Name: Synchiropus splendidus
Origin: Pacific Ocean
I have had great success with mine. When I purchased the male, the LFS told me that he would do fine on flake food. After researching and finding out differently, I scrounged the local shops for copepods, amphipods, and isopods. My tank is now crawling with them (I do have lots of rock work). He will also take frozen brine and mysis shrimp. I have since purchased a female and they spawn regularly though I have no idea how to raise the fry.
I have just bought a beautiful bright orange one. He is very fat and as soon as I put him in the tank he started to eat my pods and worms etc. I would only recommend this fish to someone with experience and/or lots of live rock. They are suited to tanks that are over a year old, to ensure there are enough pods and worms for them to eat.
Manny (my mandarin) lives in my 40 L nano reef. I too was one of many people told this fish grazes off algae on your rock work, only to find out different. The store wouln't take him back and I couldn't just let the little guy die, so I searched for pods and began a pod farm in another tank. That was so much work, and he ate them so quick. The pods aren't that expensive, but the shipping is. So I researched other foods and was told brine shrimp. I know they have little, if any, nutritional value blah blah, *but* if fresh hatched, still with their yolk sack (within first 48 hours) they have plenty of nutrition and all it takes is 1 tsp brine shrimp eggs (available at most pet stores), 1 tsp table salt (non-iodized), a 1/2 liter bottle of drinking water and an air pump for circulation. I mix together and set by a regular table lamp for light and heat, then insert air tube for circulation. In about 24 hours pour brine into strainer (do not dump the bottled water into your tank) and I have fresh hatched baby brine for Manny. Also, recently I was feeding one of my corals frozen mysis shrimp (well, previously frozen, I thawed it) with an eye dropper and the coral missed the shrimp but Manny gobbled it right up. The trick seems to be that as long as it's moving he'll eat frozen food too. So I shoot a few shrimp in front of him and it's a feeding frenzy!
Let me begin by stating that I do indeed keep my healthy mandarin male in a 40 liter nano reef system without a massive fuge or huge amount of live rock. I've had this wonderful little guy for eight months and it's truly a beautiful thing enjoying him in a small tank, where he can actually be seen, as opposed to a 400 liter reef system where you often never see the fish. More and more people are having success keeping mandarins in nanos. This is due to better education and a willingness to meet the animals' difficult feeding requirements: a copious supply of copepods. What I have done to successfully keep my chubby mandarin: I've employed a pod pile of coral rubble on top of plastic non-toxic dishwashing scrubber pads. With two scrubber pads sandwiched together, rocks keep out the mandarin and allow the pods a place of refuge. At night you can see them infesting the scrubber pads like so many fleas. I also run a 4 liter reef vase I sometimes harvest pods from. But the biggest reason for my success so far is the fact my mandarin eats capelin roe, the little orange eggs on sushi. He gobbles them up like popcorn until he's stuffed. Also eats cyclo-peeze. If your heart is set on a mandarin, I highly recommend you find one that accepts roe or cyclo or some other prepared substance. Call your LFS and see if they'll let you try out an assortment of foods.
I have had my Synchiropus splendidus for some time now. I have noticed that he actually poses for the camera, which I do appreciate because he is so busy all the time, looking for stuff we don't see. No matter how down the mood is in my 280 L reef, he is always seriously busy at all times. Often, during maintenance times, I have to push him away with my finger so I can move some rocks around. This fish has attitude!
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