Spotted Mandarin - The Training Process

Discussion in 'Saltwater Fish Forum' started by Fisker, Jul 8, 2019.

  1. Fisker

    FiskerValued MemberMember

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    Hi! I recently had a starving Spotted Mandarin handed to me by my LFS. Basically, they had a pair in stock and were feeding them flakes and mysis... for those of you who know a lot about mandarins, you'll understand why this is bad. For others, let me key you in: these fish are possibly the pickiest fish commonly found in the aquarium hobby, besides seahorses and some pipefish. In the wild, they eat thousands of copepods a day, and that's what sustains them - they've evolved super short digestive tracks, which means that as soon as they eat and absorb a little nutrients from the food, it starts coming out of the body. That's fine in the wild, where pods are everywhere. However, in our tanks, these fish can wipe out even a large tank's pod supply in days or weeks, and they rarely take to frozen foods, and almost never take to dry foods. Most of these fish sadly starve in aquariums. One of the Mandarins in the shop's tank did just that.

    I talked to the store's owner about it and was offered the fish for $5. I told him I'd think about it, and left. I posted on another forum and talked to some people, and was talked into buying the little guy, as I have little to lose, and they're truly a gorgeous fish. I brought him home, and set him up into a QT/training tank. I'm hoping to first train him onto some frozen foods and baby brine shrimp, with pod supplementation from a separate culture I'm trying to get my hands on. Then, the hope will be to get him fat and happy on only frozen foods, pods, and baby brine shrimp fed once a day - he should be able to hunt all day in my main tank, and that should make for a happy fish, assuming that everything goes well.

    The first night, he took frozen bloodworms, but ignored mysis. A win, sure, but not a great one - frozen bloodworms don't have a ton of nutritional value, and on top of that, they pollute the water fast. I think the mysis are just too big for him, so I might try cutting them up before calling it quits on them. Hopefully, he'll take to them. I'm going to be trying oyster eggs (a food usually made for coral and inverts) whenever they arrive in the mail. For now, I'm feeding 3 large meals a day, consisting of bloodworms and mysis shrimp - once in the morning, once at lunch (if I can), and once at night. I'm feeding large amounts, and hoping that the large feedings will sustain him until I can get pods going and baby brine going in at all times of the day.

    He's in a 5.5 gallon with a bit of rock, some macroalgae, and a jar. The jar is a "Mandarin Diner" - basically, a spot where's going to be trained to search for food. When he moves to my DT, he'll be having to compete with other fish for food out in the open. If he knows it's feeding time, the idea is that he's going to swim into the jar, where he'll find his frozen meals laid out for him. Other fish and CUC can get to it, sure, but not as easily as a nimble mandarin can.

    Pics:

    FTS 8 1.

    Mandarin 2 8.

    Mandarin 1 8.
     
  2. NC122606

    NC122606Well Known MemberMember

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    I would love to follow this because I have heard they are very picky eaters! This was the first fish I wanted when looking into saltwater. Good luck!
     
  3. OP
    OP
    Fisker

    FiskerValued MemberMember

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    Thanks!

    Honestly, I'm a bit wary of these fish - I've read so, so many threads about people getting them, getting told that the fish were going to die, and lo and behold, a month or two passes, and the OP either comes back saying "Yeah, you were right." or they never come back at all.

    That said, this is a step forward in my hobby, and if I can make it work, it'll make me feel better about trying OTHER fish I've been terrified of trying in the future... I'm looking at you, dwarf seahorses!
     
  4. Jesterrace

    JesterraceWell Known MemberMember

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    As someone who tried and failed with a Green Mandarin, I get this issue. Sad to say though it's not as simple as getting them on frozen. They still need to feed near constantly during the waking hours in order to have any semblance of a regular life. So unless you plan on being there to feed it near constantly it's not likely to improve. Not trying to be debbie downer here, just trying to be honest about the challenges with these.
     
  5. OP
    OP
    Fisker

    FiskerValued MemberMember

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    Yeah, that's an issue I'm addressing as quickly as I can by trying to get a culture of phytoplankton and pods going. Another thing I'm trying is Paul B's BBS feeder - I'm hatching out my first batch, now.

    This isn't something I had planned on taking on - and as such, things are taking time to bring together. That said, I'm trying to do the best I can, and if it doesn't work out, at least I'll know that I did my best and at least gave the guy a chance that he couldn't have gotten in the shop tank.
     
  6. Jesterrace

    JesterraceWell Known MemberMember

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    Fair Enough. I do wish you luck with it.
     
  7. Thedudeiam94

    Thedudeiam94Well Known MemberMember

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    Wow.. great information! Love what you’ve shared here! Hope for the best for the little guy! Good luck!
     
  8. OP
    OP
    Fisker

    FiskerValued MemberMember

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    Oof - super busy few days. Been working double shifts while I'm changing jobs, so I've been relying on a large EARLY morning feeding, a late morning feeding, and a late night feeding. Here's what's been going on.

