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Mandarin System FAQs  1

Related FAQs: Mandarin Systems 2, Psychedelic "Gobies"/Dragonets/Mandarins & their Relatives 1, Mandarins , Mandarins 3Mandarin Identification, Mandarin Behavior, Mandarin Selection, Mandarin Compatibility, Mandarin Feeding, Mandarin Disease/HealthMandarin Reproduction

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

Mandarin Question (system setup/feeding) -- 10/22/11
Dear WWM,
<<Hey Laura>>
Hope all is well this evening!
<<Morning now'¦and not so bad, thanks!>>
I moved my 85 gallon reef to a 120 gallon set up.
<<Nice tank/dimension'¦you will really appreciate the added space back-to-front>>
There is between 250-300 pounds of live rock in the new system
<<Yikes'¦where do the fish swim/will the corals grow?>>
, and I have a fishless refugium in my 40 gallon sump.
<<Excellent'¦but keep in mind, to be a true 'refugium' and to reap all the benefits re, you'll need to keep shrimp, crabs, corals et al out of it as well>>
The refugium has live rock and live sand. I plan to add macroalgae to this shortly.
<<Very good... I recommend you go with Chaetomorpha'¦for its ease of keeping and excellent 'critter matrix' versus an often problematic Caulerpa species>>
I also have a combination of live sand and aragonite in the main tank.
<<I do appreciate the look of a substrate versus not'¦along with the added benefit of associated benthic organisms>>
My current tank mates are a Yellow Tang, Candy Basslet, and Midas Blenny. I will be adding a Diamond Watchman Goby in the next couple of months.
In 6-12 months I would love to get a mandarin fish.
<<Then I suggest you forego the Goby as a competitor to the Mandarin for natural food organisms. Not directly'¦as in hunting among the live rock like the Mandarin'¦but will still reduce populations of organisms beneficial to the Mandarin with its substrate-sifting activity. At the least, I would 'delay' this addition until you see whether the Mandarin will accept prepared foodstuffs>>
I plan to get a tank bred one from ORA
, but I have heard mixed things about these fish taking the prepared foods that ORA recommends for them once they get into other aquaria, even though ORA uses these foods themselves in their holding tanks.
<<Do experiment with 'other' choices'¦I find 'frozen' Glass Worms and Blood Worms, even Daphnia, will often elicit a feeding response in finicky feeders. The real trick seems to be keeping food available for the Mandarin to 'inspect' (as they are wont to do) before the other faster fishes get to it (tankmate selection is key)>>
I want all my bases covered. Should this fish not accept prepared foods and take only live foods, I want an environment capable of supporting it as if it were a wild caught specimen.
<<Mmm, if you are not able to get the Mandarin to accept prepared foods, your tank/refugium may not be large enough to support it'¦for the long term>>
In other words, I want to meet all the system criteria that would be required of ANY Mandarin.
<<Then you may need to consider the Midas Blenny as a natural food competitor, as well>>
If it took prepared foods that would be a bonus.
<<Indeed'¦and likely a prerequisite, for long-term success>>
Do I have a good chance of success with my setup/stocking/attached refugium plan to support one Mandarin?
<<It's not a given as you seem very aware'¦but yes, you have a chance'¦and with a captive bred specimen, a 'very good' chance, in my estimation>>
Forgot to mention I would seed the refugium with pods in addition to waiting for the tank to mature.
<<Sooner the better'¦a cup or two of substrate from fellow aquarist's systems can't hurt either>>
Laura Garmizo
<<Cheers'¦ Eric Russell>>

Mandarin questions  9/6/06 Hi Crew' <Eric> 2 questions. what is the best way to get a mandarin out of my reef display without tearing down everything? <Mmm... lure it or wait till it's out, use two nets...> can i start counting fallow periods with a mandarin in the main display?? <Nope> please help. Eric <Please use your Grammar Checker before sending us mail. Bob Fenner>

Green Mandarin? Ok...That's Already A Bad Start - 01/23/2006 Hello, I am setting up a 55G FOWLR tank, with about 80Lbs of live rock. Do you think I would be able to keep a Green Mandarin in my   tank after it matures (say 6 months), without adding a refugium? <No less than a one year wait on a new tank. Not even if it were a Mandarin:) Have you at least tried to read on these fish!? Even with a 'fuge, this tank is too small!> <<As an amendment here, I mean that this tank will not produce enough to feed this fish, not that the tank is physically too small. Sorry if that was confusing. - Josh>> Do you think that my tank would have a good enough population of copepods without a refugium? <For how many days/weeks?> If I really have to get a refugium what is your opinion of the CPR Aquafuge HOT refugium? <Nowhere near what you need. Please don't buy this until you fully grasp the intensity of its required care. The major cause of their mortality in captivity is starvation you know. - Josh> Another Overstocked Marine Tank…and Another Doomed Mandarin 10/10/05 Hey there, Alex here again (helped out with a fiddler crab ID last month). <Hello Alex!.> My 5g and 12g reefs have been doing great,  <You sure like to go small don't you?>  and I got myself a 55g recently  <That will be a lot easier/more stable than the nanos you currently have.>  that I've sort of made into a FO (with anemones and about 2 corals).  <Corals and Anemones makes it a reef tank.>  In any case, I've been doing a lot of research into the possibility of a dwarf lion,  <Not an ideal reef denizen and furthermore while "dwarf" lions are still considerably smaller than there cousins (like the Volitans) they still reach 7" making them a BIG dwarf. In my opinion a 55 gallon is not suitable for an adult.> between LFS advice and internet research, I'm still on the fence. I figured I'd offer up my current inhabitant list and see if you think a dwarf would work: 2 false percula clowns (grown, about 2" each, host an LTA) 1 jewel damsel (I don't like it...mean; LFS said it would be docile) 1 coral beauty (about 3") 1 large yellow tang <Far to large for a 55 gallon.> 1 large squareback anthias <See above.> 1 mandarin (about 2.5-3" maybe) <A mandarin? Have you researched the needs of this animal? Needs a large tank with lots of mature live rock and a fishless refugium…..likely to starve in your tank.> 1 longnose Hawkfish (3") 1 greenspotted puffer <Also not a good reef denizen, and they are huge waste generators on top of it, it will/could eventually make an easy snack of its tank mates eventually especially your shrimp.> For crustaceans, one large CBS. <See above.> I've come to find your advice to be quite accurate, so I figure your opinion will be helpful. Thanks! <I'm sorry to say that on top of the lion being a poor choice your tank is already severely overstocked and inappropriately stocked I might add. You will soon have space, compatibility and nutrient problems. Please research via WWM, keep reading my friend. Adam J.> 

Another Sad Mandarin Story… 10/7/05 Hi! I need quick help. <Ok, I'll do my best.> I have a 30 gallon nano cube with approx. 15 lbs. of live rock, live sand, many snails and hermits, emerald crab, 2 clowns and a fire fish.... And then my poor goby.  <Uh-oh, I see where this is going.>  We have had our tank for about 6 months. After about 3 months we had a huge outbreak of copepods. They were almost completely covering the glass. After mentioning this to my LFS he suggested a mandarin goby.  <Ack, horrible advice.> (Our clowns just were not able to control the amount of copepods).  This is where my obvious problem begins.  <Yes.>  The goby wiped out the copepods to the point where we do not notice them at all anymore (only the larger pods can be seen at night in the sand). Goby has lost a severe amount of weight and you can see the line across his back. It has been this way for quite some time now.  <Sorry to say I'm not surprised.>  After realizing that he really is starving and after reading your sight I am panicking. I now know that I should not have ever purchased goby as our tank is just too small.  <Yes.>  I just purchased a 2-liter amount of copepods online to try and save him.  <He'll be done with these within a week or two.> My question is this: Do I even have a chance at saving him?  <Not if you leave him in his current tank.>  I have read that I can start "growing" copepods in a small tank and this seems fairly easy and I am willing to do it but I don't know if this will give him a fair chance.  <Yes do look into refugiums, but these take months to get established. Unfortunately due to the size of your tank, this refugium would have to be very large and its unlikely it would be ready in time. Mandarins should only be placed into tanks that have hundreds of pounds of live rock that have been allowed to mature for at least one year. Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/mandfaqs.htm .>  What would you suggest?  <Well now you know your tank won't be able to support a Mandarin. The only thing you can do is find another Aquarist with an appropriate set-up, I understand this may be difficult to impossible as the needs of this fish are specific. Sad to say the only other option is humanely euthanize through freezing or clove oil.>   Thanks so much.  <Sorry I could not deliver better news.>  I have learned my lesson in buying a fish without researching it and learned not to believe everything the LFS says.  <Yes in the future research livestock before purchase, Adam J.> 

