/giving away your new Mandarin... they do generally only live in well-established reef systems with about four square feet of bottom foraging space per specimen... to grow the live foods they subsist on... Bob Fenner>>

Green Mandarin Bob, Simple question, how do you keep them alive? What do they eat mainly? I have had a few of them and they look great for a while but then slowly start wasting away, and I never see them eat, so that is what I figures is wrong. Thanks for any info you can give. John <<Yep, these Psychedelic Gobies/Mandarins/Dragonets can be hard to keep... regardless of what other authors assert. Each specimen should be afforded (to stave off starvation) a good four square feet of enriched/established reef substrate bottom...(six months or older)... In the wild, and in captivity, they usually only eat live... and moving foods... various worms and small crustaceans...Bob Fenner>>

Feeding, Keeping Mandarins I recently purchased a Pterosynchiropus splendidus, or a green mandarin. I have received some various opinions on what they can eat. I do not have any live rock in my tank. I was told that I needed this to feed my mandarin, but I feel that I lack the experience to do a reef tank. Is there anything else I can feed this fish? I was told by some that the fish would eventually thin out and die within a few months. Thank you for any advice you can provide me with. <<Yeeikes, well most of these Mandarins/Dragonets/Gobies (old genus Synchiropus) do "thin out and die" but generally within a few weeks, not months.... Are you beginning to understand why folks need to study up on the livestock they want to keep in advance of acquiring it? There are a few live foods that you can buy, culture, that your fish will probably learn to accept... but it needs these foods almost on a continuous basis... Hence the use of Live Rock (and really the live sand that comes about from the rock...) standard suggestion for keeping these bottom hopping constant eaters... My advice? Either get with having the live rock (a good idea whether you want a full-blown reef or not) immediately, feeding live foods until the rock really gets going (a few weeks), or return the Mandarin for a less-demanding species. Bob Fenner>>

Starving Mandarin I bought a fat healthy looking dragonet about a week ago and he died yesterday. I have a 50 gallon, 3 month old reef with about 45 lbs of live rock. He seemed to do fine the first few days and spent about half of his time hiding on the bottom and the other half of his time on the rocks eating. After about 4 days though, he started staying only on the bottom and then the next day he was partly on his side and not moving, and by the day after he was on his back (alive) on the bottom. When he was on his back I noticed a definite concave area below his (ribs?). I have heard a lot about these fish starving, and am wondering if the concave area indicated that, or if that's a normal part of that fish's anatomy. I never noticed it when he was right side up, and one of the reasons I bought him was cause he was about the largest most robust looking dragonet I have ever seen. I never saw any other external signs of health problems, and never saw any of my other fish picking on him or even paying attention to him at all.. Any thoughts on what may have been the problem? If he did starve, would it have happened in the week I had him, or would it have had to have been happening for quite some time? Should I try another one of these beautiful fish, or leave it at one failure?  <<The animal (the same family, Callionymidae) as the Psychedelic Gobies or Mandarins, are notorious for starving... and I will make my usual assertion that it takes a good four square feet of WELL-established (six, not three months let's say) of living reef to keep ONE specimen going... In all likelihood, yes, this animal did starve... and the concave appearance is a bad sign (not "normal"). Bob Fenner>>


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