Synchiropus splendidus (syn. Pterosynchiropus splendidus)

Photos courtesy of Travis Staut, Wrasseguy2, kactusficus and hexedagain

Common Name: Mandarin Dragonet, Psychedelic Mandarin, often incorrectly referred to as a Mandarin Goby (they are not gobies)
Scientific Name: Synchiropus splendidus (syn. Pterosynchiropus splendidus)
Size: ~ 2" - 2.5"
Origin: The mandarinfish is native to the Western Pacific ranging approximately from the Ryukyu Islands south to Australia
Natural Habitat: Generally found at depths of 1-20 m, preferring sheltered lagoons and inshore reefs. Generally peaceful, but can be territorial toward similar species. Pairs have been known to breed in captivity (see picture below)
Feeding Requirements: Despite their popularity in the aquarium trade, mandarinfish are considered difficult to keep as their feeding habits are very specific. Some fish never adapt to aquarium life, refusing to eat anything except live amphipods and copepods (as in the wild). Since these fish are grazers, greatest success in aquaria is shown when sufficient live food is available. Individuals that do acclimatize to aquarium food are considered to be quite hardy.
Difficulty Rating:
(1 = easy - 5 = hard)
3 or 5 – In the right aquarium with sufficient live food, moderately difficult. In the wrong aquarium without adequate life rock and live food, very difficult..
Aggressiveness Rating:
(1 = shy - 5 = nasty)
2- Generally a peaceful fish, but can be territorial and fight among their own species or similar species of the same sex..
Captive Requirements: Temperature range: 72-84° F. Specific gravity: 1.023-1.026. Can be kept singly, in pairs or in groups. Very hardy fish in captivity in the right tank with sufficient live food.
Optional Requirements: A 75-gallon tank or larger is recommended with many hiding places. Ideally a mature tank with a minimum of 75 lbs of live rock (not base rock). A refugium teaming with pods would be a huge source of live food for this fish, steadily providing nourishment as those pods make it into the main display.
Reef Tank Compatible: Yes – a great addition to reef aquariums. Will often swim in the open once comfortable with its surroundings. Will hunt constantly looking for copepods and amphipods.
Notes: One of my favorite all time fish They are very active and enjoyable to watch. Some are more reclusive than others.
They tend to sleep on the sand during the night, and may turn very pale and even become half-submerged. This is normal, nothing to fear.
These fish are highly resistant to diseases such as ich. They can not contract the disease Ichthyophthirius because they do not have the skin type that this common aquarium disease affects.
You can identify a male mandarin by the long dorsal spine that rises up on its back; the female has no such spike. Keep in mind that a male's spike may have broken off due to fighting or handling, so look closely when trying to pair them.
Further Reading: The Magical Mandarins by Steve Norvich
Diving with Mandarinfish
National Geographic
Reefslides - Mandarin Medley
Mandarin Diner

Note: All of the above information has been compiled from various sources and should be used as a guideline, not a hardfast rule. Use caution when selecting animals for your own tank and research as much as possible before purchasing any animals. Remember that certain corals and fish are very hard to keep if their special requirements are not met. The information contained here is to help you make an informed decision. The author assumes no responsibility for any consequences that may arise from the use of this information.

Fish Profile: Mandarinfish, Synchiropus splendidus by Steve Norvich -