Another Mandarin Death and More Lack of Research.  10/5/05 In my 55 gallon tank I had a mandarin who is now dead. <I'm sorry to say that this is not the least surprising.  Most Mandarins are put into inappropriate confines with inappropriate tank mates.  These fish require large tanks 100 gallons plus, with loads of well established liverock and large fishless refugiums.  They also require the absence of other "pod" eating fish such as other dragonets, gobies and wrasses. In the future please research fish before purchase. In doing so you would have quickly known the Mandarin was an inappropriate buy. Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/mandarins.htm .> There is around 100   pounds of live rock in my tank and I would only see him once a day. He was very small, but I didn't see him being picked on at all but when I found him wedged between two rocks he had shredded fins. The other fish are 2 clowns who don't leave the top right of the tank, a bullet goby <This specimen was in direct competition for food with your Mandarin, likely a factor in its demise.> , cleaner shrimp, and a yellow tang <This fish will quickly outgrow its current tank.>. I didn't notice any aggression between him and any other fish. <Chances are there was no aggression, he simply starved.> He couldn't  have been dead for more than a day because I just added a protein skimmer last  night <You have a heavy bio-load and you just added a skimmer, I am guessing the water quality is below pristine? This could be another cause/factor in death.>The tang (the only one who I think might have hurt him) is scared of  everything and when you walk within 5 feet of the tank he swims away. I also  just added an anemone <Another poor choice in tank-mate for a Mandarin and also another sensitive animal. If you don't already know you need to identify the species so that you can provide proper care: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marine/inverts/cnidaria/anthozoa/anemones.htm .> but I don't think he ever saw it being that its at the top. <In the future please research the needs and compatibility of the animals you wish to keep before purchase, Adam J.>

Cleanup Crew/Algae Control...and what else? More Mandarin trouble.  10/4/05 Good afternoon, Bob! <Actually Adam J here with you tonight.> I have found your website to be invaluable for information.  Thank you very much! <Well it's not my doing but I agree this place is awesome.> I am the temporary keeper of a 29-gallon saltwater aquarium.  I know that it has more inhabitants than it should have for its size, but it's not my tank!  :-)   <Sounds like you should show your "friend" the way of the force….I mean responsible aquarium keeping.> However, I am wanting to control the algae & get some help with leftover pellet food cleanup!  <If there is a lot leftover you are over feeding.>  I recently purchased a horseshoe crab, which I now know from your website, was a mistake for this tank size.  <Yes.>  However, I also have a turbo snail & a mandarin goby in there.  <Whoa a Mandarin? Do you know the requirements of this species? It will surely starve in a 29-gallon tank within months.>  In considering hermit crabs and additional snails, can you offer suggestions?  <Trochus snails are a favorite of mine for algae grazing, though the best way to prevent algae is to remove the nutrients that are feeding them. Efficient skimming and frequent water changes should be employed.>  The most aggressive fish living in the tank are 3 damsels, so I don't think that will be an issue.  <An issue as far as what?>  But my concerns are these:  (1) the aggressiveness of hermit crabs as they outgrow their shells, and I wonder if there is a breed of crab that will work whose shell grows with him or who will accept a spare shell rather than attack others for a new one. <You should always have extra and larger shells for the hermits to choose from. This will help minimize the aggression. Hermits "rent" shells they do not grow with the crab.>  (2) How many crabs/snails will I need to control algae in this size tank? <The one turbo and a Trochus or two is more than enough. I prefer not to use hermits.>  (3)  How big will a hermit crab grow... will he outgrow the tank? <Depends on the species some stay dime sized while other can become softball sized.> Your response is very much appreciated, and I look forward to hearing from you, Vicki Racette <No trouble but please address the Mandarin, as it is not suitable for this set-up. Adam J.> This Is No Place For A Mandarin - 09/04/05 In my 55 gallon tank a have just added a mandarin goby, there are only 4 other fish in the tank. <<Regardless of the other tank occupants, this tank is too small to support/supply sufficient food for a Mandarin.>> He doesn't eat the Mysis shrimp and I'm not sure if that's because he's new or he doesn't like the food. <<Likely neither...though some can be conditioned to take Mysis shrimp, their preferred prey are much smaller (copepods, other micro-crustaceans).  Thus the need for a large and MATURE sand bed with lots of live rock.>> Also I only have one piece of 5 pound live rock so I was interested in buying more, how much should I get to make sure the mandarin has enough food from the rock. <<Won't make any difference my friend, this fish is doomed in this system.  Please do consider returning the Mandarin for possible trade or store credit.  Regards, EricR>> What To Avoid With A Mandarin - 07/23/05 Long time listener, first time caller. <<I'm here for ya <G>.>> I've got a new (3 months old) 110 gallon tank, no sump, a hang on skimmer, with 160lbs of live rock and about a 4 inch DSB. <<<<Yowza, that's a lot of rock!  Where ya gonna fit the livestock?>> After much indecision, I've decided the fish I really want to keep is a green mandarin and I'm doing all I can to insure I can keep him healthy. <<Mmm...do some more research...odds are not on your side my friend.  Most die within weeks to months...usually from starvation.>> After research, I know I need to keep my pod population high so I'm buying a hang on back refugium (no room for a sump). <<Not likely this will be large enough to supply the necessary copepods, newly hatched Mysis, etc., required to keep these fish well fed.  Go for the largest you can...maybe even two?>> I plan on letting the tank run for another 8-9 months to make a full year of total maturity before adding the mandarin - this might be overkill with a fuge and so much rock but I'm a patient guy. <<The longer the better before attempting this fish...your refugium needs to mature a minimum of a year as well...>> My question is - are there any specific fish/inverts or family of fish that I should specifically avoid while building my pod population? <<Anything that preys on them, with wrasses quickly coming to mind. Your best chance for success is to keep the entire system totally fishless for the first 6 months.>> Obviously 6-line and scooter blenny are out.  Right now, I have a yellow watchman goby, 1 yellow tang, 2 perc clowns for fish.  I have a flame angel and a royal Gramma on my fish list and I'd like to get a wrasse of some kind but I'm pretty sure they all dig the pods. <<Pretty much, yes.>> I also have TONS of crabs, snails, hermits, sea stars, sea squirts, 5 urchins, 3 peppermint shrimp, 1 skunk cleaner shrimp, 4 pistol shrimp, and a few tube worms on my rock. Is there anything that I have that I should remove or anything that I should avoid in the future to insure the mandarin's survival? Or will it not even be an issue with the amount of rock that I have and the fuge I'm ordering? I'm finding it hard to find a simple list of things to avoid to keep my pod population from dropping. <<Few, if any, aspects of this hobby are as simple as just finding a list.  These fish are best kept by experienced aquarist in specie specific systems. The toughest aspect is supplying a continuous supply of suitable foods (of which you do seem to be aware).  These fish are very slow, deliberate feeders and will be out-competed by any other fish that prey on the same foods.  In addition, many hobbyist underestimate the amount of food required by this little fish...and overestimate their ability to provide it.  Do continue reading/researching...please have a look here and among the related links: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/mandsysfaqs.htm >> Thanks. - Steve <<Regards, Eric R.>>

