The Mandarin fish is arguably one of the most beautiful fish in the hobby. With a greenish body and bright sharp contrasting blues/purples colors these fish look like they just came from a tattoo parlor. There are several types the red and green are the most common, there are target mandarins that look like they have polka dots on green skin and look very froglike, also are scooter blennies which are more or less a marbled Mandarin. They have very small mouths and fins that are constantly in motion allowing them to hover, and large froglike eyes that are constantly seeking prey. They feed on small living crustaceans, and have a very high metabolism, they are essentially very similar to a hummingbird in many regards.
Mandarins require a great deal of dedication and care, they are recommended for the advanced hobbyist and this is not a recommendation to be taken lightly. Far too often people setting up a tank find them in pet stores and drawn to their beauty and purchase them, often for less than $20. Without a live food supply these fish slowly starve in the aquarium often dying in 3 to 6 months. My first Mandarin met this fate, I was somewhat knowledgeable 8 years ago and took the pet stores word they had “trained” it to eat frozen food, and while my Mandarin would pick at frozen shrimp she would promptly spit it out. I bought live food regularly to feed her but it was no use, she would quickly eat the food supply. The 30 gallon setup I had at the time was not sufficient, one day she passed.
When I fail in the hobby I don’t take it lightly, I must learn where I went wrong. With the Mandarin it was quite obviously a food supply issue. After much research I setup another system with a 75gallon sump dedicating over 30 gallons as a refugium to grow pods. I didn’t stock a single fish for 6 months. The refugium was full of macro algae and a thriving pod population. To make sure all my bases were covered I had rubble in thick plastic mesh, these are known as pod hotels. I had placed all 3 in the refugium and when I attempted my next Mandarin I moved one from the refugium to the display and I rotated it out every week with my water change. My Mandarin was fat and happy, she even started accepting frozen brine shrimp without spitting it out we had a great 3.5 years together.
ORA had started breeding Mandarins years back, an opportunity to get one of these gems that was tank raised on pellets and frozen food was a really exciting moment for me in the hobby, however ORA discontinued offering them, and years went by without a captive bred alternative. Son and Sand recently learned of a new company based out of Palau that is producing many captive and maricultural coral, fish, and clams. Biota is quickly getting recognized as producing some really great livestock while holding true to marine conservation. I’m proud to announce that this month Son and Sand will be receiving its first shipment of captive bred fish including my all-time favorite fish Mandarin gobies! These specimens have been bred in captivity and raised on pellets and frozen shrimp, they will be a bit smaller than their wild caught counterparts but with all the same gorgeous coloration and patterns. They also will cost more than a wild-caught specimen but the cost is justified in the higher probability they will live longer and are already adapted to tank conditions. They will come in eating small pellets and frozen food. They should still be fed regularly and setups with established refugium’s are ideal but getting one that is already eating frozen foods is an enormous advantage for the fish to thrive and live a long life in the aquarium. I’m currently taking pre-orders so please contact me if you want one they are going quick.