Mandarinfish get a reputation for being picky eaters and rightfully so. These reef dwellers prefer their natural diet over frozen food or pellets. In fact, most Mandarin’s won’t eat anything but live food and will starve rather than eat frozen food like Mysis or Brine Shrimp. Despite their finicky palate, feeding a Mandarin doesn’t have to be difficult. They love copepods! Give them what they want and everyone is happy! You’ll see your Mandarin grow fat and you won’t have to worry about training him with something that is unnatural to the Mandarin’s existence.
Feeding copepods is best done with a refugium. A Mandarin can wipe out a pod population pretty quickly so seeding a fuge is the best way to create a sustainable population. The ideal fuge has 1-2 inches of sand, some porous live rock, and macroalgae. Some hobbyists choose to skip the sand and use live rock rubble. Either way you go, you’re ready to add the pods now. The Mandarin’s pod of choice? The Tisbe Pod! We recommend that you start by adding two bags of Tisbe Pods to the refugium. They will reproduce on their own and eventually make their way into your tank. You can add additional bags of pods when you notice the population declining or if you add more pod eating fishes to your tank.
Tisbe’s will feed on detritus and algae but you get what you give with pods. Give them junk and that’s what they’ll pass on to your Mandarin. Do your Mandarin a favor and dose the fuge with Phytoplankton. Phytoplankton is a nutrient rich food source for the pods and the benefits will be passed along to your Mandarin. You can dose splashes of Phyto daily.
If you don’t have a refugium it is still possible to keep a healthy Mandarin. If your reef is well-established you can create a copepod rock pile or rubble pile. This will allow a safe place for the pods to multiple while providing a sanctuary from the other fish in your tank. Some reefers put a basket that water can flow through in the tank to protect the rock pile and pods. If you go this route you will likely need to add more pods to your reef on a semi-regular basis. We recommend that you add pods at night after your fish are fed and the lights are out. Add pods near the rock pile to give them a better chance to take cover and survive.
The colorful Mandarin is a beautiful and chill fish and we definitely think they’re worth the effort! We even offer a subscription service so you can have pods and phyto delivered at a regular interval of your choosing right to your door. This is a really convenient option and can be changed at any time. Happy reefing friends!