Housing Finicky Feeders Together (Mandarins and Pipefish) Good Morning Crew, <Hi there! Scott F. here today!> I have a quick question if you don't mind. I would like to know if it would  be possible to keep 2 Mandarins (1 male & 1 female) & 2 Banded Pipefish  in a 20 gallon reef tank (lots of live sand/live rock, small in-tank refugium), providing I add live copepods on a regular basis. If this is a possibility,  how  often should I replenish their food supply? (the live copepods arrive in   quantities of 2,000) <If you are up to the challenge of feeding them (and it sounds like you are), and husbandry is up to par, it seems like this could work! Just pay extra special attention to water quality in this small tank. On the other hand, a smaller area puts the fish closer to their food, so it could be a win-win situation. I would not add any more fishes after this, however.> I also have 2 10 gallon & 1 29 gallon tank that I can use to culture  copepods in. <Go for it!> Thank you in advance for your reply, Julie <Best of luck to you, Julie! Regards, Scott F.> Website pics of Mandarins, Disturbing Trends Hi Bob - <Adelaide> I wrote an article a few months back about pods, thank you for the opportunity. <Thank you> I have noticed an alarming trend among my customers - it seems that many are purchasing mandarins and then finding that they are starving to death after the fact because they did not have enough live rock or live food for them. <What's that line from the Talking Heads lifted from the I Ching? "Same as it ever was"> Since I would like to be more pro-active about this problem, I have decided to start an educational website about mandarins specifically, it will be called mandarinkeeper.com  <Outstanding> The site will discuss mandarins - where do they come from, what types are there, what do they eat, etc, etc. <Good> There will be a small forum for newbies to post questions on their care and feeding, I'm hoping to get some volunteer moderators for that part since I don't actually keep them myself. <I see> I am working with Jerry Irving from SCMAS on website design, and I am trying to get the best information possible. <He knows website design well> Jerry suggested that I touch base with you about pictures of the various types of mandarins, and fish often mistaken for mandarins. <There is indeed a bunch... mainly Callionymids, but quite a few gobiids at times> I saw in your book that you don't recommend keeping these fish without the right size tank, etc., and I agree. However, I have seen this as an increasing trend and recently heard that Dr.'s F&S are carrying them for $16 and recommending that they only need a 30g tank.  <Dismal> This is my small effort to combat the trend, or at least mitigate the damage. Some people may get discouraged and leave the hobby if their first experience is of a starving fish. I feel that the more information provided, the better, and having a candid forum will help that. <I salute you for your efforts> I also hope to have an adopt-a-fish forum for those people finding themselves in deep water and who are reluctant to take them back to the fish store.  So, if you could please direct me to some appropriate photos from your collection, or let me know about how to license their use, I would appreciate it. <You are welcome to use any/all of my content in this interest. Please see what is posted in my name (or actually lack of it) on WWM and WetWebFotos.com> I would gladly trade free advertising on the website for wetwebmedia.com as a supporter of this effort in exchange for use of some of the photos.  I am going to be very selective on the sponsors - they will mainly be used to cover the cost of website management.  <As are ours> Thanks for your input, and I would love to hear any suggestions you have for making this website an effective tool to assist newbies and pros alike. Regards, Adelaide Rhodes <I say... you go (woman)... Am glad to help in what ways I can/may.  Livestock conservation and appreciation is a resounding, central theme in all I/we do. Bob Fenner> 

-Mandarin in a 35?- Greetings Bob, Anthony, Steve and crew. <Hello. You have Justin.> I have read the entire section about Mandarin fish and have reason to believe that I may be able to pull off owning a Psychedelic Mandarin Goby. I would like to hear it from you guys before I make the purchase because I am not sure. My 35g tank is 4 years old, stable and consists of:  55lbs of coralline covered premium live rock 4 inches of live sand and crushed coral substrate Two true perculas, a pink and blue-spotted watchman goby (Cryptocentrus leptochephalus), bull's-eye pistol shrimp, cleaner goby.  I also have two cleaner shrimp that disperse eggs into the tank now and then, as they attempt breed (in vain!).  My thought is that the shrimp eggs would be a supplemental food source.  I do realize that from a size perspective, this is below the parameters that you recommend. But my hope lies in the fact that every morning, my glass is covered with small bugs. I had a yellow wrasse in my tank (he died a year ago) for many years and he was always plucking rather large worms and stuff out of my live rock. Many of my fish are over three years old (fat and healthy) and from what I can tell, there are no food competitors for this new prospective addition. I plan to add a little more live sand if I purchase this fish. What do you guys think? Thanks for the advice. <Unfortunately, I do not see any sort of inline refugium or offline setup or other safe haven for the copepods to reproduce in. Otherwise you must buy a copepod culture and keep feeding the mandarin that. If you can provide that, then you might be able to keep a mandarin, though I highly recommend a larger tank for it. A mandarin can eat out the majority of your copepod population in days if not weeks, to the point that it will out eat their reproduction cycle. No matter how many you see in the main tank there wont be enough to really sustain this fish without help; they eat tons. I do not recommend getting one unless you set up and have a inline or offline refugium of sorts with a copepod culture growing well. Please read on WWM about different refugium setups. to help you toward that end> <Justin (Jager)>

Synchiropus splendidus 3/8/05 Hi: First I would like to say your website is my bible for fish keeping, glad I found it.  <Glad to hear!> I'm relatively new with the saltwater stuff... I have a quick question, I was thinking of acquiring a Synchiropus splendidus Mandarinfish. My current set up is a 55 gallon FOWLR, running now for about five months and with some initial stress the water seems to be holding at normal parameter.  My current fishies are: 1 coral Beauty, 2 clown Percs. I have been thinking of adding a Synchiropus splendidus (the pretty one, multicoloured), now my questions are: 1) Will my current setup handle the addition of this fish?  <From a bioload standpoint, yes. However, it is doubtful that your tank will provide enough food, read on...> 2) How hard are they to feed? I believe they do well in "well established aquariums", feeding off small critters, but where my tank is relatively new will they survive? Thanks for any input you can provide. Matt  <Mandarins require a large supply of live crustacean prey to thrive. Even those that accept non-live foods are likely to suffer from nutritional deficiencies. Even the most well established 55 gallon tank would be marginal to support a mandarin. If you really have your heart set on a mandarin, adding a fishless refugium will help, but will take time to establish. Best Regards. AdamC.>

Keeping Dragonets: It's All About Food! Hi, <Hey there! Scott F. here today!> I had a question about adding a Psychedelic Dragonet to my tank. It is a 72 gal. that's been setup for about 2 years, with a Remora Pro skimmer, HOB refugium, and about 80-90 lbs of live rock. <Sounds nice!> Inhabitants include a White-Faced Tang, a Lemonpeel Angel, and a Bird Wrasse. My main concern is the bird wrasse, but he is actually a very friendly fish. <But a large fish nonetheless! He will really need larger quarters at some point in the not-too-distant future. Do consider this.> He even leaves my snails alone. Do you think that this wrasse would try and attack the dragonet? <Hard to say. Fish, like people, are individuals. These guys can be rough...> I have been trying to look around my tank to see if there are any little bugs for him to eat, but I can never seem to find any. Should I be able to see copepods? Should I order some online if I ever plan on getting one of these fish? I thank you for your assistance. <I'm glad that you are doing the research before purchasing the fish! That's the mark of a good hobbyist! If you ask me, these fishes really need to be kept in a more dedicated system; one with smaller, less active fishes and a lot of foraging. Yes, a large quantity of natural prey items (copepods, etc.) is pretty much a prerequisite for keeping these guys. A thriving refugium such as yours is a big plus, as it will provide a continuous supply of natural foods. If it were me, I would set up a dedicated tank for these fishes, as they are visually arresting and interesting enough to warrant a species tank. I'd let the system run for months before placing fish in there, "seeding" it with large numbers of "'pods" prior to adding the fish. This will assure a "jump" in the population of the desired food animals before the fishes are added, maximizing your chances for success....Food is everything for these fishes, as is the opportunity for them to forage peacefully. Sure, they can be kept in properly managed community systems, but a species tank is really the best way, IMO. Read up more on cultivating copepods in Adelaide Rhodes' fine article in the January/February "Conscientious Aquarist" right here on the WWM site. This will give you some basic information on the cultivation and identification of these vital food sources for your Dragonets. Good luck with your efforts! Regards, Scott F.> 

Mandarin goby I have an established 55 gallon salt water tank. I have had it for about 5 months. I have been interested in keeping a Mandarin goby, however I was disappointed to read in a book that they need an established reef tank. I have since done more research on this species, and I have learned, from multiple sources, that this fish does not need an established reef tank. These sources all claim that this fish can live in an established tank that has at least 50 lbs. of live rock. Also, I have several rocks in my tank that are not live rock. After being in the tank and having the bacteria grow on it, would they now be live rock?  >>>Hello Mike, First, good job on doing your research first - I wish everyone did this. The bottom line is that they need a healthy pod population, and generally a tank of AT LEAST 75 gallons or so with plenty of live rock to live long term. 50lbs is not enough rock to support a Mandarin in general. The larger the tank, the more likely the Mandarin is to survive. In a 55 gallon, I'd be leery of trying it honestly. There was a pretty extensive poll done a while back, and the survival rate reached 50% starting at 75 gallons and climbed from there as the tank size increased. Certain types of rock will become "live rock" over time, others will not. Also, it really depends on how you define live rock. If it's old rock/coral skeletons that used to be live rock, then the answer is a definite yes. Hope this helps. Regards Jim<<<

