Breeding the Spotted Mandarin
14 Jul, 2008
You Can’t Breed the Greens without Trying the Spotteds
By Matthew L. Wittenrich
After a 14-year hiatus of keeping mandarins, I must admit, they are slowly creeping up on my list of favorite fish.
Having met success in rearing large numbers of the Green Mandarin, Synchiropus splendidus, I decided to try the Spotted Mandarin, Synchiropus picturatus.
My motivation is being driven partly by photography; I have a vision. You know the images of dozens of Tridacna clams in different colors and sizes, squished together with their mantles touching? Yep, I want a picture of mandarins; Greens and Spotteds, all captive-raised and squished together to form a puzzle your grandfather couldn’t figure out. A picture that says “Wow”.
Coolest Fish in the House
But, as always, a vision is far from the final product, so I thought I would share a bit of my struggle to get the image. It hasn’t happened yet, but I am hopeful and continue to snap some shots along the way.
Though somewhat similar to the Greens, Spotteds offer something entirely different. At first, it is the color and psychedelic pattern of this fish that commands attention. Mint green with orange bullseyes, a striking fish for sure. But, after a time, it is their personality that shines through and earns them a spot on the list of family favorites. Both species of mandarins are undeniably popular in the aquarium trade, but recently, my Spotteds hold the rank of coolest fish in the house.
The spotted mandarins sleep together, perched in the same rock, every night. They forage the tank side by side and are quite active in hunting frozen foods from the water column. Spotteds seem a bit easier to train to frozen fare and often take frozen mysids straight out of the pet shop.
I am bit embarrassed, more for my pocketbook than anything, but I have spent a small fortune on obtaining a few healthy pairs of spotted mandarins. Potential broodstock choices are always limited at local fish shops and most mandarins available are emaciated.
The degree of emaciation varies widely, but most are hurting for sure. I was successful in bringing a few really skinny females back to good health using live mysids to boost them up quickly, but lost quite a few that just couldn’t seem to get their energy back. My favorite pair of Spotted Mandarins was given to me by two ambitious undergrad students at Florida Tech. Tim Morrissey and Ian Macdonald have formed quite a few pairs of spawning fish, including Marine Bettas (Comet), and left them in my care over the summer.
I took the pair of Spotted Mandarins home to a 28-gallon tank, fed them well and left them alone. Within a month they began rising into the water column, side by side, under the actinic lights.
The first spawn was very small, maybe 50 or so eggs. I collected them in a small cup and brought them to the lab to incubate and try my hand at rearing. Well, I accidentally spilled the cup and most of the eggs onto the floor. I dumped the remaining 3 eggs into a tank full of Green Mandarins and thought it would a neat surprise if they hit metamorphosis.
A few days ago, they spawned again. This time, I made sure not to spill them and was able to capture the process of eggs developing, hatching, and the larvae developing. It’s one small step among many to bring a tank full through.
More to come…[Update: See When do Spotted Mandarins Get Their Spots?]