Striped Mandarinfish: Characteristics, types, care and more….

The Striped Mandarinfish, Gobies Mandarin or Synchiropus Splendidus in scientific terms, is a small and brightly colored member of the dragonet family, which is very popular in the saltwater aquarium trade.

Their habitat ranges from the southern islands of Japan to the southern Australian, and are also found in areas such as the Philippines, Malaysia, Micronesia, New Caledonia, Palau, New Guinea, Solomon Island and Taiwan.

The Striped Mandarinfish was first described under the name Callionymus splendidus in 1927 by Albert William Herre, a U.S.-born ichthyologist working in the Philippines.

Then placed in the genus Synchiropu, the common name of Mandarin fish comes from their extremely vivid coloration, evoking the robes of an imperial Chinese Mandarin.

TaxonomyStriped Mandarinfish: taxonomy

Kingdom: Animalia Phylum: Chordata Class: Actinopterygii Order: Perciforms Family: Callionymidae Gender: Synchiropus Species: S. splendidus

Striped Mandarinfish: Main Traits

The Striped Mandarinfish is quite suitable for marine aquariums.

This tropical fish is very attractive because of its morphology and coloration, from which it takes its name: Mandarin fish, due to its resemblance to the robes of Chinese imperial officers. Its lack of scales is also curious.

For diving lovers, watching the mating of this species is a total spectacle, although you have to be willing to dive at sunset.

They are peaceful and suitable for a Community marine aquarium, in which there should be no more males of their species, as they are very territorial.


They are small fish whose cylindrical and devoid of scales body doesn’t measure more than 8 centimeters.

Their skin is covered in a film of foul-smelly and toxic fat, which aims to repel their potential predators. Synchiropus Splendidus  contains two types of secretary cells in its colorful epidermis:  one that produces a thick mucus coating to protect it from the elements, and another that produces a toxin to protect it from predators.

And not only is this toxic mucus coating dangerous, particularly if it makes it into a predator’s open wound, but reportedly, it smells disgusting.

In its broad and depressed head, we find a small protractile mouth, in which you can find several rows of very fine teeth. Also striking and distinctive are their bulging eyes, and their dorsal fin divided in two.

This is a fish that moves along the seabed, as evidenced by its ventral fins, adapted to facilitate its movement through the substrate.

However, their most striking trait which makes stripped mandarin fish a species of such demand is their coloration with green skin bottom and stripes in different colors: orange, blue, red and even yellowish. we invite you to read our article the anatomy of fish to learn more about such an interesting topic..

Sexual dimorphism

Sexual dimorphism is very evident since males have a dorsal fin larger than females; the first radius measures twice as much in males as in females.

Moreover, males also have a much brighter coloration than females.

Interesting Aspects about Striped Mandarinfish

This little fish not only impresses with their wonderful colors, but also with the following data:

Their colors recall the spectacular tunics of the Chinese

The unpleasant odor characteristic of the cover of their skin frightens predators.

Striped mandarin fish are threatened by overfishing; they are wanted for their breeding in     aquariums.

 √ They are very calm and like to bury themselves in the sand.

Let’s watch them

Striped Mandarinfish: Distribution and Habitat

Striped mandarin fish are native to the Pacific Ocean, in the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia and Australia.

They usually live in coral reefs, always near the seabed, (between 1 and 18 meters deep) where they commonly feed.

Their ideal temperature range is 24 to 26ºC, preferring protected lagoons and coastal reefs, although they are slow and quite common within their habitat , Striped mandarin fish aren’t  easy to see due to their bottom feeding habits and small size.

What do striped Mandarinfish Feed On?

Striped Mandarinfish are omnivorous fish which feed on non-insect arthropods (such as amphipods and isopods), small worms, and microbes (protozoa).

In the aquarium this species is basically carnivorous, although dead food must be the one provided. We can reach this goal using live artemia, and gradually mix it with dead one.

It’s more than convenient to introduce it in mature aquariums, which have benthic fauna and worms to provide food.

Behavior and Compatibility

Striped Mandarinfish are calm fish, which completely ignore other species. However, they are very territorial, since they don’t admit that there is another male specimen in the same aquarium, which is totally contrary in the case of being females the ones who accompany them.

How Do Striped Mandarinfish Reproduce?

Reproduction occurs throughout the year and may be weekly. Spawning occurs in areas of the reef where small groups of males and females meet at night.

Mating occurs when the male and female release sperm and eggs respectively; each female spawns only once each night and can spend a few days without spawning.

