Mandarins, are they really a difficult fish? Yes, they are. They need more attention than almost any other fish in your tank due to their feeding habits which I will get into later. They have great personality and are great to watch among our reef setups.
Purchasing-Many mandarins starve in our tanks and the LFS
's tanks due to lack of food in these tanks. A mature tank, at least 6 months old is best. Even better if you have 75lbs. of live rock and an established refugium full of pods
. Please consider these before you buy a mandarin and don't think that since it is only $15-$30 that you can just go buy another one after it dies of starvation. A semi-plump/fat mandarin is best to purchase as the skinny starving ones are usually too far gone to bring back. After aclimating, it is best to use a cup to transfer them from container to display tank.
Feeding-As I said before, their diet consists mainly of pods
. There are ways to train them to prepared foods. It is best that as I said before, you have at least 75lbs. of live rock in an established tank with an established refugium. Some may accept prepared foods right away, and some may only take pods
to begin with. When you buy the mandarin, also buy a net breeder and some vitamin enriched brine shrimp. Aclimate the mandarin as you would any other fish, then transfer the mandarin from the container to the net breeder. Then, melt half a cube of the vitamin enriched brine and soaked it in a garlic food soak for about half an hour. After the food soak, place the brine in a syringe, remove the needle, attached a piece of airline tubing to the syringe and squirt a bit of brine into the net breeder. Make sure there is water movement, but not too much so the brine moves a bit so the mandarin seems interested. At first it may not eat, but after a few tries, the mandarin should realize that the brine is food. If this does not work, you may want to try live brine, freshly hatched is best I have heard. This process may take up to a week, maybe even two weeks. After about a week or two, you will want to try to get the mandarin eating other foods than just brine, such as mysis, or mysis with a mix of Rod's to get a better diet with a little variety. Make sure there are no competitive eaters in the tank either or your mandarin may have some trouble getting food.
Compatibility-Mandarins of the same gender generally will fight to death, so males don't mix with males and females don't mix with females. A male and a female are fine in the same tank. If keeping both a male and a female, it is best that they are introduced at different times, maybe a month apart. Then, when adding the second mandarin, make sure the second mandarin is bigger than the one that is already in the tank. This is just to reduce aggression. Different species of mandarins don't mix either, so don't go mixing a spotted and a green or you won't have a pretty ending. Some gobies and wrasses may pick on mandarins.
If you have any other information, pictures, stories, etc.... to add, please feel free to do so.
I hope this helps.