Mandarin system Hey, REAL sorry bout asking you another question, hope I am not wasting your time, about the mandarin I said in my previous email <MikeD here. I'm not sure who answered your last e-mail, but maybe I can help put a little>. I would also like to ask how long would 70 pounds of live rock some around 10 years old but the tank was restarted about a year ago with the same rock , it has hair algae, algae, sea grass, algae on the glass, massive algae and other organisms all over the sand ,and little white shrimps last as a food supply for the green mandarin. The algae reproduces everyday in massive amounts, probably with all the high lighting and fish eating, is this algae beneficial to the green mandarin or should I just lower the nitrate level? <Algae is always somewhat beneficial, if unsightly at times, as it uses the nitrates in the water as fertilizer, thus removing them from the system.  From the growth that you describe, I'd probably cut back on the hours that your lights are on and reduce the food amount or type (some frozen foods, for example have a lot of "juice" with them, and by rinsing well this will remove extra organics from the water)>  I understand they eat copepods, is there any way to reproduce them at a considerable rate?< Nothing better than what you're doing, with the exception of having a sump or "refugium" without fish and an overflow allowing the pods to swim freely into the main tank> Would bristle worms attack him or her.?<Not usually, as they are predators on very small crustaceans, worms and scavengers. Unchecked, they occasionally become somewhat problematic by way of sheer numbers>. Thanks this is my last question :)

Mandarin in a 20 gallon. Hi Gang! I am an avid reader of your site and it is very helpful, saved my fish several times!  I do however have some questions that I may not have searched hard enough to find. Ok this is probably too long, so take your time, and answer more immediate help e-mails first!  Thanks in advance for your knowledge!  My husband and I started our tank 2 years ago and it has been through a lot!  I'll spare you the whole history and just tell you the set up and ask my questions.  We have a 20 gallon reef tank with a power head, protein skimmer, some other filter that creates current and air bubbles, and we recently got 2 new 65 watt lights, one blue and one white.  We have probably 25 #s of LR and have a crushed coral LS mixture about and inch and half deep.  There are currently a mated pair of CBS, and Gold Stripe Maroon Clown, some really tiny hermit crabs (hitch hikers on LR) about a dozen or so snails, a green star polyp rock, some fan worms similar to Christmas trees, and a Mandarin goby.  We got the Mandarin and CBS about a week and a half ago. Our tank was covered with copepods at the time, we had sadly lost a mandarin before, having not known about its diet.  Now, however, the pods seem to be almost gone and I am worried about the Mandarin, I ordered some live plankton online hoping this will help, I am wondering what else to do to encourage pod growth.  We feed a fresh frozen mixture of shrimp, krill, squid, blood worms, and veggies, only about 1/2 tsp a day, we were told by the LFS that we should feed two whole "fish" (they are frozen in little fish shapes about a tsp per "fish") a day, this was before the mandarin and the CBS, we had a bristleworm out break and drastically reduced the food after removing the biggest worms, disgusting!  We also do iodine drops, strontium/molybdenum, and calcium drops, as well as "reef DNA" supplements.  My specific questions are, are the CBS eating too many pods and leaving the Mandarins diet skimpy? Should I increase frozen food so the CBS will eat less pods?  Also, the female CBS had a ton of eggs, and then yesterday laid them somewhere, and they are gone, (I am secretly hoping this helped supplement Manny's diet) she also successfully molted the same night.  Would increasing the LS, with less crushed coral, in our substrate help increase the pod population.  We have a two gallon tank currently breeding brine shrimp (will the Mandarin eat these?), but it could be turned into a refugium if that is the best, I am still reading a lot on those as we do want to have one eventually.  One last question, we had an emerald crab before, I think he just died of old age, had him from the beginning, molted about three or four times, and, was a good size when we got him, we do want another one, if the crab would not become a CBS meal!  I know CBS rip apart other shrimps, but was curious about the crab, also, would some more hermit crabs be ok?  Our snails generate a lot of waste and we don't want the BW to come back.  Thanks so much for taking the time to read this, and thanks in advance for your wisdom, I still feel brand new even after two years!  Have a great day! Allison ***Allison, The survival rate for mandarins is about 50 percent in 55 gallon tanks. As the size of the tank increases, so does the survival rate. In 20 gallon tanks, almost all of them die. The reason is that a tank of this size is just too small to maintain the population of pods that his fish needs in order to survive. In a tank this size, you will not keep up regardless of any steps you take, save installing a 70 gallon refugium. Your shrimp will not harm an emerald crab, so no worries there, and I wouldn't add anymore hermits. They eat everything, which isn't always a good thing. Jim*** Mandarins and Refugiums <HI, MikeD here> 1st, thank you for all the help you have provided in your book titled 'The Conscientious Marine Aquarist'.<That's Robert's baby and very well done, I might add> I was wondering if you could help.<I can try>  I have a 120 gal reef/fish tank set up for about 9 months now.<Excellent. not only is it cycled, but becoming stable as well>  Just added a refugium about 5 weeks ago and stocked it full of live Mysis shrimp, pods and other critters to feed the Mandarin because he is looking thin.<A sad but common occurrence with a fish that has specialized requirements>  Female is fat.<Purchased this way?>  my tank overflows to the refugium then is pumped back up.  Is the pump wiping out my live food for the Mandarins?<There's a strong chance it is...these impellers are much like a food processor>  If this is the case, should I add an additional CPR hang on the back refugium as well so that it can overflow into the tank?<Not meaning to sound dumb, but exactly what are you calling a CPR? Many just use overflow tubes that allow a natural siphoning, from the bottom of the refugium if possible, to allow as many smaller organisms as possible to make the transfer.> Thanks for you help Ron

Mandarin foods... systems Hi Bob or Ananda, <Kevin>         Thanks for all your help on the Website and via email. <Welcome>         I got this Mandarin Goby on a 30 Gallon Tank, I've read the FAQ but did not see an answer for this, If the Mandarin eats worms could I buy bloodworms and feed it to her? <Usually won't satisfy, be enough for long... really, the best approach here are to present these animals to well-established, large, deep-sand-bedded systems with lots of vigorous live rock, a paucity of competitors or very active tankmates... and utilize a live sump/refugium> will the worm be enough nutrition combined with the live rock of about 10 lbs? <Doubtful in the medium to long run... might work for a few to several weeks> I know the 30 gallon is small and I plan to upgrade to 75 with lots of live rock. I do plan to have a 20 gallon to culture the copepods will this be enough? <Yes, but you have your "cart before your horse" here...> Just got this mandarins from the pet shop and they look healthy, I live in the Philippines and I can't find anyone who has a culture of copepods. How do I select the live rock to see if they are infested with copepods. thanks in advance for your help. <Ahh, you are likely able to collect sufficient plankton... easily by night... using a plastic screen, like a screen cover for a window, and pushing this in front of you over the sand... Bob Fenner>

Re: keeping a dragonet Ryan (or whoever receives this), <Hey! Nice to chat again, Ryan here.> Thanks for the reply - you guys rock. Wondering about refugia - I've got a wet-dry sump filter.  Is that a refugium, or do I need a separate system with lighting & all, such as you recommend from CPR? <Many options here, but hang on is the easiest.  Nope, your sump won't really substitute as a refugium, mainly because your return pump will blend all the beneficial pods on the way.  Either use a small hang on model, or design a simple area which pods can breed without being subject to predation.  (As I said, maybe a quart sized Rubbermaid with slits cut in the lid for circulation.)> If you can recommend anything to read to get me setup with a refugium that would be great. <Surely!  You really should purchase a copy of Reef Invertebrates by Bob Fenner and Anthony Calfo.  It's the most complete work of refugia I have seen to date.  Other than that, here you are: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/refugium.htm http://www.wetwebmedia.com/algfiltf.htm http://www.wetwebmedia.com/reeffilt.htm Good luck, Ryan> Cheers, Todd

Mandarin Hi,<Howdy! Sorry for the delay.> I've read several FAQs about Mandarins but I am still not certain whether my 3 month old 125gal FOWLR is compatible with this delicate creature. I have a Coral Beauty, a yellow tail blue damsel, a Firefish, a Jawfish and two Clarkii clownfish with a Rose bulb anemone. If it's compatible, I'll start growing more 'pods and put a Mandarin in the tank around Christmas or later. The water parameters are good. I have a hang-on refugium with Ulva and Red Tang Heaven as well. Also, a week ago, a small yellow Tang disappeared. He had been fine for the month we had him. I assume he died in the Live Rock. Should I look through over 100 lbs of rock for it's carcass or simply let it be. The Tang never touched the macroalgae! <I would not put a mandarin in any tank that is less than two years old. I would also get a larger refugium if you want a mandarin. Cody> Thanks in advance. Robert W. 