Larger and stronger males tend to mate more frequently because there seems to be a sexual preference on the part of females for large males, this species is polygamous and they are pelagic spawners.

It’s considered feasible to reproduce this species in captivity, for theoretical purposes its possible way of reproducing is explained: After a long parade in a circular shape, (shortly before dusk), the couple will go up to the surface of the water, where the female will lay the eggs and the male the sperm. The laying ranges between 12 and 205 eggs and in two weeks the fry will hatch.


Mandarin fish have a short incubation time and the larvae are small and develop rapidly. The eggs measure 0.7 to 0.8 mm in diameter, are colorless, spherical and pelagic. They are initially grouped together and then slowly divided into smaller units.

The eyes are pigmented and the mouth develops well 36 hours after fertilization during the flexion phase, which occurs after approximately 8 or 11 days have elapsed.

Let’s enjoy them again


Breeding Stripedmandarinfish in Aquariums

Mandarin fish have a preference for filamentous green algae. It’s essential that an aquarium with live rock and a generous layer of sand be provided.

It must also be provided with benthic fauna with worms or crustaceans that serve as food. It must have enough space, around 70 liters per fish.

The pH of the water should be alkaline, with a salinity of 1025.

They tend to be calm, shy and lonely and have more activity at night.

It’s important to emphasize that striped mandarinfish  don’t tolerate excessive amounts of nitrates in the water.

The fish tank should have a dimly lit background. With optimal conditions, they can last up to 7 years in captivity

Some water parameters to take into account

Phosphate <0.05mg / l, (zero is ideal)

Calcium: 400 to 475 mg / l,

Magnesium: 1200 to 1350 mg / l,

Dissolved oxygen :> 6.90 mg / L

Carbon dioxide <2.0 mg / L,

Other considerations

The water should be at a tropical temperature, between 24 and 26 degrees.

Make sure the water doesn’t contain ammonia or nitrites.

There should be little lighting in the background.

As for food, they usually eat small live crustaceans such as worms. Therefore, it’s convenient that you place in the aquarium mature reefs, sand and abundant live rocks, since they hide there.

Keep in mind that Mandarin Fish should only be placed in mature aquariums, that is, the aquarium should be more than one year old. During that time a large fauna of crustaceans and worms will have been cultivated.

If you want to accustom it to dead food, you must do it gradually, for this, you can give it some live artemia and mix it with dead artemia.

If you are going to add other fish, you should know that they don’t get along very well with competitive and fast fish, since they take away all the food, before striped mandarinfish grab it

Since they are calm fish, mandarin fish can live with other of their same species, although they will hardly tolerate other male mandarinfish. We invite you to read our article fish for fish tanks to learn all what you need about conditioning aquariums

Striped Mandarinfish and other fish: Compatibility

Mandarin fish is better maintained with other docile fish like clown trigger fish. 

However, they can live well in large tanks with more aggressive species, as long as they have enough space to eat

When to buy striped mandarinfish?

It’s not recommended that this species be purchased as soon as we start in the aquarium hobby, since they are very demanding in terms of food; even more if it’s a specimen captured in the ocean.

The most convenient is to introduce it in the aquarium when it has already matured at least 9 months, ideally in 12 months.

This so that the aquarium has a benthic fauna (organisms that inhabit the bottom of aquatic ecosystems) enough to provide them with food; more importantly, there is no other fish that feeds in the same way than striped mandarinfish since we would have to wait longer to introduce them.

Let’s enjoy them again

Other Species Of Mandarinfish

Let’s learn more about this interesting family

Synchiropus picturatus: Spotted mandarinfish

It’s frequent to see it in tropical waters of the western Indo-Pacific.

Its body is elongated and greenish coloration predominates. They have numerous dark spots of different sizes that in turn are surrounded by an orange coloration and a more intense blue-green; these small circles can acquire other shades of color.

Their head is small, their eyes big and their snout quite pronounced.

Synchiropus picturatus has a small mouth, adapted to easily capture the food they eat.  Males have been described larger than female specimens, and their coloration is more striking.

Red Mandarin (Synchiropus cf. splendidus)

The red mandarin (Synchiropus cf. splendidus) is a variation of the striped or mandarinfish (Synchiropus splendidus).

The head and body of the red mandarin dragonet are a mazelike combination of blue, orange, and red. Male red dragonets may be distinguished from females by their extra-elongated first dorsal spine.

