Ok guys and gals, I have another great saltwater fish for you! Ever since I got into the saltwater side of fish-keeping, I always wanted three things in my aquarium. First, I wanted the tube coral, Tubastrea faulkneri aka the Orange Sun Coral, that I wrote about in the coral journal. Secondly, I wanted a triggerfish but that’s another story. Finally, the charming and active Green Mandarin, has literally haunted my imagination, ever since I saw one of these guys hopping about the sand in a local fish store display tank with its’ incredible beauty!
The Green Mandarin (Synchiropus splendidus) is also known as the Mandarin Goby, Striped Mandarinfish, and Mandarin Dragonet. The Green Mandarin looks somewhat like a goby or blenny, yet is not a goby at all, but is from the dragonet family (Callionymidae). A dragonet is a small fish that has two separate dorsal fins. The mandarinfish is best described as a maze of blue and orange over a green backdrop. There are vivid yellow spots near the head. I have also seen a very rare variation with red as the main coloration. Males can be distinguished by their elongated dorsal spine. The Green Mandarin of the Perciforme (=perch-like) Order, uses his fan-like pelvic fins for walking or hopping on the sandy bottom.
The Green Mandarin is considered to be a moderate to difficult fish to keep. It does require a very specific diet of small crustaceans (pods), and should only be kept in a well established tank (>6 months), with a good refugium and lots of rockwork. It is suggested that there should be a minimum of between 40 to 80 lbs of live rock per fish. Some fish may be taught to eat prepared foods, and this seems to be more common in tank raised ones. They may eat brine shrimp or blackworms.
Although the mandarin stays a small fish, it should be kept in at least a 30 gallon tank due to its’ need of extensive rockwork. Usually, you can find them in the trade ranging from 1 inch and up. They generally grow to be about 5 inches in captivity. The Green Mandarin prefers a temperature of 72-78°F (22-25.5°C), sg 1.020-1.025, pH 8.1-8.4 and dKH 8-12.
The mandarin can be kept with larger fish. It has a defense mechanism of secreting a poisonous mucus, but this doesn’t mean that it should be kept with aggressive tankmates. Much like gobies, they are intolerant of others from their own species, but can be kept in mated pairs. These fish are egg-scatterers and they are considered to be easy to breed. These fish should not be kept with other fish or invertebrates that may deplete the pod population, since this is their staple diet.
In the wild, the Green Mandarin is found in the western Indo-Pacific; Indonesia, the Philippines, Australia and New Guinea. They are found on sandy, silty bottoms of protected lagoons, and are often found hopping about the sandy bottom of their aquarium, happy as can be, hunting for the day’s meal!