Updates on a Mandarin Fish in a Nano
By Josh Day
If you're interested in keeping a mandarin fish in a ten gallon tank, please see my in-depth article here.
Several weeks ago the editor from Tropical Fish Hobbyist magazine contacted me and asked if I would be interested in writing an article about nanos and mandarins for their publication. I happily accepted and am pleased to announce the article will be coming out in February 2007. So be sure to pick up the February issue of TFH and check out the story.
As for the mandarin, he is doing wonderfully and is staying fit. But don't take my word for it; check out the pic below.
We have been in our new house for two months now and the mandarin is still with us.
Healthy and well fed and very much alive I'm pleased to say.
I had not fed the nano tank for three or four days prior to the move. When I broke down the ten gallon reef and got the mandarin in his bucket with the clownfish, it was very obvious he was not in good shape. Very skinny with a hollow stomach. And to make matters worse, once he hit the bucket, he would not move at all.
I was pretty sure he was done for and would not make the move.
Fortunately I was wrong. After I set the tank back up, he was back to his usual self within an hour.
I've found a new trick for "gut loading" him on pods. I keep my magnetic scrubber in the tank, and the pods congregate on the scrubbing surface pressed against the glass. I break the magnetic lock and hover the outside magnet an inch away from the scrubber, letting the mandarin cruise up and down to feast.
Obviously, I'm very careful not to get startled cause I could easily squish him if the two slammed back together!
2006, green mandarin in a ten gallon nano still A-OK
Nothing new to report. This is good, of course, but I have some future plans in the works for the mandarin as well as this whole project...
I may be moving soon to an actual house. I'd like to upgrade the tank to a 20 gallon long and add an HOB refugium chocked full of chaeto, scrubber pads, and small pieces of live rock, while keeping a healthy flow.
I feed approximately 1/2 teaspoon of roe every other day (off days cyclopeeze), rinsed in tank water to get most of the unnatural dye before it hits the tank. Pods are visible in the tank at night so a steady number appear to coexist with the mandarin. I supplement sometimes from my vase, which is crawling with pods, by swapping out a pourous rock of ugly starburst polyps and zoanthids.
Immediately I started a daily roe feeding program. In three days he was back to himself... full stomach, no trace of lines on the side. A healthy mandarin looks chubby, like a fat muppet from Sesame Street, and when you see his stomach on the underside it should either be flush with his body or slightly rotund.
The daily feedings
of rich foods like roe obviously take a toll on the tank. I do weekly
water changes, 1-2 gallons, which is about 20% due to the live rock
and sand that takes up some of the volume. Nitrate has not once tipped
over 5... actually it has never registered on my test kit, and I hope
to keep it that way. However, green hair algae is a constant problem,
thanks to the high nutrient content and dosing of phytoplankton, but
the water changes and chaeto macro I keep in the tank seem to keep it
in relative check.
I took three pods from the main tank and dropped them into the pico vase. I did this a month ago, and the vase is filled with pods now. So far I haven't needed to harvest them for the main tank, but if that time comes, they are here.
The mandarin continues to eat roe and Cyclo-peeze with relish. I also believe he's eating mysis.
I'd take some new pictures, but he hasn't changed really at all from the last shots.
Compare the image to your left and the two below to the picture at the top of this page. You can clearly see how emaciated the first mandarin was. Note the lines in his abdomen as he was curved about, and then look at the pics below where you cannot see a line or pinched stomach at all.
He's begun eating Cyclo-peeze in addition to the roe.
I'm going to try to wean him onto mysis and Formula 1 as well. I tried yesterday with mysis, and he didn't seem interested in the slightest. I may have more luck with Formula 1 because it's easier to mix it with the roe. The Formula 1 also settles on the bottom.
Another point of interest is the pods appear to be returning. Last night and this morning at dawn I checked the tank with a flashlight, and they were scurrying about, everywhere. On a whole, they were all pretty large too. This makes me wonder. Does the population naturally wax and wan as I had hypothesized before? Has the mandarin not pursued the pods as virolently due to his new diet? Or is this the results of the 2 bottles of Seapods I put in a few weeks ago?
I doubt I'll ever be able to answer any one of those questions definititvely. There doesn't seem to be an exact science with pods. Then again, this mandarin project is pretty far from exact science.
No more speculation--finally, I can venture into the realm of fact. This mandarin happily and greedily consumes roe, the orange fish eggs scattered atop sushi rolls. He slurps them off the sand, off the rocks, and even gobbles clusters of them. By many accounts, these fish can only eat small portions at a time, but mine devoured every last orange ball he could find and was hungry for more. This may be because he hasn't eaten much in several days (he wiped out the podulation), and once he gets in trim shape, he may settle down and not go after the roe with such zeal.
I can't really express how exciting it was to witness this fish finally eating.
Now for some questions I'm going to look into.
Will roe sustain a mandarin indefinitely? I need to look up the nutrtional content of roe. Also, I'd like to find a brand that doesn't have sugar or soy or other crap, even though most fish foods contain soybean in some form.
Good news is I won't have to rely solely on pods, though I plan to buy a bottle or two every month.
Other questions... do other mandarins eat roe as well? I'll have to contact an LFS that carries multiple fish and see if they'd be willing to try feeding them roe. Now that I know for a fact he is eating something I can supply in abundance, I can finally begin to experiment and try to wean him onto Cyclo-peeze--if he isn't eating them already--then mysis, then ultimately powdered Formula 1. Best way to do this is the mandarin diner, which was mentioned at the outset of this project.