Quarantine Tank

It’s very important to place each new fish in a quarantine tank 4 to 6 weeks before introducing it to the main aquarium with other healthy fish. Keep in mind that even if the new fish seems healthy, it could still have a disease either of nature or sea ​​transport stress.

If a new fish is carrying a disease, but does not show obvious signs yet, there is a risk that every healthy fish in the main aquarium gets infected.

It’s known about entire populations of  aquarium fish that are eliminated because of the marine ich known by its scientific name Cryptocaryon irritans.

We also have the velvet disease (Amyloodynium), and Brooklynella that develop due to the lack of a proper quarantine procedure. These diseases infect the gills and skin of the fish, if left untreated, resulting in death in 2 or 3 days.

Another good reason to quarantine fish is that most have traveled thousands of kilometers before being placed in the distributor’s tanks.

The newly transported fish are in a weakened state and when they enter a tank of healthy and robust fish, the newcomers will hide for several days and won’t be able to eat well or avoid the other fishes’ harassment .Quarantine helps these new fish to feed and regain their strength.

Quarantine Tank Configuration

It’s not necessary for a quarantine tank to be sophisticated; all you need is a cheap glass or acrylic tank between 10 and 15 gallons. It’s also not necessary that the quarantine aquarium be decorated, with live rock, sand or gravel.

Some cut PVC pipe rings can act as a hiding place for fish, which will give them a sense of security.

Quarantine tank: new fish

The water for the quarantine tank can be salt water from your main tank. Most importantly, you should have a piece of filter sponge or foam that has been in your main tank for a couple of weeks.

It must be placed in the quarantine tank to provide the tank with a source of nitrifying bacteria so that the ammonia produced by the fish can quickly decompose to nitrate.

An Ammonia warning badge would be also very useful for monitoring ammonia.

You must own an air and stone pump for your Mandarin fishes’ quarantine. If you are concerned that the water doesn’t receive enough oxygen, use a power filter and an air pump.

It will also be necessary for you to monitor the temperature in your tank with a thermometer; a good temperature range for a quarantine tank should be between 26 to 28 degrees C.

Use a heater if the water gets too cold and a cooling fan to increase evaporation if the tank tends to run too hot, but be sure to control the water level on a daily basis. Too much evaporation in a small body of water like A 10 gallon tank leads to higher salinity.

A quarantine tank should only be configured when it’s planned to be used to quarantine newcomers. After the fish complete their quarantine, the tank can be emptied, cleaned and stored away.

Fish Introduction

It’s very important to acclimatize the fish slowly, to the water in the quarantine tank to avoid osmotic shock.

This occurs when a fish doesn’t  gradually acclimatize to the water in its new environment and there is a PH difference between the water in the transport bag and the water in the quarantine tank. This type of aquarium also serves other fish such as Amazonian records

Some aquarists routinely subject the fish to hyposalinity or freshwater immersion before acclimatizing them to the quarantine tank.  This is completely unnecessary and only puts the fish under extreme stress.

Freshwater dives should only be used when the fish has developed obvious signs of illness such as ich, in which case a freshwater dive may be necessary to save its life.

The life cycle of parasites that cause diseases such as marine infection is approximately 6 weeks or 40 days realistically.

To keep your main display tank free of ich, all new fish must be quarantined for the full 6 weeks during which they must be disease free.

If the quarantine mandarin fish is really infected, the symptoms of the disease will have appeared during this period of time and the fish can be treated accordingly. Once the fish recovers and no longer shows signs of disease, the quarantine period should be extended for another 6 weeks.


It’s normal for some fish to hide during the first two days in quarantine. It’s a good practice to get away from the quarantine tank after dropping a few bites of food into the water to encourage the fish to go out and eat. Remove any leftover food from the siphon, as the water gets dirty and can lead to a possible peak of ammonia.

Once the fish gets used to its surroundings, it should be fed only once a day and only the amount that the fish will consume. Avoid feeding with flakes in a quarantine tank, as it tends to contaminate water very quickly.

Immersion of foods such as dry Mysis or dry pellets soaked in Garlic Guard will help boost the fish’s immune system.

Water changes

It’s a good idea to change 10% of the water in the quarantine tank every 3 days, this helps prevent the accumulation of ammonia that could kill the fish.

It’s suggested to use the water from the main tank for this purpose, replacing the water in the main aquarium with freshly made salt water, of course.

Remember that the quarantine tank does not have a mature biological filter and must be treated with care as regards regular water changes and careful feeding.

Let’s keep learning about quarantine tanks


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