    He's doing better. Not great - he's still skinny. But he devoured close to a thousand baby brine today, and got two feedings of bloodworms to boot. I'm hatching more BBS, so he won't get that tomorrow - but I'll do my best to keep some frozen food in his tank. He's still not keen on mysis, but picks at it a bit (and doesn't spit it out). He takes any bloodworms that I put into the tank. However, I THINK I may have found a store that stocks pods. I sent them a message tonight, and expect to hear back in the morning. Hopefully, I'll have a pod culture by tomorrow.

    After testing the Mandarin Diner method, here are some flaws I've found:

    In a BB tank, he doesn't like to swim into the lip of the jar as much, as it's about an inch off the bottom glass. I'd imagine that in a substrate tank you could push the jar down a bit and be fine, but not so much here. I've considered taking some rock rubble or Chaeto and building a ramp, but I'm giving him time.

    When he DOES get into the jar (and it does happen), he doesn't seem to really like any of the frozen foods. I think it's because flow in the jar is non-existent - so they're almost 100% still. I've found that he takes all foods better when pumps are on and when the food is dropped into the macro, so he has to "hunt" a moving target. The only food he really goes after in the jar is BBS, as they all gather in one spot in jar (the top, where light is strongest) and I think the natural feeding response overwhelms his mandarin silliness.

    Once he's ready to leave the jar, he tends to freak out and glass-surf the jar. I think that maybe the refraction of the light makes it hard for him to escape, and despite fish being smarter than we give them credit for, they still don't encounter stuff like a jar with one opening often in their natural habitat. Well, maybe they do... but I don't think this guy ever has!

    Now, after keeping this guy for a little bit, I can definitely see a lot of the things to like and a lot of the things to dislike about Mandarins. He's very interesting to watch, very colorful, very inquisitive, and seems pretty intelligent. However, the maintenance, feedings, and general worry over whether this guy is going to make it has been a lot. I do think I'm gonna give it my best shot to keep him - although I do have my doubts that he'd thrive in my main tank. I'll be looking to make space for an upgrade for this guy - probably a 10 gallon within the next month or so. I'd like to keep him in a bigger tank, and probably will at some point, but I think he might be best served in a smaller tank right now for easier monitoring, and being kept alone to avoid competition.
     
  9. OP
    OP
    Fisker

    FiskerValued MemberMember

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    So - this guy got moved up to a 10 gallon last night. He was honestly fine in the 5.5, with as small as he is, but I had the tank laying around, so why not? Some Caulerpa had started rooting to the silicone in the 5.5 as well, so I was nervous about using it.

    I bought some oyster eggs as well as some decapsulated brine - both of which seem to have been ignored. He might have sampled some of both, but there was definitely no huge feeding response, sadly. Mysis is still in the same boat, as well. Bloodworms are still by far his favorite food, and he's doing well with live BBS. So... I'm thinking I'm going to try to keep up with hatching BBS, as well as mixing in all the foods with the bloodworms, to try my best to get him to take other stuff. I bought a bottle of Tisbe pods, but they were DOA, so I'm still trying to get my hands on those.

    He may have put on a LITTLE weight, but he's definitely not thriving. He is much more active than he was in the store, but I attribute that to the lack of other fish and maybe the short-term energy provided by the bloodworms.

    He also has a single tankmate, now - a small green Bubble Tip Anemone. I bought it today for my main tank, as my puffer has proven to be very reef-safe so far - he ignores all of my corals and basically only goes after snails, shrimp, and the occasional hermit crab. As the anemone was attaching itself to the rock, he swam up and took a bite. Ugh. The nem is fine, it's got a noticeable laceration, but it should definitely heal. It'll live in the 10 gallon until I find something better to do with it. I was planning on doing a pico tank with an anemone, but those plans were kind of bashed due to the health of a family member deteriorating.
     
  10. NC122606

    NC122606Well Known MemberMember

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    Update time??? :)
     
  11. OP
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    Fisker

    FiskerValued MemberMember

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    Not a ton to update on, to be honest.

    I got another bottle of pods, and I think he's eating some - but it's hard to tell, since they're so small. I'm going to give him another couple weeks, and if I can't get him onto a reliable food source, I'm going to give him to a store that can take care of him. I really, really like him, but I'd rather give him up to someone who can keep him alive than keep him for my own enjoyment. I can always try and get one that's weaned onto frozen later, and take my time with setting something up to feed it when I have much more time to spare. I'm afraid I'm just slowly killing this guy.
     
  12. Jesterrace

    JesterraceWell Known MemberMember

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    Honestly the best way to do a mandarin is to have a 75 plus gallon tank with sump loaded with live rock and a well established pod population. This way other than the occasional pod dose it basically is maintenance free. I have been tempted to try one again now that I have a 90 gallon with a sump and a healthy breeding pod population in my chaeto in my sump, but I am wary since I have 2 different wrasses in my tank and want to make 100% sure it's getting enough. Here is what my sump looks like with the pods crawling around in it now though:

     
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