mandarin facts

Mandarin Fish Facts – 7 Little known​ Facts

Undeniably the Mandarin fish is one of the most beautiful fish in the ocean, and it is this fact that draws people into keeping them. But, they really are much more than that, so much more than a pretty face! Here, to prove it, are seven little-known facts about this wonderful fish.

1. Mandarin Fish Are Not Just Pretty, They Are Creative Too!

Let’s be honest it can’t be easy to look as good as the Mandarin fish does, can it? Well, probably not, which is kind of confirmed by the fact they are only one of two species to be able to do it.

The vast majority of blue-hued creatures on this planet have to resort to elaborate optical illusions to brighten themselves up. This is done through the microscopic layers of colorless crystals in their skin. These are layered in such a way that they reflect blue light back to any onlooker. This, however, is not how the Mandarin fish does it!

The Mandarin fish, along with its close relative, the psychedelic Mandarin (Synchiropus Picturatus), creates its magnificent hues by producing blue pigmented ‘cyanophones’. These are light-reflecting cells that achieve their vibrant color.

2. Mandarin fish Are Much Harder To Spot Than You Would Think!

With their outstanding beauty and vibrant colors there is no way you could miss seeing the Mandarin fish, right? No, well think again! This species is far tougher to spot in their natural habitat than you would give them credit for.

Green Mandarin Dragonet

Though commonly found throughout their natural habitat the mandarin fish is rather good at hiding. This is not because they choose to do so, however, but rather because they live on the ocean floor and are small. Mandarin fish are little more than 6 centimeters (2.2 inches) in size and live amongst rocks and corals. This means you need to keep your eye out if you want to see one!

3. Mandarin Fish Can Be Beast As Well As Beauty!

The Mandarin fish is not just beauty, it also has several stings in its tail, so to speak. This is not, however, because it is a real bruiser of the aquarium, but rather that it needs them. The Mandarin fish, you see, has no scales and hence no real protection from predators and disease.

Instead, the Mandarin fish has a set of tiny spines that it uses to inject a toxic mucus into its predators. This is most dangerous when it gets into an attackers potential open wound. It also has a thick mucus that covers its skin and protects it from the elements, parasites, and disease.

Furthermore, yes there’s more, the Mandarin fish also gives off a disgusting smell. This, according to scientists, is not incidental, since there is nothing like a pungent smell to put predators off their food!

4. Mandarin Fish Are Timid But Oh So Cute To Watch!

A peaceful fish that is rather timid and will hide themselves under corals or in the sand, the Mandarin fish may be difficult to spot at times. They do not like a bright light, and will not do well with bigger more active and aggressive fish, so shouldn’t be kept with either.

However, Mandarin fish are also a delight to watch when they are out and about and feeling safe. They will be active and carefree and often seen perching or hopping atop corals. They move quickly whilst pulsating their fins reminiscent of a hummingbird.

5. Mandarin Fish Take Part In A Unique Mating Ritual!

In their natural habitat at sunset, female Mandarin fish will make their way to a particular spot in the reef. Here they will wait for the males to arrive and display their courtship behavior. The females then pick their choice of male and rest on their pelvic fin.

Aligning themselves belly to belly the male and female then slowly rise in the water for about a meter above the reef. Once there and at the peak of their ascent, they will then release both eggs and sperm. This creates a cloud into which the Mandarin fish disappear, and when it has gone both male and female will have disappeared. This leaves the fertilized eggs at the mercy of the waters currents.

6. Mandarin Fish Are Fussy Eaters That Take Time To Wean!

In their natural habitat, the Mandarin fish will study its food carefully before it eats. They are fussy, careful, and slow eaters that are not particularly good at finding food. They feed mainly on worms, small snails, fish eggs, and their favorite copepods.

green mandarin dragonet

In the aquarium, it can be difficult to acclimate the Mandarin fish to eat anything other than their natural diet. With time, however, they may accept other live food such as brine shrimp, and frozen food such as mysis. These foods should be introduced slowly alongside copepod which you breed in your tank.

Learn more about Mandarin Fish eating habits and recommended foods.

7. Mandarin Fish Only Really Have One Predator!

Due to their smell, toxic spines, and vibrant colors, the Mandarin fish does not really get predated upon. However, the Scorpionfish will lay in wait and take its chances for the reward of a tasty meal.

Kind of horrifically, the Lionfish will lie in wait for the unsuspecting Mandarin fish, who be partaking in their mating ritual. I suppose there are worse ways to die, but right now, I can’t think of one!

Conclusion: Mandarin Dragonet Fish Facts

These fish are without a doubt one of the most interesting saltwater fish available to the home aquarist. One of my personal favorite fish which I have had my own share of success and failures keeping them.

The majority of failures have been through poor diet and wrong feeding habits. When I first started to keep saltwater fish I added one to a plain fresh and bare aquarium. The fish went into shock and stopped eating which lead to its death.

I soon learned my lesson and didn’t keep another until I had a live, thriving reef-style aquarium which had an abundance of foods. I had a refugium fitted underneath the aquarium where I grew copepods. One of the Mandarin Fishes favorite foods.

I also improved my water conditions by using RO-DI water. Top quality water condition is paramount to their success in a home aquarium and they like all other fish deserve nothing less than perfect water.

For a complete guide to keeping Mandarin Dragonet Fish Click Here!

About the Author

Joanne Burn

Joanne has been keeping fish for many years both freshwater and saltwater and has been writing for fish keeping websites and magazines for even longer. Her fishkeeping knowledge, research and writing skill makes her an essential member of the fishkeeping forever team.