- Don't Panic, Follow-up - Thank you for your help.  I have started a 20 gallon quarantine tank and will keep it running for future use. ( I hope) I will be reading your material on how to do this correctly. As far as the temp fluctuations, I am causing this.  I got really lucky and somehow after a year I had quit having heat problems The heat stabilized at about 78 degrees. But when I added one more power compact strip (110 watts) heat started to rise back to 81.  So I will turn it back up and keep it there. As far as the spotted Mandarin goes, I have about 100 gallons total water that has a year and a half of growth. <Hmm... somehow I doubt you have 100 gallons of water, especially with 150 pounds of live rock... something tells me you are somewhere between 70 and 80, but never the less... you misunderstand my statement about the Mandarin. They need 100g of TANK and substrate... not water. Water in and of itself does not produce the food that Mandarins require.> for now anyway the little shrimp bug things LOL are plentiful and seem to breed freely in the refugium so I hope he will make it. <Me too.> If I have to drain the tank to get anyone out do I have to take the corals out first. <The order really matters not.> I know the sponge cannot touch air. <So don't move it through the air... simple enough.> And one last question,  Do I need to quarantine any of the other fish spoke of as well? <Any that seem to be affected.> I know the Mandarin will not quarantine well. Thanks again for all your help and please let me know how I can support your mission.  I have Bob Fenner's book, do you sell other products to support all of your hard work? Sincerely Chris <Cheers, J -- > Mandarins in a 75 gallon tank - 2/17/04     Hi,   I have a 7 month old 75 gallon tank. <Just finally getting into the mature tank area> The equipment is as follows: Penguin Bio Wheel, ASU Protein Skimmer, UV Sterilizer. Substrates and rock: 40 Pounds of Caribbean Sea Reef sand, 40 pounds of Live Sand, and 30 pounds of Fiji Live Rock   Live Stock: 1 Purple Tang, 2 Percula Clownfish, 1 Banggai Cardinal fish, 1 Six line wrasse and 1 Kole tang.  I have 2 sea cucumbers (1 was on some live rock I bought at least 20 dollar value).  1 white <????> sand star, some hermits and snail.   What I'm getting at is would this be a good tank set up for the mandarin. <Well, could be with more time. Do you have a refugium? The tank has some fish that may outcompete the mandarin for its favorite live foods. Please read through our FAQs on Mandarins. Go through the links associated with the responses and only you can be the best judge if your tank is ready to provide a mandarin with an ample live food source. I feel mandarins are a bit too fragile for most aquariums, to be honest.> All what I need to know is, is this a go or no go. <Then no. I must say though, only you know your tank. I have no access to the overall environment or condition of your tank. If you have ample amphipod populations and supplement with live Mysis and the mandarin is not outcompeted by other fish then maybe a mandarin can be worked into the fold. Here is a great site: http://www.ozreef.org/reference/mandarin_survey.html Do your research. Know their needs and where they come from as this will help in keeping a mandarin with success. Do your research. Good luck ~Paul>   Thank you and hope you know your advice is always helpful. <Thank you, Scott. Thanks for being part of it all ~Paul> Scott

'Pods, 'pods and more 'pods (1/3/2004) Hello Crew: <Howdy. Steve Allen tonight> First off I hope you had a great holiday!  <Indeed, hope yours was as well.> Thanks for all the firsthand insight into saltwater aquariums.  <I learn something here every day as well.> Your website has allowed me to come a long way in a fairly short amount of time.  I have a 45 gallon SW setup with 2 False Clowns, 2 yellowtail Blue Damsels, 60 Lbs LR, a 5 gallon refugium, <does this drain down into the tank or is it pumped back up in.> and many many snails, crabs, worms, and such.  I have began seeding the show tank about 5 months ago with live amphipods.  I have a pod breeding kit in the refugium, <do they seem to be multiplying> and another 10 gallon setup used just to grow amphipods. I am doing this all with the intent on raising a Mandarin in the very short future.  <Please be patient and read a lot more about these. I would suggest that a few more months will enhance your chances of success. Many successful Mandarin-keepers waited a year or longer for a stable population of edible microcritters. Probably 90% (or more) of all Mandarins sold starve to death. Also, Mandarins do not do well with aggressive fish. I would be concerned about how the Damsels will treat it.> I have been pondering a 1 time drop of about 150 amphipods into the tank just prior to purchasing the Mandarin. <Give 'em time to reproduce.> Would this be a bad thing, and overload the system?<No, these tiny critters will not measurably add to the bioload of your system.> Skimming, filtration, water quality, and water movement in the tank are all optimum. <Good. I trust this means zero on ammonia and nitrites.> What would be your insight into my situation of the Mandarin? <Be patient, choose tankmates carefully, read more on WWM and elsewhere. Even better: get a bigger tank first. There are hundreds of hits on Google that document the poor survival of and requirements for occasional success with them. Most recommend 55G per Dragonet minimum, some 100.> thanks in advance, Steve <Hope this helps>

Clean up crew choice for a Mandarin tank - 11/04/03 Hello all, Just a question. <Aren't they all> I have a Mandarin (Synchiropus splendidus) named "Chowder" who has been loving life in my tank for the last 6 months and is quite fat and eating well. <Very glad to hear!!!> I want to know if there is a good bottom cleaner (snail, shrimp, fish, crab) that will be a good clean up guy that will not invite himself to partake in Chowder's food supply. <Well, are we talking eating chunks or leftover marine meats, algal matter, or the actual amphipods and copepods?? (naturally occurring food stuffs)> I have a few blue-legged hermits and was wondering if there is something better. <depends.....I like a mixture of Nassarius snails, Cerith snails, maybe an Astrea, some blue-legged, zebra, scarlet hermits. Usually they will do the trick without doing too much damage the reef environment per se. Some like blennies as fish go. I think a brittle star or any starfish, cucumber, or even an urchin would not be a good choice here. Try and resist these particular "cleaning crew" choices as they can be somewhat destructive to the reef environment. Extracting materials in the natural food chain in the tank and eventually disrupting the ability for the amphipod larvae to find food stuff at the proper size. Also, it is possible the starfish might predate on a sleeping "Chowder" or could just out compete him for food stuffs. Be resourceful and informed my friend. Again, my recommendations are just some things I hear in the field but have not seen myself. My starfish don't seem to care there is even any amphipods in the tank others have told me they will hunt them. -Paul> Thanks again.

