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Photo by Luc Viatour, taken from Wikipedia. The original can be found here.


Synchiropus splendidus



    The Mandarinfish or Mandarin dragonet (Synchiropus splendidus), is a small, brightly-colored member of the dragonet family, which is popular in the saltwater aquarium trade.

Quick stats:

Listed tank sizes are the minimum
Size: Up to 4 inches (10cm)
Tank: 20 gallon or larger.
Strata: Middle to bottom dwellers.
PH: PH recommendation 8.0 – 8.4
Hardness: Soft to medium-hard (8 -12°N)
Temperature: 72°F to 78°F (22°-26° C)
Specific gravity: 1.023-1.026


Order: Actinopterygii
Family: Dragonet
Genera: Synchiropus
Species: splendidus

Common name:



    , Mandarin dragonet


Western Pacific: 

    Philippines, Indonesia, Australia, and New Guinea.

General Body Form:Males may be distinguished from females by their more-elongated first dorsal spine.

Coloration:With a “mazelike” design consisting of combinations of blue, orange, and green, the Mandarinfish is remarkably one of only two animal species known to have their blue color specifically because of its cellular pigment; the other one being a closely related “LSD-fish” (Synchiropus picturatus). In all other known species of blue colored animals, the blue comes from either thin-film interference from piles of flat, or thin and reflective crystals.

Maintenance:Mandarinfish are considered difficult to keep, despite their popularity among saltwater aquarists, mostly due to their very specific feeding habits. Some fish just refuse to eat anything but live amphipods and copepods, as they would in the wild. The Mandarinfish that do acclimatize to aquarium food however are considered to be quite hardy and highly resistant to diseases, such as the all too common Ich. They cannot catch this disease because their skin type is not the same as those that are commonly affected by the disease.

Diet:Feeding primarily on small crustaceans and other invertebrates, the Mandarinfish requires a varied diet including any vitamin-enriched live brine shrimp, live black worms, harpacticoud copeopods, fish eggs, ostracods, and natural prey on live rock and live sand. Feeding is continuous during daytime in their wild reef habitat, where the fish selectively eat their small prey trapped on the coral substrate.


Biotope:Mandarinfish are reef dwellers, preferring sheltered lagoons and inshore reefs. While they are slow-moving and fairly common within their range, they are not easily seen due to their bottom-feeding habit and their small size.

Breeding:Mandarinfish spawn by a pair aligning their bodies and rising up the water column, the female releases eggs for the male to fertilize, and it may take many “false ascents” for breeding to actually occur. The eggs usually float to the surface. Within 12-15 hours the floating eggs hatch into oblong “prolarvae” with huge yolk sacs, yet no eyes or mouth, digestive tract or even fins. They begin developing these missing organs and limbs, then begin feeding by the fourth day. At three months old they finally resemble adult Mandarinfish and begin to eat prepared food.

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