I picked up a male Green Mandarin on Saturday, was supposed to be a pair, but they received 2 males so I'm waiting for my female.
This past Feb I picked up a Green Mandarin & trained it within about 2 weeks onto prepared food. Unfortunately, I went away for a few days and a hardware issue led
to its demise. So, with no predicted travel in the next month, I'm going to do it again.
My setup has 135 gallons net volume in mixed reef, refugium, rock reservoir & sump. I'd estimate about 225+ lbs of rock between the tank, reservoir & refugium. I have 2 clowns, a hippo tang, yellow tang, yellow watchman & 5 PJ Cardinals. I just ousted my sixline wrasse in preparation for the addition.
Since Saturday, the male mandarin has been hanging out in a 30 gal
QT, which I've kept stocked with freshly hatched brine shrimp. This is pre training prep - fatten him up ASAP. The tank gets its light from my culture station behind its back corner, this has caused a swarm of brine attracted to the light and he's been parked there eating nonstop for 48 hours now. A true all you can eat buffet!
For what it's worth, hatching brine cysts is super easy, cheap and when I fed some to my DT, they went nuts for it. I've never seen cardinals so hyper. The shrimp are being fed to the tanks within 12 hours of hatching to maintain peak nutritional value. I have a batch on now, leftovers, that I'm trying to grow out & enrich as well.
The next step in the process will be to move the mandarin into a hang on breeder box to start the actual training. The purpose of this is to allow for more direct observation and a more controlled environment. I expect some live food to enter from the QT, and that will be a good supplement, but I want him to be a little hungry to increase the chances to accept prepared food.
The first prepared food will be enriched frozen brine shrimp soaked in vitamins & garlic. Several times a day I will add a small amount & observe. The breeder box uses an air pump to push small amounts of water into the box, this helps keep small items in suspension due to the churning nature and may make the frozen brine appear more alive.
The next step will be mixing frozen brine with a very small prepared "fry food". Then we will move to fry food mixed with Reef Pearls - a small pellet coral food. Then we will move to .5mm or 1mm sinking pellets. Once he is taking pellets regularly, hopefully within 2 weeks, off to the DT he goes.
While I am stocking the tank with pods
I have culturing, in my opinion, training is the only way to go to increase odds of long term success. The high mortality rate of these fish is absurd and if you take into account that the are successfully bred in captivity, there's little reason for this.
From here on out I will be documenting my experiences in hopes that others can learn and we can increase the survivability if these creatures.
For what it's worth, my hardware investment for this training is as follows:
Air pump - $10
Airline - $5
Brine Cysts - $10
Breeder Box - $20
Pop bottles are used to house the brine & Phyto cultures, an old salt bucket for the pods
and everything else was laying around.
It's not expensive, it's not difficult and its not time consuming, but it will give you peace if mind knowing your prized mandarin has a ready source of food.