DSB and mandarin for a 45.(10-29-03) Dear Crew:<Howdy, Cody here today.> First off, thanks for all the incredible info you have been giving myself, and anyone willing to learn and ask!  I am now about 6 months into my 45 Gallon FOWLR setup.  I have about 45 Lbs. of live rock, 3 inches of LS, 2 False Perculas, 2 Yellowtail Damsels, 2 Chocolate Chip stars, 1 Peppermint Shrimp, many cleanup crew members including a reef tune up kit from IPSF.  I have 2 questions.  First off, what would be the best way to make my live sand bed deeper without triggering another cycle?  My second question is actually a situation/question.  When I purchased the Reef Tune-up kit from Indo-Pacific, I also purchased an Amphipod breeding kit, and set it up in it's own 10 gallon tank.  My plan was to let them breed for a few months, while slowly placing them in my 45Gal show tank...with the hopes that I will be ready for a Mandarin in a few months.  I have already placed a few Amphipod in the tank... and the Damsels seem to like them as a snack while they fall to the sand...Would they actively search them out for dinner.  I already feed them Formula 1 & 2, and flake...Everyone in the tank seems to love this combo. I know the Chocolate Chips have allowed me to rule out any Corals, So I was thinking about a couple feather dusters until I can move the stars to another tank and bump up to some beautiful coral.  Will the Peppermint Shrimp eat these?  I have read that some become interested in feather dusters when the lights go out!<I would just add the sand gradually over a extended period of time, maybe like ? in. at a time.  If you have a lot of LR in the tank you may just be better off just adding it all at once and testing your water quality lots.  As far as the mandarin I would not add one to this tank unless you have the amphipod setup to where you can feed 2-3 times a day with a lot them being constantly produced.  It would be even better to feed 5-6 times per day.  The feather dusters should be ok but there is always some degree of risk.  Cody> Thanks a million in advance, Steve

The Tale of a Midas and a Mandarin, But Not Yet >Hello, >>Hello. >I have a mandarin that I love very much, he is fat and healthy and he loves eating frozen Mysis which delights me.   >>Please know that frozen Mysis a proper mandarin diet does not make. >I had made sure that I had all the requirements, healthy tank with lots of live rock and amphipods/copepods that had been set up for a year before I got the mandarin.    >>Excellent! >I also have a small tank where I am growing more pods just in case, but luckily he loves eating frozen Mysis.   So far it has been 3 months and he has gotten fatter and appears very healthy.  I don't want to do anything that would upset him.   But I was thinking about getting a midas blenny, do you think it would interfere with the mandarin?   I also have an engineer goby who shares the bottom with the mandarin peacefully.   All my other fish also leave the mandarin alone, almost like it is invisible they never take notice of it.    >>Interspecific aggression isn't the concern here, out eating him is.  You haven't mentioned tank size, but I would say that if you've got him in something at 75 gallons MINIMUM, as well as that extra "pod" tank, you would be alright with the Midas in there.  However, keep that tank FULL of pods, and stuff the blennies and gobies with the frozen stuff as much as you can (within reason, of course). >Any input you have I would appreciate. Thank you, Kylee Peterson >>You seem to have given much thought to the setup and dietary needs, I will suggest soaking that Mysis in Selcon, just for better nutrition for all.  Marina

Re: Mandarins Hello again Crew! I am determined to raise a Mandarin and have read through your FAQs concerning them.  I may have missed an answer to this question and, if so, please excuse me, but as I understand it, a single species needs 4 sq. feet of tank room and a constant supply of copepods et al. (among other requirements, too).  Is this tank size requirement necessary because the Mandarin simply needs that much physical space?  Or, is that much physical space necessary to cultivate the appropriate amount of Copepods for a constant supply? <More the latter. I've seen these species more "crowded" (living in Acroporid and sand thickets) in the wild...> Ooooor, can a small tank, say 20g or 30-40g be used if you cultivate your own live food using one of the large hang-on refugiums I just ordered from Inland Reef? <Can be done... just not as easily as having more space, a refugium...> As always....your advice is a so greatly appreciated. Michael <As is your input. Bob Fenner>

'Pod Paradise! Good Morning. <Good Morning! Scott F. with you...> I got a good look at my tank at night and noticed many many amphipods running around on my rock and sand bed. <That's great to hear!> Does this make me a good candidate for keeping a healthy Mandarinfish (Synchiropus splendidus - and splendid they are!)? I have a 46 gallon tank with about 55 lbs of live rock and about a 4 inch fine sand bed. Also do amphipods reproduce easily? I find a bunch of them in my mechanical filter and am wondering if over time I will trap them all? Thanks, Angelo <Well, Angelo, assuming that the other parameters of your tank are acceptable (i.e; temperature, chemical stability, husbandry, and animal population), a tank that is well-stocked with amphipods is certainly a fine home for Mandarins. If you don't introduce any direct competitors to this tank, he should be quite happy. As you are probably aware, these creatures do reproduce readily, but I would not have more than one Mandarin in this sized tank. Better to have just one with healthy and ample foraging. Although these amphipods tend to get into filters, etc., they are often undamaged. If you find out over time that huge amounts of these creatures are being sucked into the filter and killed, maybe you could reduce the intake capacity with some screen, to prevent them from being "abducted" from the tank! Good luck with your efforts! Regards,  Scott F>

Mandarin responsibilities Hi Mr. Fenner, Today my question is about a mandarin. My tank is 8 months old, well stabilized, 100 gallons, 60"l x 30"h x 16"d, presently all reef safe fish ( planning ahead: 1 yellow tang, 1 six line wrasse, 2 Magnicifica Firefish, 1 baby blue hippo, 3 tank raised clownfish), on the bottom 1 brown brittle star, 2 big turbo snails, 1 peppermint shrimp, 2 cleaner shrimp, 4 red legged hermits, 2 blue legged hermits. I've been wanting a mandarin since the beginning, but I've been patient, knowing what it takes to have one. I wonder if the tank is ready yet? <Should be... from the description of history, gear, livestock plan> I've got lots of those little whitish buggies, and things crawling around on the glass, and I assume elsewhere ( copepods etc...) around 90 lbs. of live rock, and in the next 2,3 weeks will be changing out my entire filter system ( currently wet/dry sump) for a refugium with the Miracle Mud, and Caulerpa to filter. Once this is up, and running do you think I would be o.k. with the mandarin. I don't have any other bottom feeding fish, maybe later a 3 spot blenny for the algae, aside from the cleaning crew. I will be adding 1 Fromia, and hopefully 1 Linckia also in the future. Presently no corals, but will be adding slowly, once the new filter is settled in. I do plan on adding a couple more little fishies in the future, ( still sorting them out, compatibility, reef etc..) But one thing is for sure, a copperband is definitely on the list for far down the road in the future ( tank, and reef very well established). I know it's a B/F, but I've seen so many reef tanks with this one, and the fish, and corals are doing fine. I hope you don't think this will be a mistake? So what about the mandarin, thumbs up, or not yet? Greg N. <I say yes. Bob Fenner>

More mandarins... Hi Bob, <Anthony Calfo here in your service> This is the first time I've written anyone in reference to my tank. <very good to hear from you> I have a 30 gallon reef tank with 6 fish. Today one of my fish died and I did not know if I should disturb the balance of the tank by moving the live rock to get to his body of leave him in there for fish food. Could you help.  <if the fish is smaller like a goby or damsel... I'm sure it would serve the tank better to leave it for the natural scavengers to consume... but if the fish was rather large like a yellow tang, there will be too much dissolved material for traditional nutrient export processes to handle in a short period of time> I also have a Mandarin Goby and I wonder why I never see him eat. What could I give him to make him happy? <Maurya, much has been written on this subject... please look back through the FAQs on this site and beyond. In a nutshell, however... it is a statistical fact that your mandarinfish will die in you 30gallon tank within a year if not months to dietary deficiency. There is no prepared food that will sustain the species in a tank that small without a refugium and natural plankton. Please do the fish the honor and respect for a chance at living a useful life in captivity by researching its needs and then finding a proper home for it. Essentially, a large mature reef tank (over one year old minimum) preferably with fishless refugium. Otherwise, you are looking at the simple but tedious daily task of hatching fresh live rotifers (no brine please... it will still starve on them if frozen). Best of luck to you, Anthony>

