Spotted Mandarin

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Synchiropus picturatus - (Peters, 1876)
Spotted Mandarin

This species prefers a tank that contains abundant filamentous algae. Scott W. Michael


This distinctive mandarin is a resident of tidal creeks, mangrove swamps, and lagoon patch reefs. Like other dragonets, it usually ignores its tankmates unless they are closely related. It can be difficult to feed, and special attention is required to help this species adapt to aquarium foods.

See: Breeding the Spotted Mandarin and Breeding the Green Mandarin by Matthew L. Wittenrich.

Family: Callionymidae

Other common name(s):

  • Picturesque Dragonet
  • Picture Dragonet
  • Mandarinefish
  • Psychedelic Fish

Native range:

Maximum length: 7 cm (3 in)

Minimum aquarium size: 76 L (20 gal)

Water: Marine 24 °C (75 °F) - 28 °C (82 °F)

General swimming level: Bottom.


It will eat black worms, enriched live brine shrimp, and mysid shrimp. Target feeding is often needed to ensure it gets enough to eat. Feed three times per day. Must be target-fed or placed in an established reef-type aquarium with live rock, live sand and a healthy population of micro invertebrates.

Aquarium Compatibility

Males will fight each other and may attack the Green If you want to keep more than one in the same tank, or want to house it with the Green Mandarin, keep only one male and one or more females. Females can also be kept together. It may be picked on by some tankmates, but it exudes a noxious slime that dissuades the attack of many fishes.

Special Care

Keep in a tank with live rock, possibly with an attached refugium. This species will do better in a tank that contains abundant filamentous algae, which usually harbors rich crustacean fauna.


It is possible to breed this species and the closely related Green Mandarinin small-scale propagation tanks.

See: Breeding the Green Mandarin and Breeding the Spotted Mandarin by Matthew L. Wittenrich.


Scientists worry that the overcollection of large males in the Genus Synchiropus is harming the quality of wild stocks.

See: Mandarin Harvest Realities, also by Matt Wittenrich.

Reference: A PocketExpert Guide to Reef Aquarium Fishes
Image credit: SWM
Text credit: SWM