Mandarin Goby: A Fascinating Guide to Care and Behavior

The Mandarin Goby, also known as Synchiropus splendidus, is a breathtaking tropical fish native to the western Pacific Ocean. With its unique and vibrant color patterns, this eye-catching fish is a popular choice for aquarium enthusiasts looking to add a touch of exotic flair to their saltwater tanks.

As you explore the world of the Mandarin Goby, you’ll discover that, though undeniably beautiful, this species requires specific care to thrive in a home aquarium. Don’t worry; with a bit of diligence, you’ll be on your way to providing the ideal environment for your new aquatic friend to flourish.

Species Overview

The Mandarin Goby is a beautiful and captivating fish that can be a great addition to your aquarium. Here’s a quick overview of its characteristics:

Property Information
Scientific name Synchiropus splendidus
Common names Mandarin Goby, Mandarin Dragonet, Striped Mandarin Fish, Mandarin Fish, Striped Dragonet, Psychedelic Mandarin
Distribution Western Pacific Ocean, Japan to Australia
Size Up to 3 inches
Lifespan 3-5 years
Diet Carnivorous; live foods (copepods, brine shrimp) preferred
Temperament Peaceful
Minimum tank size 30 gallons
Temperature 75-81°F
pH 8.1 to 8.4
Water hardness 8-12 dGH
Care level Advanced
Filtration/Water Flow
Water type Saltwater
Breeding difficulty High
Compatibility Suitable for community aquariums

Mandarin Goby is native to the warm Pacific waters between Japan and Australia and belongs to the Callionymidae family. They live in sandy lagoons and coral reefs, enjoying warm shallow water and abundant food supplies.

These fish are charming and colorful, making them a popular choice among aquarium enthusiasts. However, they have specific care requirements and are best suited for experienced aquarists.

Mandarin Goby Basics

Origins and Natural Habitat

The Mandarin Goby (Synchiropus splendidus) is a beautiful tropical fish that originates from the western Pacific Ocean. In their natural habitat, these fish are found among coral reefs, where they have access to plenty of hiding spots and a rich diet of small invertebrates.

Size and Shape

Mandarin Gobies are relatively small fish, with an adult size typically ranging from 2 to 4 inches in length. They have a slender, elongated body and a broad head with large, expressive eyes. The fish’s pectoral fins are well developed, allowing them to navigate their environment with ease.

Color and Markings

One of the most striking features of the Mandarin Goby is its vibrant and unique coloration. These fish exhibit a mix of bright and bold colors, including shades of blue, green, orange, and red, as well as intricate, wave-like patterns across their body. This stunning appearance has earned them the nickname “psychedelic” or “striped” mandarins.


Mandarin Gobies have a relatively short lifespan in comparison to other fish species. On average, they can live for 3 to 5 years in captivity, provided they are kept in a suitable, well-maintained aquarium and receive proper care and nutrition.

Diet and Feeding

Feeding your Mandarin Goby a well-balanced diet ensures its vibrant colors and overall health. Their primary food source consists of small crustaceans, like copepods, amphipods, ostracods, and polychaete worms.

To diversify your fish’s diet, you can also offer them:

  • Live baby brine shrimp (artemia)
  • Pellets and frozen brine shrimp or mysis shrimp

It’s important to note that mandarin gobies can be picky eaters, so you’ll need to provide a healthy supply of food. Remember to keep an eye on the quantity and type of food you offer, as these fish may need to be transitioned to eating pellets and frozen brine shrimp or mysis shrimp.

Feeding your Mandarin Goby should be done appropriately to avoid overfeeding or underfeeding. Maintaining a healthy diet and feeding schedule will help ensure your fish thrives in its marine environment.

Behavior and Temperament

Mandarin Gobies, or Synchiropus splendidus, are known for their vibrant colors, unique patterns, and peaceful temperament. They are reef-safe fish that enjoy spending time near the coral reefs and seafloor. In your tank, you can expect these gobies to hover over your coral structures and swim around peacefully.

As bottom-dwellers, Mandarin Gobies might be seen resting on rocks or sand when they aren’t actively swimming or foraging. They prefer a tank with plenty of hiding spots and ample live rock to explore and graze upon. While they may appear shy at first, their curious nature will eventually make them a regular sight in your aquarium.

One important aspect of Mandarin Goby care is their diet. These fish primarily eat copepods, small crustaceans found in live rock and sand beds. It’s essential to maintain a healthy population of copepods in your tank. Adding additional pods and ensuring a mature tank will help to support their dietary needs.

Care and Tank Requirements

Caring for a Mandarin Goby requires attention to specific details about their environment. In this section, we’ll go over the essential aspects of tank size, water parameters, tank setup and decorations, as well as filtration and aeration.

Tank Size

It’s important to provide your Mandarin Goby with an appropriately sized tank. A minimum of 30 gallons is recommended for one or two gobies, with an additional 10 gallons for each additional fish. This will ensure they have enough space to swim and explore their environment comfortably.

Water Parameters

To keep your Mandarin Goby healthy, it’s crucial to maintain the right water parameters. These include:

  • Temperature: between 75 and 81 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Salinity: 1.023 to 1.025
  • pH: 8.1 to 8.4

Regular water changes and monitoring of these parameters are necessary to ensure a stable environment for your fish.

