ORA is at it again. The rumors were true! About a month after the release of ORA’s first captive bred Spotted Mandarins (Synchiropus picturatus) comes the announcement that the Blue Psychedelic Mandarin Dragonettes (Synchiropus splendidus) are being released (press release below)!
Being one of our hobby’s most treasured species, yet one of the most difficult to keep alive, the release of captive bred mandarins has been long overdue and will change how we perceive these fish. Just as Discus were once impossible to keep, but are now a mainstay of the freshwater hobby, captive breeding opens up the floodgates to let Mandarins take over our marine tanks! Not only does captive breeding take pressure off wild populations (the Blue Mandarin is said to have localized population problems as a result of wild collection), but we get all the benefits that come with captive breeding. First and foremost, just like ORA’s captive bred Spotted Mandarins, the Blue and Red Mandarins being released now and in coming weeks are accustomed to eating solely prepared foods, and have done so since March of this year! To be sure it’s well documented, foods for ORAs new captive bred mandarins include Nutramar Ova, finely chopped Hikari Blood Worms, fish roe, frozen baby brine shrimp, frozen daphnia and New Life SPECTRUM Small Fish Formula pellets. To ease their transition from a dealer’s tanks to your home aquarium, be sure you have several of these options on hand!
This author is lucky enough to have first hand experience with a pair of the ORA Spotted Mandarins that was sent by Dustin Dorton to “give a try”. In every respect, I have found these fish to be alert and inquisitive. Of course, they are Mandarins, so they are also shy and patient feeders! These little ORA babies have been witnessed taken Rod’s Food and AquaThrive pellets, but are also responsible for fully decimating the invertebrate population of the 10 gallon tank they currently call home! They are perpetually fat.
Based on my experiences, I’d like to remind the Reef Builders reader that your captive bred mandarins will be smaller and cuter than wild caught ones. They will appreciate an aquarium with lower flow so that food resting on the bottom (where the Mandarins normally feed) doesn’t get blown away. Highly aggressive feeders can certainly out-compete a Mandarin, so pick appropriate tankmates. Of course, big fish that can pick on or eat these little ones are out of the question. As ORA suggests, these fish are already starting to shown signs of sexual activity, which in the case of a Mandarin means spawning rises and carpet surfing, so “put a lid on it”! Using this information to make some common sense decisions, I truly believe that the days of Mandarins being “expert only” fish and fish suggested only for “large, well established reef tanks” are coming to an end.
With proper care and a bit of forethought, a captive bred mandarin is appropriate for a nano-reef. Captive-Bred Mandarins aren’t “expert only”, but in fact, theoretically could be kept by any hobbyist who is willing to meet their needs for a proper setup and multiple feedings per day. With captive bred mandarins, starting with emaciated or lethargic fish is a thing of the past. Through the benefits of captive breeding, ORA is providing the hobby the best, most hassle-free Mandarin Gobies you could ever hope to keep. Or you can be cheap and go buy another 2 or 3 wild-caught Mandarins and deal with a fish that may not eat even live foods, and may not survive. Seriously?!
Mandarin Dragonettes just got way easier to keep, but only if they’re captive bred and trained onto prepared foods like ORA’s! As many of us at Reef Builders have said, the value is there and the benefits are real. Purchasing a captive bred mandarin is making an investment in something that will last in your tank, as well as supporting much needed captive breeding R&D. So please, vote with your wallets to support the captive propagation of Mandarins! You can seek out (and probably get on a waiting list for) ORA mandarins at your favorite ORA dealer!
ORA Press Release
Hot on the heels of our Spotted Mandarins, ORA is pleased to announce that our first batch of Blue Mandarins (Synchiropus splendidus.) is now available. We will be offering a limited number of Male/Female pairs as well as single males. The males are slightly larger than the Spotteds that we released last month but the females are a little smaller. It seems that the females are putting all of their energy into egg production now instead of growth. Most of them look like they have swallowed a pea.
We are seeing spawning behavior with these fish every day but there is a twist. The males will gather in groups of 2 to 4 fish and try to spawn with each other. When the females come close they aggressively chase them away. When the males aren’t trying to spawn with one another they are busy chasing each other and nipping fins. You may see a little bit of fin damage in some of the fish that we will be shipping out, we expect this to heal up quickly and we ask for your patience and understanding.
When we first started to breed these fish back in October we were setting up Blue, Red and Spotted spawns in the same larval tanks. There is even a possibility that some of the spawns were a cross between the Blue and the Red variety. Some of the fish shipping out this month have a lot of iridescent red in them but they do not have solid red pelvic fins. We have since purposely made the Blue x Red cross and we will report what the offspring look like in a couple more months.
This batch of Blue Mandarins has been off of live food since March. They are offered the same frozen and dry food selection that our Spotted Mandarins are given, Nutramar Ova, finely chopped Hikari Blood Worms, fish roe, frozen baby brine shrimp, frozen daphnia and New Life SPECTRUM Small Fish Formula pellets. These guys do seem to prefer pellets over Nutramar Ova, especially as they get older.
We are especially proud of these Mandarins and will be sad to see them go. We are steadily improving our techniques to raise these beautiful fish, and we hope to have both species of Mandarins consistently available within a few months.