Re: scooter blennies (dragonets) Just a reply on the scooters... even though I have as many fish that eat the copepods... I still have a very healthy population.  <excellent and very uncommon. A compliment to your system and husbandry> The tank is a 60 gal with about 60lb of live rock and 45lb of live sand.  <the odds are very stacked against you for enjoying this success even two years down the road with a mid sized tank and without a fishless refugium. But do enjoy it for as many months as you can> On the back is an emperor 400 and this is where the little bugs come from, I have found hundreds of them in the filter pads, adding them to the tank every month when I change the carbon or clean the pad. I also see quite a few of them at night when the lights are out (it's really cool to see all the bizarre things that come out when the lights go out, just as neat as the daytime look!)  <yes...wonderful indeed. So many neat creatures only to be seen at night> so perhaps I should try adding some of the other foods for my scooters. The female is not thin at all, actually she looks like she could use the exercise!  <good, but its the nature of the food lipids, fatty acids and the like) that I was referring to, not the quantity> And thanks for the advice on the mandarin... I'm just excited that she's doing so well as my tank was really set up for her and I took all the good advice that I could find.  <then for all of your dragonets, do consider setting up an upstream sea grass refugium. This is definitely the way to go with mandarins for the natural plankton (diatoms, bacteria, crustacea, etc) produced> I also wanted to add that I have a very healthy Caulerpa growth in my tank as I heard the bugs grow in this, is this why I have so many bugs? Or was some body just pulling my leg?  <true to an extent... but the amount of food you give the tank is more significant> And any other advice on keeping the mandarin would be great, like where to find other live foods. <do build a fishless refugium... provides incomparable natural food... but you must be strict...no fish in it so that plenty of plankton overflows down into the display each night and is replenished by day> Again thank you, Kim <very welcome, Anthony>

help! Hi, I have a 30 gallon tank with a crushed coral substrate. I also have some  live sand mixed in with this. I am using one a Biowheel filter with one of  those 50/50 bulbs for lighting. I have dead coral (that I picked up in  Aruba) for decoration. I have a yellow tang, blue damsel, clown, green  mandarin, bubble anemone, Condylactis anemone, peppermint shrimp, and some  yellow polyps. I haven't has most of the stuff in the tank, but for a few  days. The water quality seems good and I don't have an algae problem at all.  What I am wondering though, is this going to work? Will my setup  survive or do I need to do something? I just have a feeling that I have made a BIG mistake. What do I feed the Mandarin? Do I need live rock and if so,  how would I introduce it? I wanted to add some coralline algae, is this  possible? and how do I do this? Can you help me? Thank you so much, Raj Shingadia  << Hmm, much to say, relate... The Mandarin needs live foods... that most folks supply by way of having large (four square feet per specimen...) of established live rock, incidental or planned live sand... with worms, crustaceans et al. growing there for the fish to forage for (you notice it's always looking?). You should place live rock... and there is again, much to tell you about it's care. Please look over the articles on live rock, the fish you have posted here: Home Page  The coralline algae you can also read about there... these are generally started by introduction on your live rock... and you need to be aware of (test kits) providing sufficient alkalinity and biomineral concentrations in your water... There are a few ways to do this. Read on! One last comment (for now)... please do look into a protein skimmer for your system... a tool that will help ensure steady, high water quality. Bob Fenner >>

Mandarinfish Hi. I have a well established 50 gallon reef tank. It is lightly stocked,  with a colt coral, Leather coral, some mushroom corals and star polyps. The  fish load consists of two common clowns, a pair of Valenciennea gobies, a  Kole tang and a Lawnmower blenny had an algae problem in the past ;)  Anyway, here's my question: Would it be possible to house a Mandarinfish  (Pterosynchiropus splendidus) in this tank for any length of time? I have  heard that they tend to starve unless housed in huge tanks, but I know they  primarily eat copepods off of the live rock. The tank has ~130 lbs. of live  rock and a huge copepod population, so high that they gather on the front  glass in swarms if I turn off the powerheads and filters. Just wanted some  advice on what I consider the most beautiful fish in the sea. I would hate  to watch one perish in my tank. Thanks in advance for your time. Brian Baker  << You certainly must have an abundance of live rock, interstitial in-fauna (live sand life) to have two Valenciennea gobies doing well in such a size system... I'll go out on a fish/limb and say that I'd give you good odds (considering your system, and success with other bottom life) at keeping a Mandarin... most of which I proscribe a good four square feet of established, vibrant reef bottom per species for... Bob Fenner>>

Correct Set-Up I have a 100 gal tank that's been set up for about 3 months... Ammonia 0 Nitrite 0 Nitrate @ 10 SG 1.023 Temp 80 RSB skimmer @ 500 gph Wet/Dry 700 gph return Two powerheads @ 400 gph ea. 5 gal water change every Sunday with IO 1 flame angel 1 cleaner shrimp 4 turbo snails I have what appears to be hundreds, maybe thousands, of little (maybe 1 - 2mm) creatures on the walls of my tank. Some scurry around and some just look like little worms. I'm assuming these are copepods. Here's the question: will a mandarin goby be able to survive feeding on these, considering the current inhabitants of the tank? TIA, Scott << Should be a good chance... If not a/the mandarins per se... and you're mainly looking to reduce, eliminate the wee-critters, maybe consider a hardier (couple or three) Scooter Blennies (Neosynchiropus)... sold as such by ffexpress... same family, the dragonets, Psychedelic Gobies (Callionymidae)... much tougher. Bob Fenner>>

The Story of the Scooter Blenny and the Unscrupulous/Ignorant LFS Hi, Hope you guys are doing ok. I was at my LFS and seen some scooter blennies. The manager told me they are easy to keep and would eat whatever fell to the bottom. <May he accidentally mouth siphon a dead anemone.> When I got home and did some research (should have done this before buying him) <A good lesson learned.> I found that they are difficult to keep, and feed on copepods. I have a 90 gallon reef tank w/90lbs live rock set up for 1 1/2 yrs and everything is just great I started with 2 anemones, they split so now I have 4, also 2yellow tangs 3 blue damsels 1 maroon clown 1 purple Dottyback- hermits and snails. I was reading that a refugia should be set up to sustain copepods for the dragonets have never seen a refugia so I don't know how to set up or what to put in it, <A refugium is a place of refuge where small critters can live and breed free from predation by fish. Begin reading here and follow on to the subsequent FAQ files, http://www.wetwebmedia.com/refugium.htm> do I even need one being that my tank is established for 1 1/2 yrs. <Yes, you need one as you have very aggressive eating fish.> Also where do I get copepods? <Good quality liverock or bought individually from various e-tailers.> Thank you in advance, Kevin Scully <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

Mandarinfish food story for readers Hello Bob, <Howdy Toby> Given the Mandarinfish's poor captivity record, I thought I'd share my experience. Too many of these fish are starving in LFS tanks and people buy them thinking they're easy to feed. It's always difficult not to disregard advice that goes against one's desire to acquire and take care of this traditionally challenging fish because let's face it, this is one good looking fish! <Yes, psychedelic even> Despite your advise of absolutely needing a big mature reef tank (i.e 150 gallon) to keep one of these fish, many people will attempt to keep one in a smaller tank thinking they can beat the odds and convert them to take non-live food. Won't happen -- well, actually it will, but it's not a good sign. More on this later. LFS people for the most part really do care about what they sell, but because they want to maintain good customer relations with the buyer, they will inevitably sell a Mandarinfish to any customer if the customer who says they can take care of one. <Yes> I haven't seen much advice as to how to go about keeping a Mandarinfish in a smaller tank other than to not do it. But since we know people will try it anyway, we may as well share stories about this: both successes and failures. This story is about a good start. <Okay> So, my challenge was to maintain a Mandarinfish in a smaller tank (a healthy and stable 6 month-old 55 gallon with 70 lbs of live rock and 4" deep sand bed covered with live rubble rock [you can get it for free from LFS since they don't have much call for the small rubble stuff!], good coralline algae growth, MH lighting, no mechanical filtering, an AquaC Remora Pro skimmer, and no competing fish, kept at 81 degrees but otherwise with the standard water parameters.) without a separate amphipod culturing tank. To prepare for this, I installed a 10 gallon refugium that gravity fed into the 55 from the get-go. But what really made the difference was an experiment that went right two months ago. <Go tell it> I live in Boston and the ocean is only 10 minutes away, so I went to a rocky beach and collected a pail full of amphipods (they look like Grammaruses [Grammari?] but slightly bigger, 8mm max, and dark green/brown in color) from under rocks in the algae beds that get exposed at low tide and added them to my refugium and 55. I half expected them to die in the higher temperature of the tank, but they instead multiplied. They are now in every nook and cranny of my system including behind the tank in the overflow areas where I can't even suck them out with a turkey baster. Only then did I add the Mandarinfish, and one that was the fattest and most active at the LFS. The Mandarinfish looks like it has a small mouth but it extends out and down when feeding and it will eat amphipods bigger than you'd expect. With this supply of live food, the Mandarinfish should do okay. <Sounds good> So, the rules of thumb are simple in keeping a Mandarinfish: 1. lots and lots of live food <--- this is the important one. 2. no competing fish -- have only peaceful fish 3. appropriate reef tank environment of no less than 6 months in maturity 4. oh, and do the above BEFORE you buy the Mandarinfish <Agreed and agreed> Advice from my local LFS in Boston: in regard to people saying that their Mandarinfish will actively eat frozen as well as live brine shrimp right out of the water column... It's (almost) too late! They are insufficient and it only indicates that they are in fact starving, since they are skinny by the time they accept brine shrimp. They will perish on that nutrition less diet (they're mostly protein). Give them live copepods and amphipods as soon as possible! If you can't get them from a nearby tidal pool, try to culture them from a specialty vendor such as Florida Aqua Farms, and always order overnight shipping to keep mortality down. <Well-stated... and Frank Hoff and co. do a great job> And lastly, I was using a small pen flashlight in searching for a porcelain crab that I had seen in the rocks when the Mandarinfish started following the spots of light on the floor and rocks as I moved the flashlight. I suspect it's attracted by the size and movement of the light. You could probably get it to eat a food pellet if you shined a laser pointer at the pellet. But that's a lot of work. You're better off supplying the 'pods! We'll see in a year's time if the Mandarinfish is still alive. Kindest regards, Toby <I strongly suspect it will be... and that you'll be on to more adventures by then. Thank you for your input. Will post for (many) others benefit, success. Bob Fenner>

