Biota Group Captive Bred Mandarin Dragonet - 4 Month Update

I wanted to post my experience so far with the Mandarin dragonet I purchased from Biota Group in case there are others who were thinking about it but wanted to hear someone's first hand experience with one.

I ordered a captive bred mandarin from Biota at the end of October last year and he arrived in early November. I did not specifically request a male in my purchase but that is what I received. I had a small acclimation box set up for him to stay in for the first little while so I could observe him and make sure nothing was wrong. Over the week that I kept him in the acclimation box, I was attempting to feed him the Chroma Boost TDO B2 size pellets that the Biota website listed as one of the foods they had been raised eating. I never was able to witness him actually eating any of the pellets that I attempted to feed him over the 7 days he was in the acclimation box.

Thankfully there were plenty of copepods on the inner surface of the acclimation box because I had left the box in the tank for about 10 days prior to his arrival. My initial order was placed on a Friday and on the following Monday Biota emailed to tell me that they were waiting on a batch from their breeding facility so my order was delayed.

Since I was not seeing him show interest in the pellet food, I decided to let him out into the display where he would have access to much more food. He was still tiny, somewhere under an inch long for sure and probably not much more than 5 mm wide but he found a safe spot in a small corner fitting piece of PVC I pushed into the sand bed for him. I did come down to the tank a couple of mornings early on and I found that he had swam through the overflow weir above his PVC fitting and he was chilling in the top compartment of my media caddy. The width of the weirs on my tank is about 6 mm and he was skinny enough to go through that.

For the first month or so, he mostly hung out in the corner of the tank in the immediate area of the PVC fitting. I have a small Yellow Watchman Goby who kept him company in that corner of the tank while he got better acclimated. From December into February he began exploring more and more of the tank. He kept mostly to a small area of the rockwork for a couple of weeks and slowly branched out. He tends to chill under the shadow of a small arch in my rockwork for much of the daytime hours but in the morning and evening hours he is actively cruising around the tank and picking away at the rocks and sand.

This picture is from 11/9/23, the day he first came out of the acclimation box and went into the main display.

This picture is from 1/10/24. He is still quite small here compared to the size he is now but you can see him next to an emerald crab for scale. You can see the yellow watchman in the PVC tube in the reflection of the tank glass.

This morning I finally got a halfway decent quality video of him. He is currently roughly 2 inches long and looks to have a nice full belly - he definitely can't fit through the weirs any more. He has beautiful coloration and markings and I personally can't see a difference between the look of this captive bred fish vs. a wild caught specimen.

He has no competition in my tank for copepods as the only fish in my tank are him and the watchman goby with no plans to add any more. I have a refugium with chaeto and I have pods all over the walls of my tank every two days if I don't scrape them so I know there is plenty of food for now. It will be interesting to see what happens with the copepod population as he continues to grow but I have a brine shrimp hatchery as well that I use to target feed and he does enjoy eating the live brine shrimp I provide.

Overall, I am very happy with my purchase, even when considering the fact that I don't think he is going to eat prepared foods. I could have likely taken a longer time trying to acclimate him and ensure I was able to see him eating the prepared foods before letting him into the display but I was more concerned about him starving at such a small size. He is everything you would expect from a Mandarin so far and that is exactly what I was hoping so I don't really have any complaints.