A green mandarin on the substrate hunting for algaebarn copepods that make mandarin goby fish care easy

Mandarin Goby Fish Care | Using Copepods to keep a Mandarin Dragonet

Mandarin Fish Care 101:

Foods and feeding are the foremost concern for any aquarist wishing to keep a Green Mandarin Dragonet (Synchiropus splendidus). Most critical in the diet of a mandarin is (1) constant availability of feeding opportunities and (2) food sources that are varied but primarily consist of enriched pods. If you get these two things right, Mandarin Goby fish care is fun, easy, and affordable!

 What do Mandarins eat?

The term “pods” refers to a very wide variety of tiny crustaceans. Of these, copepods (Tigriopus, Tisbe, Apocyclops, etc.) are most ecologically and nutritionally important. Pods will be consumed by fish such as mandarins while in their adult, bottom-dwelling stage. They will be consumed by filter-feeding invertebrates such as corals while in the juvenile, planktonic stage. It is therefore necessary to maintain a stable population of live, healthy pods within the aquarium system. The best way to provide a live (that is, constantly available) supply of pods is to replenish them. The best way to enrich them (that is, make them nutritionally complete) is to feed them. So, you may be wondering, “what do copepods eat?”

Major Key: Live Copepods

Different types of copepods prefer different types of foods. In the aquarium, they will readily feed on waste products and nuisance organisms. This includes fish feces, detritus accumulations and benthic algae growths. This is a much welcomed additional benefit to the aquarium keeper. And, this is why a well-balanced mix of pods (such as 5280 Pods) is preferable to any single pod species. However, all pods benefit greatly from the regular addition of live phytoplankton.

Using Live Phytoplankton to grow pods to Feed a Mandarin Dragonet

A photo of a green mandarin dragonet goby fish Synchiropus splendidus showing the psychedelic pattern that justifies the requirements of mandarin goby fish care for many aquarists
The Green Mandarin Goby Fish (Synchiropus splendidus) also called a Mandarin Dragonet, is one of the most beautiful and interesting species commonly kept in a saltwater reef aquarium.

Diligent use of “phyto” to feed the pods will keep them reproducing at a high rate. This will result in consistently large populations. It will also reduce the amount of pods you will need to buy as replacements. Live phytoplankton products that contain smart blends of microalgae types (Nannochloropsis, Isochrysis, Tetraselmis, Thalassiosira, etc.) are best. They will certainly help to maintain the perfect mix of pods. Moreover, these quality blended products (such as OceanMagik) will provide optimal nutrition for the pods. And, the pods will likewise provide optimal nutrition for the animals that prey on them (such as your mandarin fish!) when they are gut-loaded with a well-balanced microalgal blend.

Other Live Food Options for Feeding a Mandarin Goby Fish

As with most other species, Mandarin goby fish care is easiest when a varied diet is offered to ensure proper nutrition. Though they are not true omnivores, mandarins will feed on a considerably wide variety of items. These range from minute worms to baby snails. Thus, while the cornerstone of their wild and captive diet is copepods, they should occasionally be presented other items. This supplemental fare will serve to further balance their nutrition as well as keep them fat and vibrant. Offering these “treats” gives the aquarist an opportunity to engage in some fun interaction with their pet. But most importantly, they are great for its health!

Though they are to be considered as supplemental, these food items may be used as often and in any amount, so long as they are completely consumed shortly after each offering. This practice allows the fish to graze naturally on live foods throughout the day and then pick up a few morsels of something different during intermittent feeding times. These special delicacies may include either live and prepared foods.

Money Saving Tip: Use Live Brine Shrimp for cheap calories when feeding a Mandarin Goby Fish

OceanMagik Live Phytoplankton next to a test tube measuring 50ml can be used to help with mandarin goby fish care
AlgaeBarn OceanMagik is a Live Phytoplankton blend that makes an excellent live food source for Copepods, Brine Shrimp, and Corals.

Newly-hatched Live Artemia (i.e. brine shrimp) are an excellent supplemental live food for mandarin goby fish care. Baby brine shrimp are mobile and are at the larger end of the fish’s food size range. This provides a slightly bigger challenge and a slightly bigger reward. Baby brine shrimp that are derived from decapsulated cysts (such as Nano Brine) are more nutritious. This because the prey items have used up less of their own energy reserves during the hatching process. Any Artemia that are over a day old—and have thus consumed most of their own nutritional content—should be enriched.

