Mandarin fish are small, vibrant members of the dragonet family and are some of the most beautiful fish in the ocean. Underwater photographers love to capture these stunning creatures on film and unfortunately due to their beauty these fish have also become popular in the saltwater aquarium trade, where they are taken from the ocean and put into small, unnatural aquariums.
Mandarin fish do not have scales like other fish but have a slimy and foul-smelling skin that many predators find unpleasant. Their beauty comes from the mesmerizing patterns on their skin – bright oranges, greens, blues and yellows appear in swirls, waves and dots of all varieties.
Mandarin fish can often be seen making use of coral reefs as shelter in very shallow waters. They feed on small worms and crustaceans such as benthic copepods, amphipods, mysids, isopods and protozoans.
Mandarin Fish Mating Video
The most sought after time to see mandarin fish is around sunset, when up to 5 females will travel to a certain area of the reef to meet a group of males who will perform their mating displays. If a mate is found, the two fish come together with the female resting on the pectoral fin of the male. Their mating dance involves rising together up to a metre above the reef, perfectly in sync, where the sperm and eggs are released in a split second climax and the fish instantly separate and disappear. Divers who have witnessed this beautiful event are truly lucky.
The Mandarinfish (Synchiropus splendidus) is an extremely small fish that has very bright and pretty colour markings. It is a tropical species that is distributed throughout the Western Pacific from the Ryukyu Islands to Australia. It can be found hiding in amongst the soft corals of coral reefs and living amongst broken reef rubble. It is generally an orange or orangish brown with broad curved bands that are coloured green and blue.
The Mandarinfish is a very popular fish with aquarium collectors and is highly sought after for display in private aquariums. Many images that you see of the Mandarinfish in fish books and magazines make it look quite large but it is very rare for this species to grow beyond 5cm.