Mandarin Hi I just wanted to tell you about my mandarin. I started my marine hobby with a 20 liter tank and 1kg of live rock. I had an outbreak of bristleworms and the pet shop recommended the mandarin. So I took him home. Here he stayed for 5 months. I periodically fed him live brine shrimp and Daphnia (which he relished). He ate well. I then added a fire shrimp and a month later upgraded to a 100 liter tank-probably 10kg live rock. A year and a bit down the line and my mandarin is alive and well. I now feed him twice a month with live bloodworms which he loves-he is quite fat now. His other tank mates are a pair of Percula clowns and 2 fire shrimp. He has grown approximately 3 cm. So it can be done keeping a mandarin well and fat in a small system. <Thank you for news of your success. Sufficient food, stability, lack of competitors... all supplied... not dependent always on a larger volume to achieve. Bob Fenner> Jolene

Re: Stumped (Powerhead dangers, Mandarins) Bob, Man, do I feel foolish... I just cleaned my powerheads and found the Mandarin had been sucked up into one of my 402 Powerheads!  <Yikes! Not difficult for such weak swimmers.> I now wonder if that had been what happened to the other one as well. I never even thought about that. I did read up on the link you sent me to. My serpent star is more brown in color, but I guess I will have to keep an eye on him. I do know that he has had two of my feather duster worms for an expensive meal when they have released from their tube to find another place to live. I know this because I watched him do it! Thank-you kindly for your assistance on this. John <Will post your input on WWM "Powerhead" and "Mandarin" FAQs pages as a useful warning to others to secure the pumps intakes with filters/screens. Bob Fenner>

Mandarin Madness? Here goes nothing, hope whoever gets this is in a good mood (lol) <It's late, it's quiet, I ate a good dinner- I'm in a good mood! Scott F. here> I've spent literally hundreds of hours the past two weeks (mostly on your magnificent site) researching what I wanna do and just wanted to ask for some advice or death threats if needed lol. <We'll avoid the threats!> My wife is a preschool teacher and they recommend keeping some kind of aquarium in there classroom during the year, I asked her what she wanted and unfortunately she has her heart set on a 10 gal nano with a few pieces of LR and a green mandarin dragonet. Before you call the hit squad, I've read that they are hard to keep fed in a larger system and I don't want this guy to starve. So I'm planning on farming some live rock of my own in a 55 gallon tank. If I weekly scoop out 10-20 lb. of the substrate and sift it for cop/bristles, etc., to feed the dragonet. I was thinking of a sand bed about 7-8 inches deep and starting it out with a sand bed starter kit of all the necessary critters for a 100gal tank. <IMO, your approach to the feeding issue for this fish is quite logical and sound. However, I'd still prefer to see the fish in a larger aquarium, maybe a 20 gal or larger. Environmental stability is the other issue with these, or any fish, and in a 10 gal tank, particularly in a classroom setting the potential for all kinds of problems (i.e; temperature fluctuations, high "traffic", little hands in the tank, etc.) is greatly magnified. Your (or her) husbandry for this tank needs to be impeccable. A 10 gal tank with rock and sand will hold less than 10 gallons, of course, which means that you really have to stay on top of maintenance!> So now that you probably think I'm completely out of my mind, and that my wife is completely spoiled, here's my questions: 1. What could I feed my farm tank to increase the population of the critters, since there wont be any fish/inverts to contribute dentifrice? <I'd just feed some dried foods and maybe add a little macroalgae, like Ulva or Chaetomorpha. Coarse substrates have been proven to encourage the growth of amphipods, and slightly finer substrates favor copepods.> 2. How often do you think I might have to purchase more critter kits. <Well, you might just need to purchase several to start out, then provide good conditions for their growth, monitor the population, and add more kits if needed down the line> 3. Do you think its possible to keep a dragonet amply fed this way? and if not is there a method you think would work? <In theory, sure- but keep in mind that you must regularly harvest and feed these animals in suitable quantities to maintain this fish. This is why these fish are better kept in larger, mature systems that have an established, abundant quantity of these animals for the mandarin to forage in a natural manner.> 4. The rhetorical question: do ya really think I need psychiatric help?...lol <No more than I do. Wait- that's not good...> Again I offer my thanks (and maybe even a sacrifice if it would help) <Do consider the points mentioned here. I'm not saying that this can't be done, just that it will be a lot more difficult than you might think. Your approach to cultivating food is interesting and worthwhile, but do consider the effort required. Good luck!> Shawn King

Tomato Clown, anemone and Mandarin Fish question Would a Mandarin be eaten by an anemone protected by a Tomato clown? <It is possible.> He is always inside and is very protective of it. In a 72 gallon or a 180 gallon can a Tomato Clown be kept with two baby perculas? <You would have a better shot in the 180, but it is not to be recommended.> He is always inside the anemone. Thank you and I look forward to hearing from you. Carmina Perez <Talk to you later. -Steven Pro>

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>

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>

Mandarins <Kim, Lorenzo Gonzalez here, holding down the fort for Bob while he's underwater in Asia for a couple weeks.> Hi, I have to ask about 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 months 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 >

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>

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>

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

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>

Mandarin Mania <smile> Hi, Anthony/Bob, <Greetings Marc... Anthony Calfo in your service> Hope all is well in fishville. <very fine here save for smelling like a wharf> I hesitate to even ask but here goes. I'm sure some days you feel doomed to answer mandarin questions. <I'd be lying if I said that wasn't true some days <smile>> I have a 45 gallon seahorse tank with LR and lots of Caulerpa. Also a little bit of coral (gorgonian, a Trachyphyllia my angel in my other tank was terrorizing and a lone red mushroom wandering in the other tank) and a lot of red flat worms. <possible mandarin food> My wife just loves mandarins and I'm tempted to add some to the seahorse tank. I don't mind feeding live brine (have a local warm water Mysid source) but given everything I've read, my tank sounds too small.  <large tank size recommendations are partly based on plankton generating abilities of said larger tanks. If your local source is nutritionally competent, you may be able to compensate... although it cannot be the only live food. 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> Any chance this would work? Or just too small to try? <again... possible with enough food... rather like keeping seahorses> On a related note, I tried a mandarin in my 210G established reef tank and it died a horrible, twitching death in front of my wife (not a good thing). <agreed> Seemed to have some sort of white film skin disease. It died fairly quickly and I assumed it was a collection problem but it has since occurred to me (duh!) that it might have been stung by one of my bubble tip anemones. Would that fit the symptoms? Or something else? <actually... mandarins have had a suspicious history of being stung by anemones in captivity than almost any other fish... a strong possibility, and the twitching is symptomatically consistent> If I really, really wanted to keep a mandarin and was willing to dedicate an entire tank to the mandarins, what would you suggest? A low-fish reef tank of > 150G with a refugium? <many possibilities, but a seagrass display with a fishless refugium above would put you in a nice ballpark> Thanks! Marc <with kind regards, Anthony>

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>

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

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