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Synchiropus picturatus
Spotted Mandarinfish, Green Mandarin Fish, Target Dragonet

 Age of Aquariums > Saltwater Fish > Spotted Mandarin - Synchiropus picturatus

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Synchiropus_picturatus_2.jpg (21kb)
Photo Credit: Diogo Lopes

Name: Synchiropus picturatus
Size BehaviorReef
Origin: Pacific Ocean
10 cm Loner Yes


All mandarins and their relatives in the scooter blenny's are dragonets, although they are often refered to as goby's. Known as both one of the most popular marine fish and one of the highest rated death's in the hobby, the mandarins are quite an odd but fascinating addition. Their only major food substance is the live copepods and amphipods found on very well established live rock, at least 6 months, preferably more. Some report that they can be fed brine, but only under ideal conditions will they be able to capture them. A pretty good choice for an appropriate setup, but a horrible one for anything but.

Contributed by Brian Braden

One useful tip on feeding these wonderful fish is to place brine shrimp in with an eye dropper about a half an hour or so after lights out to let them settle among rocks and avoid being eaten by other fish. When the Mandarin feeds the next day it will find the brine shrimp in little crevices and not have to fight for food with other fish.

Contributed by Josh Patterson

I used to keep these Mandarinfish and I can tell you they were one of my favorites. Their habit of hovering over a spot of coral or substrate and contemplating the spot was fascinating and charming. I had problems with them, however, because they often became distended dispite numerous feedings with an eye dropper of brine shrimp and other foods. Perhaps they would have done better in a live reef tank, though.

Contributed by a visitor

These fish do better in a reef tank or at least a long time established tank with live rock. This fish eats copepods as its main diet. The tank should be well established in order that there are many live copepods living in it. Actually you could have a reef tank that has live rock as a base and is well established (1 year or so) and you would not even have to feed them. I have several in my reef tank (5 different mandarin family fish) and have not fed them. They have done great for over a year now. They are beautiful and active fish. I love to watch them.

Contributed by Marcus Christy

This fish is almost impossible to keep in captivity because of their specialized feeding, they only eat live zooplanktion. It's my opinion they should be left in the ocean.

Contributed by Michael Swart

This adorable little fish is perhaps one of the my all-time favorites. It darts in and out of the live rock and is always on the lookout for copepods and amphipods, which make up the majority of its diet. I do disagree with the other poster that they are impossible to be kept in captivity; I've found mine to be one of the hardiest fish in the tank. It depends, as was noted, on whether you keep enough depth of live sand and enough live rock to support its primary diet of dentrivores. If they are not able to hunt for enough, they can and will starve because they will not usually adapt to prepared or frozen foods of any kind. In addition, other competing bottom feeders (such as hermit crabs, some wrasses, etc) should be limited. A refugium can also be a great place for cultivating live foods such as amphipods, mysis shrimp, and various plankton which the mandarin will eat. If some of these conditions can be met, the mandarin is a great fish that will live quite well in captivity.

Contributed by Cecilia Chen

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