Preparing a 55 gallon for a Mandarinfish Dragonette


New member

My wife and I would like to have a Blue Mandarinfish Dragonette, but we also don't want it to die. How can we design our 55 gallon tank around this specific fish?

Tank history:

Started as a 29 gallon 3 years ago, upgraded to a 55 gallon about 1-2 years ago.
Approximately 1-2 inches of live sand (3 years old).
50 lbs of live rock (Carib Sea's South Sea Dry Base Rock) About 10lbs is 3 years old, 40 lbs is 1 year old.


Brittle Stars, Bristle Worms, 4 red leg hermits, 2 blue hermits, ~3-4 turbo snails, several Dwarf Cerith snails.

2 pistol shrimp (one Tiger and one Red Banded) - These stir up the entire sand bed regulary, so I think that wouldn't be good for breeding copods, right? Would it be better to remove these? If so, what would be a better alternative to clean the sand?

One Royal Gramma and One Ocellaris Clownfish.

One Bubble Tip anenome approximately 2" in size. Perhaps this eats pods and should be removed?

As for coral, we have about 30 misc zoa heads, one 5" hammer coral, one 4" elagance coral in the sandbed, one 3" duncan coral, Torch coral, Flowerpot (Goniopora), and a few encrusing coral (Encrusting Montipora, Cyphastrea, & Chalice), Trumpet and Green Star polyp (isolated in the sandbed). Do coral compete for copepods too?

I have tiny white flatworms on the glass. I am considering Salifert's Flatworm eXit to eliminate them since I think they complete with copepods for food? and there is no gaurantee the dragonette will eat them.

As for copepods, we've never "seeded" the aquarium but I know that they are in there. I see them at night on the glass if I turn off the pump. So I have whatever came in on coral frags, chaeto, etc. And have reproduced over the past 3 years...


3 weeks ago I added two 48" HO T5 lights, so I'm hoping for more coral growth. Bulbs: (1) Korallen-zucht 54W Fiji Purple and (1) ATI Blue Plus 54w

These two HO T5 are set on a timer to come on from 10am to 4pm.
The T5 bulbs are about 4" from the water surface.

Two 48" 30w each 453nm Actinic Blue LED strips (TrueLumen Pro LED by Current USA).

These are programmed on the Ramp Timer Pro to a max intensity of 75%. They are on from 8am to 6pm, with 4 hours of moonlight (2% intensity) after than. There is 15 minutes of sunrise and sunset. Total darkness from 10pm until natural light (around 6am?).

The LED strips are about 2.5" from the water surface.


I have 1 MP40 wave maker set to lagoon (yellow), at the 4th white LED for intensity.


Aquaclear 70 with filter floss, bag of BRS Granular Ferric Oxide, and bag of Kent Marine Reef Carbon.

CPR Aquatics HOB refugium with chaeto and a pink grow LED on during the day. A handful of rock rubble.

Reef Octopus HOB 100 classic skimmer runs 24 hours per day.

Water changes:

I replace 4 gallons of water every week, sometimes every other week. I figure this is 10% given I have about 40-50lbs of live rock and 35-40lbs of live sand taking up space.


LiveAquaria professional reef salt with salinity around 1.025. Water temp around 78F


Currently, I feed New Life Spectrum 1mm pellets (10 pellets once per day - 5 to the Clownfish and 5 to the Royal Gramma). Please let me know if this is too much or too little.

If a 55 gallon is truly a bad idea, I can upgrade to a 75 gallon. How long should additional new dry base rock take to build a sufficient copepod population if I need to move up to a 75 gallon? Any feedback or suggestions are appreciated.

Can we also add something like a Midas or Tailspot Blenny, another Ocellaris Clownfish, and a Watchman or Yasha goby? Im also happy just sticking with my single clownfish and single royal gramma if that means enough food for the future Dragonette in the 55 gallon.

I attached photos to show how much rock I have. Maybe there is space for more or is this enough rock?
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Staff member
RC Mod
A 30 gallon sump with cheato moss plus time to build up a pod population will support a small female (they are smaller) mandy in a fifty gallon, so long as your other fish are not wrasses or other dragonets, like a scooter blenny.


New member
Great point about specifying a smaller female mandarin. I'll be careful to make sure that I pick a female when the time comes and my system is ready. Looks like I'll have to research building a 30 gallon sump. I tried to avoid that as I've always worried about increased flood risk as opposed to the HOB systems I have now. Maybe simpler to upgrade to a 75 gallon with more rock and keep the HOB stuff. Would that work?
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New member
The sump is a great idea. When I had a mandarin, I had a LOT of live rock for the tank size. I then built a fuge for the back of the tank, full of cheato. The idea was, it would grow cpods, then overflow into the man tank bringing them with it. Also I managed to get mine on to frozen pods which was a blessing.

Good luck, they are very stunning, peaceful and active.

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New member
A 30 gallon sump with cheato moss plus time to build up a pod population will support a small female (they are smaller) mandy in a fifty gallon, so long as your other fish are not wrasses or other dragonets, like a scooter blenny.

How many gallons should be dedicated to the chaeto? The entire 30 gallon sump full of chaeto?

It looks like the maximum width in my stand is 10.25" and I think the 29 gallon is 12" so that won't work. Maybe a 15 gallon tall will fit.
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Staff member
RC Mod
As long as you can support a cheato mass about 10" across, that'll be good. Be assured pods make it through the pump alive---I've even seen an amphipod come out intact from an Iwaki that is very powerful---but do NOT use filter socks for the obvious reason. You don't want to strain out your pods.