ORA Resumes Captive-Bred Dragonet Offerings

03 Apr, 2020

"They're Back!" shouted ORA on a recent social media post showcasing a return to the captive production of the Spotted Mandarin Dragonet, Synchiropus picturatus.

“They’re Back!” shouted ORA on a recent social media post showcasing a return to the captive production of the Spotted Mandarin Dragonet, Synchiropus picturatus.

Continuing our coverage from the 2020 Global Pet Expo, we can report that Florida-based Oceans, Reefs & Aquariums (ORA), a long-standing commercial breeder of marine ornamental fish, has ramped up their game for the 2020 season. They have a plethora of new offerings and are revisiting past species that hadn’t previously found commercial success. ORA is proving that their staff of marine fish breeders are capable of meeting the growing demand for a wide range of captive-bred marine aquarium fishes, leaving almost no challenge unmet (at this point, I think Tangs are the only outstanding item).

 

Tiny captive-bred Spotted Mandarins (Synchiropus picturatus) flitted about an ORA display tank at the 2020 Global Pet Expo.

Tiny captive-bred Spotted Mandarins (Synchiropus picturatus) flitted about an ORA display tank at the 2020 Global Pet Expo.

Among the dozen display tanks set up by ORA, one focused squarely on timid, slow-feeding fishes, highlighting ORA’s production of both seahorses and a return to their prior offerings of multiple dragonet species. At the Expo, ORA intends to resume offering captive-bred Scooter Blennies (Synchiropus ocellatus), Green Mandarins (S. splendidus), and the Spotted Mandarinfish (S. picturatus). Other species and varieties may also see a return to commercial cultivation in the near future.

Captive bred Red Scooter Dragonets (Synchiropus stellatus) may soon return to market through ORA efforts.

Captive-bred Red Scooter Dragonets (Synchiropus stellatus) may soon return to market through ORA efforts.

Long-time aquarists might remember ORA’s prior introduction of captive-bred dragonets. They’ve actually bred five Dragonet species (add S. stellatus and S. sycorax to the previously mentioned species) and even the rare “red” variant of the green mandarin (S. splendidus). The ORA offerings came and went without finding success in the marketplace. Damning rumors circulated that the fish wouldn’t feed, which may have soured consumer acceptance of the cutting-edge offering.

Both in the past and now again, ORA is the only active producer of captive-bred Spotted Mandarins for the aquarium market.

Both in the past and present, ORA has been the only active producer of captive-bred Spotted Mandarins for the aquarium market.

In truth, ORA’s dragonets had no problem eating prepared foods, including pellets, but consumer expectations were unrealistically high; many expected that a captive-bred dragonet would be a ravenous, aggressive feeder capable of competing against other highly active reef fishes in an all-out feeding melee. Aquarists forgot the simple lessons that captive-bred seahorses should have taught us: captive breeding can bring a fish onto prepared foods, but it doesn’t fundamentally change the behavior or care requirements of the fish in question. In the case of captive-bred dragonets, it’s not magic; they remain the slow, methodical, bottom-picking substrate feeders that they always were.

This tiny captive-bred "Scooter Blenny", Synchiropus ocellatus, may be one of the best captive-bred dragonets to attempt, as this species is generally a little less fussy than its more gaudy relatives. Note the aquarium gravel for a sense of scale; specimens will be grown larger before heading to market.

This tiny captive-bred “Scooter Blenny,” Synchiropus ocellatus, may be one of the best captive-bred dragonets to attempt, as this species is generally a little less fussy than its more gaudy relatives. Note the aquarium gravel for a sense of scale; specimens will be larger before they head to market.

That said, when I was speaking with ORA representatives about the captive-bred dragonets on display at the 2020 Global Pet Expo, they were clear that they intend to grow the fish to a larger size, and every fish released will be feed exclusively on appropriately-sized pellet foods. From my perspective, the aquarium hobby wasn’t quite ready for the release of captive-bred Dragonets from ORA the first time around. Maybe this time we can all have more realistic expectations.

Not as eager to show off, small captive-bred Green Mandarins (S. splendidus) were on display as well.

Not as eager to show off, small captive-bred Green Mandarins (S. splendidus) were on display as well.

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About the author

Matt Pedersen
Matt Pedersen

Matt Pedersen is a Sr. Editor and Associate Publisher with Reef To Rainforest Media, LLC & CORAL Magazines, and is a Sr. Editor and Publishing Partner with Aquatic Media Press, LLC & AMAZONAS Magazine. Matt has kept aquariums for 38 years, has worked in most facets of the aquarium trade, is an active aquarist and fish breeder (both marine and freshwater), and was recognized with the 2009 MASNA Award as the MASNA Aquarist of the Year.

5 Comments

  1. April 10, 2020

    There is need for better info for owners of all dragnets on how to sussesfully breed Copepods on a scale to keep these types of fish live
    The same old ways of breeding pods is not good enough
    Con you source good info for us all?

    • Matt Pedersen
      April 12, 2020

      Paul, captive-bred mandarins should not require any copepods, amphipods, or live foods of any kind. They should be fully weaned onto prepared foods by the time you’re acquiring them. The problem people have with captive-bred Mandarins is that they think they will suddenly become bold feeders who can compete with their tangs and angels…they cannot and never will. Look into things like feeding stations or Marc Levenson’s “Mandarin Diner”, and know that if you intentionally feed the mandarins, they can flourish. Check out our “Dragonets” issue from several years back, I believe my “Rethinking Dragonets” will give you a number of good husbandry tips that work well whether we’re talking wild dragonets or captive-bred ones.

  2. April 10, 2020

    I find that the spotted mandarins accept non-liviving food such as frozen brine shrimp amd red worms much better than the green mandarins. I have one that has lived over several years. As long as there is live rock that the food can hang onto, they are fine.

    And more info as to how to get different types of mandarins to accept non-life food would be great.

  3. April 17, 2020

    Great news! I just wish ORA sold directly to the public online. I’ve wanted a captive bred mandarin for some time, but the other website that breeds and sells them sells out very fast! I’d love to have some ORA lyretail anthias as well!

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