There are few fish in this world quite as colorful, breathtaking, and captivating as the mandarinfish. It’s fairly common for saltwater fish to have unique color profiles, but the mandarinfish takes it to a completely different level. I mean, just look at the thing:
It doesn’t look like a creature that you would expect to find in the wilderness. It would look more at home in James Cameron’s colorfully over-the-top movie, “Avatar.” An even better description might be, “Imagine what would happen if you gave neon markers to somebody overdosing on acid and asked them to draw a fish.”
Ah, the fun part. Mandarinfish, also called “mandarin dragonets,” have a smattering of blue, orange, green, and yellow that are each so bright that they border on neon. Rich blue or vibrant green serves as the base color, with orange or red near the back of the fish and a yellow-green closer to its head. As if its coloration wasn’t eye-catching enough, the mandarinfish also has a somewhat oddly-shaped head. Its protruding eyes, pursed lips, and oblong head shape is extremely reminiscent of a frog. And it must be true that good things come in small packages, because these diminutive fish top out at about 6 cm.
A reef-dwelling species, mandarinfish will fit right at home in your coral aquarium. You may have a bit of trouble acclimating your Mandarinfish to its new home, but if you manage to help it make the transition you will find that this is a particularly hardy species.
Mandarinfish eat small crustaceans like copepods and amphipoda. They are extremely picky eaters and will often refuse to eat anything except for these crustaceans, even if these creatures are not present in an aquarium and other food sources are in abundance. This fastidiousness is the main reason why mandarinfish are hard to keep domesticated. You will need to devote a lot of time and energy catering to your their dietary requirements, but many aquarists believe the trouble is well worth it.
Caring for your Mandarinfish
Really, all you have to worry about with your mandarinfish is managing its food source. You can’t just plop a couple of small crustaceans into your tank every once in a while for feeding time. You truly need to cultivate a self-sustaining population of amphipods or copepods in order to sustain your mandarinfish. That means that you have to cater to the dietary needs of your ‘pods, too (they’ve gotta eat if they’re going to reproduce, after all). And to do that, of course, you need to make sure that your seaweed is flourishing.
So, to sum it all up, you really need to pull out of all the stops and create a flourishing miniature ecosystem if you plan on having mandarinfish.