A nice thing about roe is it goes straight to the bottom, unlike the Cyclo which floats and wanders.
For the first time since I started this project, I feel like I'm not on a fool's errand and even somewhat vindicated, and all of my time and work hasn't been for naught.
He decimated my thriving pod population in a week. I can still see amphipods at night, but the preferred little copepods are nearly invisible. The pod pile is still active, which gives me some hope--if I keep at least some pods alive, they will continue to reproduce, though not in great numbers as before. The copepods have always been difficult to see in the pod pile so I can't say if they're in there in abundance or not.
The mandarin is also getting skinny fast. The rate it's happening is so alarming that I may have to give him away at the local reef club meeting next week. However, I think I may see some light in the tunnel.
I ordered a new batch of copepods from Sharky's Reef, a top notch online retailer. Fast and friendly customer service, great deals, and beautiful corals... I definitely recommend the site.
Anyway, the new copepods product is called Seapods. It is a lot cheaper than the bottles I bought last time, and Sharky's shipping makes it affordable, as opposed to the ridiculous 10 dollar 2 day shipping you are required to do for the other brand.
My last culturing experience was a total waste of time and resources. I'm not doing that again. Instead, I may order a number of these bottles from Sharky's every month, the exact quantity to be determined when I inject the two initial bottles directly into the tank.
Today I went to the LFS and finally bought some Cyclo-peeze. I was expecting frozen blocks, but instead I came home with some freeze-dried. Freeze-dried looks like powdered red chunks, and they break apart when they hit the water to reveal copepod-size "Cyclo."
And for the first time, I honestly believe the mandarin is eating something other than pods.
Though my turkey baster has not been exactly effective, I sprayed enough to settle on the bottom and some of the rocks, and the rest--that wasn't engulfed by the clown and the rampaging brittle star--eventually came to a standstill too. I watched the mandarin for about five minutes and saw it hitting up the area of sand directly blasted with the Cyclo. The mandarin was busy consuming... and he was chewing, which is something different from the other times when I thought he maybe was eating mysis or frozen brine.
I also bought some roe too, the orange fish eggs on sushi. Unfortunately, it has soy and crap on them, but it was all they had... and the clownfish loved it nonetheless. Later today I'm going to inject the tank again with roe to see what happens.
This mandarin was
hale and hearty for 2 weeks at the fish store with NO live rock whatsoever.
This makes me believe he was accepting some form of prepared foods as
his state has diminished in my care when I had loads of pods...
Unfortunately, all those white dots above have vanished due to the mandarin's appetite. But I am working on bringing them back.
I've learned a lot from my last go-around. I do not intend to lose this mandarin too.
The following is lifted from my blog.
I picked up a fat and healthy mandarin male today. A far cry from the last trooper, this guy looks like a muppet with fat cheeks, a nice, rounded gut, and a full underside and throat. Apparently, coloration is not a factor in their health and state as my last one was as bright and alluring as this guy.
He's eagerly swimming about the tank zapping pods. He has been at the LFS since 6/16 and is in remarkably good shape, much better than the other two on display. My hope is he was accepting the prepared foods offered to the other fish in the tank.
I'm going to try some roe tomorrow or the next day when I can get out to an Asian food market.
I'm also still on the look out for cyclopese shrimp as they are not sold around here at all.
I did not see him this morning but by his near perfect state (though clearly dead, he looked asleep and only a little ragged) he must have died within a half hour of me finding him.
This was a shock as I had watched him closely last night and he was fine, no change in behavior whatsoever... and eating, always eating. I'd use the magnifying glass and watch as he came up to the glass and saw him slurp down 1 or 2 pods at a time.
I looked at the body up close and he had not changed a bit since I got him from the store. Skinny and pinched in the abdomen. It appears he did indeed starve, but I just don't understand it. The tank enjoyed an overabundance of pods, and even when I felt the population was dwindling, you could still find at least 3 or 4 on every rock or area of sand.
My hypothesis is he was too far gone when I bought him and he just could not recover to a proper weight, even with plenty of food. I wish my camera would take pics of the pods on the glass, it's really quite amazing how many I have. It honestly looks like an infestation. At least with him gone the pods can really take over the tank now...
I still believe in my original theory and I won't let this deter me. However, I'm going to let the tank really get good and covered in pods, and for the meantime I'm going to try some zoanthids.
I'll update on this project when I get another mandarin, this time one in excellent shape and a lot larger, around 2 and a half inches.
The mandarin's appearance remains the same, though he may be a little plumper. Good news is he's definitely not getting skinnier. I'm starting to believe there is no problem because he continues to be active, colorful, and alert. He perks up when frozen adult mysis shrimp are injected into the water column, and though I haven't seen him eat a piece of mysis, there appears to be some cause and effect with his behavior and mysis.
The pod population seemed to be dwindling for a while. My quart jar production is not going well... and I'm almost at the point of abandoning it. The 2 scrubber pads and pod pile in the main tank may be sustaining the pods; I just have to refrain from injecting more from the quart jar next time the population drops. Either the population naturally waxes and wanes or the quart jars are keeping the pods in good numbers. I'm inclined to believe in the natural waxing and waning as the quart jars seem to be doing a lot of nothing--there has been no boom in population, and you can only see one or two pods at a time on the glass.
Today I scrubbed algae from the front viewing panel and there are hundreds of pods on the glass. And they still are crawling all over their protected areas. I'm going to inject more mysis into the pod pile; this seems to boost their population with direct feedings.
I'm feeding the pods in the quart jars powdered Formula 1.