Tank Setup and Decorations

Mandarin Gobies are naturally found in coral reef environments, so mimic this habitat in your tank setup. Provide plenty of live rock and hiding spots for them to explore and rest. Soft corals and various invertebrates will also create a more natural environment for your fish.

Some key points for tank setup and decorations:

  • Include live rock for hiding and grazing
  • Add soft corals and invertebrates to mimic their natural habitat
  • Ensure low water flow and circulation in the tank

Filtration and Aeration

Maintaining proper filtration and aeration is essential to keep the water clean and oxygenated for your Mandarin Goby. A good quality filter is necessary to remove any toxins and waste from the water. Additionally, consider a protein skimmer to help remove dissolved organic compounds and maintain a healthy water quality.

When it comes to aeration, keep the water flow low, as Mandarin Gobies prefer a calm environment with minimal water movement. A gentle circulation pump should suffice.

In summary, taking care of a Mandarin Goby involves providing an appropriate tank size, maintaining the right water parameters, setting up a natural environment with proper decorations, and ensuring optimal filtration and aeration. By doing so, your Mandarin Goby should thrive in its new aquatic home.

Suitable Tank Mates

When choosing suitable tank mates for your Mandarin Goby, it’s essential to remember that they should not be kept with larger or aggressive fish, as Mandarin Gobies are relatively docile and don’t compete well for food. Conflict with other fish can lead to starvation as these gobies tend to spend most of their time hiding. Although their toxic mucus protects them from most fish, anemones, and scorpion fish still pose a threat.

Keep in mind that gobies are territorial towards their own species. Two males may fight to the death, so it’s best to keep a single goby or a male/female pair in your tank.

Here is a list of suitable tank mates for Mandarin Gobies:

  • Coral Beauty
  • Firefish Goby
  • Pajama Cardinal
  • Clownfish
  • Green Chromis
  • Royal Gramma
  • Seahorse
  • Watchman Goby
  • Small Damselfish
  • Smaller marine shrimps, snails, and crabs

When selecting companions, consider your tank size and the availability of food to support the population. Remember to introduce new fish slowly and monitor your goby’s behavior and diet for any changes, ensuring they remain stress-free and healthy in their new home.

Breeding Process

Breeding Mandarin Gobies can be a fascinating and rewarding experience for aquarium enthusiasts like you. Keep in mind that Mandarin Goby pairs can breed weekly throughout the year under proper tank conditions.

You should be aware that female gobies are quite selective when choosing their mates. Males often perform a mating show to attract females, engaging in a beautiful dance where both release their reproductive material. However, simply housing a pair together does not guarantee breeding success, as matched pairs of Mandarin Gobies can be expensive and scarce.

When you manage to find a suitable pair, breeding gobies requires isolating and protecting the young from other fish. A good way to achieve this is by using a breeding box or a separate tank. This approach is ideal for isolating planktonic larvae and nurturing them to maturity.

By following these guidelines, you’ll be on your way to successfully breeding your Mandarin Gobies and enjoying their exquisite beauty for years to come.

Common Diseases and Treatments

Gobies, including the Mandarin Goby, have a natural defense mechanism against predators – a bitter mucus they secrete. This also makes them generally resistant to diseases due to their resilience. To maintain their health, it’s essential to focus on improved water quality and stress management.

One disease that may affect your Mandarin Goby is marine ich, characterized by cysts on the gills, fins, or skin. If you notice these symptoms, act immediately by quarantining the affected fish and replacing the water to remove parasites. Other viral and bacterial infections can present themselves through reddening of the skin, cloudy eyes, sores, and growths on the fins and body. In case of such infections, consult an aquatic veterinarian before administering medication to prevent pH and hardness changes in the tank that may harm your fish.

When introducing new gobies to your tank, it’s important to quarantine them first to prevent the spread of diseases that may affect other reef fish. While their natural defense mechanism provides extra immune protection, managing stress levels and maintaining water quality are crucial to prevent health issues in your Mandarin Goby and other tank inhabitants.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are mandarin dragonets hard to maintain?

Yes, mandarin dragonets can be challenging to maintain, especially for beginners. They have specific dietary and water requirements that need to be met to thrive. You’ll need to make sure their tank environment is well-suited to their needs and closely monitor water parameters such as temperature, pH, and salinity.

What should I feed them?

A well-balanced mandarin goby diet consists of small crustaceans like copepods, amphipods, ostracods, and polychaete worms. You can also feed them live baby brine shrimp (artemia) and occasionally offer them pellets or frozen brine shrimp or mysis shrimp. It’s essential to provide a varied diet to ensure they receive the necessary nutrients.

Do they eat algae?

No, mandarin dragonets generally do not eat algae. Their primary diet consists of small crustaceans, as mentioned above. They might graze on algae, but it will not provide them with the necessary nutrients needed for their health.

What fish can live with a Mandarin Goby?

Mandarin gobies are peaceful fish and can be kept with other non-aggressive, similarly-sized tank mates. Suitable tank mates include clownfish, anemonefish, and other types of gobies. Ensure that the tank mates you choose will not compete with the mandarin goby for food.

How large do they grow?

Mandarin dragonets typically grow to a size of about 3-4 inches (7.5-10 cm) in length. When setting up their tank, make sure to provide enough space and hiding spots for them to swim and explore. A tank size of at least 30 gallons is recommended for their comfort and wellbeing.