This type of enrichment can be carried out by simply allowing them to swim around (for approximately one hour) in an aerated container filled with aquarium water and a good dose of phyto. Products that contain Thalassiosira are said to be especially good for this purpose. It may be necessary to reduce or cut water flow through the filter (to prevent losses) until they have been completely consumed when using live Artemia in some aquarium systems.

Offering a bit of prepared food such as chopped or small-size whole frozen mysis shrimp is another way to vary a mandarin fish’s diet and sneak in a few extra calories. In the natural setting, mandarins really do prefer live, moving foods. This is where (aside from being more sustainably produced) captive-raised specimens are a better choice. These individuals are much more easily trained to accept prepared foods.

The Benefits of A Captive Bred Mandarin

Some aquacultured specimens (such as Biota Green Mandarins) even arrive partly or completely trained and ready to eat many of these foods. A mandarin that readily accepts prepared foods not only opens the door to many more feeding opportunities but also makes life somewhat easier for the aquarist. It does not at all hurt to mention that they can also save their keeper a bit of cash. In this respect, a specimen that will consume aquarium fish pellets is a real gem indeed.

Mandarin Goby Fish Care: How to Feed A Mandarin

Without a doubt, the green mandarin fish is among the most popular of all marine aquarium fishes. Keeping this beautiful creature healthy, however, requires some special care. Aside from obtaining captive-raised specimens, a considerable amount of attention should be paid to both foods and feeding. To this end, one can seed the tank with a mix of copepods using 5280 Pods. This product can be used as needed to rebuild pod populations if they decline due to heavy predation by hungry aquarium animals. The regular addition of OceanMagik, a premium blend of live phytoplankton, will simultaneously help to keep pod densities high and their nutritional content perfectly balanced.

It is suggested that the keeper sets up a subscription for the 5280 Pods & OceanMagik Phyto Combo as part of the regular maintenance routine to make mandarin goby fish care as easy and inexpensive as possible. Used together in this manner, the right combination of pods and phyto can promote a more ecologically rich, balanced and dynamic habitat not just for your mandarin but for virtually all of your prized fish and invertebrates.

For more information about Biota Palau and their captive breeding efforts, please visit their site at www.biotapalau.com. For more information about Feeding and Keeping a Mandarin Goby using live foods, please read our article on Keeping and Feeding the Mandarin Fishes.

74 thoughts on “Mandarin Goby Fish Care | Using Copepods to keep a Mandarin Dragonet”

  1. I finally upgraded my sump to have a full refuguim instead of an algae reactor to dose pods to be able to get a mandarin


    wish I could have gotten my mandarin on frozen or something. he was so dumb he let himself starve even with pods.

  3. Silver City Reef

    Great topic! This is a great article for anyone who plans to keep Mandarins. Being able to provide a proper & adequate food source is extremely important to all living things.

  4. Ive tried several other dragonette and they have all perished 2 was malnutritioned from the beginning one was eaten by anemone. Really would like a nice specimen to begin fresh

  5. The health care it’s supper important on a fish like this escoecally because most of the coloration come from what they eat you guys make it easy to learn about this fish and all providing all that we need thanks algae barn

  6. I’ve read from some marine biologists that Brine shrimp don’t provide nutritional value to our marine fish. Do you recommend live nano Brine as a part of the standard diet or just to get the fish eating?

  7. Both my Mandarins & my Scooter Blennies love Poisedon’s Feast & the Nano Brine! They also eat frozen foods but they love to hunt pods all day long.

  8. When I started preparing my tank for my very first Mandarin, I bought the 5280 pods. Now I usually add a jar of Tisbe pods once a month & occasionally I throw in some Tigers pods as a special treat. My Mandarin & Scooter Blenny go crazy after those little red dots! haha

  9. Mandarins are definitely my favorite marine fish. They are one of the main reasons I decided to set up a saltwater tank!

  10. Such great information! I would love to get another Mandarin but definitely a captive bred one this time around!

  11. I love 5280 Copepods + Ocean Magik phytoplankton combo. I hope AlgaeBarn begins to have their monthly subscriptions again.

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