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Mark Martin on Feeding Mandarinfish
Mark Martin is the Direct of Marine Ornamental Research at Blue Zoo Aquatics

Mandarinfishes are some of the most attractive fish in the hobby, but all too often people purchase them not understanding their very specific husbandry needs—especially when it comes to feeding. This week, I therefore want to talk about some tips, tricks and strategies for feeding mandarinfishes that are already weaned onto a captive diet, especially in a crowded aquarium

One approach I really like is to soak frozen or freeze-dried Cyclopeeze in RO water. Once it has soaked, then use a pipette (or even a narrow turkey baster) to place the liquefied food into the crevices of the live rock at the bottom of the tank in places where there is low flow. Because mandarinfishes are near-constant foragers, they will naturally find the trapped food and consume it without being as easily out-competed by other fishes.

Another trick is one that came to me by way of Mathew Wittenrich and Mark Levensen. Again, this approach is great for feeding mandarins in tanks where they may have lots of competition. Essentially, the food—mysids,  Cyclopeeze, Blue Zoo Mix, etc.—is placed in a small jar that is then sunk in the aquarium. This will allow the mandarinfishes to forage relatively undisturbed.

These two tricks can work wonders on feeding mandarinfishes that are already weaned onto a captive diet in crowded reef tanks. If the mandarinfish is not yet weaned onto a captive diet, Matt Wittenrich suggests the following approach as published in Blue Zoo News’ species spotlight article on green mandarinfish (Synchiropus picturatus):

“Spotted mandarins (S. picturatus) are usually ready feeders and require little weaning to get their attention with frozen mysid shrimp,” he says. “Often, spotteds will pick frozen fare from the water column like a butterfly.” Green mandarinfish are somewhat more difficult to wean and require more patience on the part of the aquarist, but they are, in Wittenrich’s experience, well within the reach of the dedicated aquarist.

“The best method I have seen to wean green mandarins was put forth by Matt Pedersen,” Wittenrich says. “He puts newly acquired specimens in a breeder box, feeds them enriched live brine and slowly starts introducing frozen brine and mysids to the regime. Once the mandarins begin accepting the frozen fare, the live stuff is slowly removed from the diet.” Wittenrich feeds Piscince Energetics mysids exclusively to his mandarins. “They love it,” he says, “usually with little weaning.”

Published 22 September 2008. © Blue Zoo Aquatics

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