Species group: Dragonets
Other common names: Psychedelic Mandarin, Red Mandarin Dragonet
Scientific name: Synchiropus cf. splendidus
Words fail to do justice to this spectacular captive-bred variation of the Green Mandarin. The Red Mandarin is hard to come-by, and as picky a feeder as its wild cousin, but much coveted by experienced aquarists.
The Red Mandarin is a color variant of the Green Mandarin, which ranges from Japan’s Ryukyu Islands to Australia. It favors rocky habitats in protected lagoons and shallow coral reefs.
Appearance / health:
The 10 cm (4 in) body is covered with a wild, “psychedelic” pattern of black, red and orange. The pelvic fins are somewhat “leg-like”, while the others are large and showy.
Red Mandarins rarely stray far from favored shelters, refuse all but tiny live foods, and do not actively swim after food, and so may starve if housed with bolder species. They will be subject to stress-related illnesses if not provided caves and other cover.
Behavior / temperament:
Red Mandarins are very active, hopping or scuttling over the bottom as they seek their next meal. They are quite territorial and are best housed in compatible pairs, but usually get along well with non-aggressive fishes and invertebrates. Males cannot be kept together.
The Red Mandarin requires an aquarium that is stocked with rock/coral caves, live sand, and live rock. The tank should be well-established before Mandarins are added, so that ample populations of the tiny invertebrates they feed-upon will be present.
The following water quality parameters will help to assure long-term health: Temperature: 22-28 C (72-82 F); Specific Gravity (Salinity): 1.020-1.025; pH: 8.1-8.4.
In addition to the tiny invertebrates breeding in live sand and rock, the diet should include a variety of live foods such as Mysis, enriched (pre-fed) brine shrimp, blackworms, glassworms, and copepods. Red Mandarins do best when provided 2-4 feedings each day.
Pairs will only breed when well fed (often fighting otherwise). The eggs are released at night as the pair swims towards the surface. The minute fry are difficult to rear unless continually supplied with live rotifers, wild-caught plankton, and similar foods.
Written by Frank Indiviglio