The mandarin goby (Synchiropus splendidus) as it is very often called or mandarin fish, green mandarin, striped mandarin fish, striped dragonet and green dragonet is not a goby, rather it is a dragonette, but the trade name of mandarin goby seems to persist. They are exceptionally beautiful fish and many people consider them to be the most beautiful salt water aquarium fish.

They earn their name by being compared to the colorful robes of imperial Chinese mandarins in their court dress and in real life they are even more beautiful than the photographs.

They are one of only two vertebrates known to have blue coloration because of cellular pigment, the other being its closely related cousin The psychedelic dragonette, Synchiropus picturatus. In all other vertebrates, the blue color comes from thin film light interference from layers of thin reflecting crystals. Mandarin gobies grow to about six centimeters (2.36″) in length.


The Mandarin goby is found in sheltered lagoons and reefs in the pacific from the Philippines to Australia, in groups, singly or in pairs.


Because of the colorful patterns on the fish, it is very difficult to say which is the back ground color, however assuming it is a dark blue background, the fish have rounded orange lines traversing the body in random patterns with the tail being orange, fringed with blue. The dorsal fin has similar orange and blue patterns on it, and the pectoral fins have light blue lines radiating outwards with yellow in-between and are fringed in a darker blue. There is also some yellow on the pointy nose, however, each fish varies slightly in coloration and there is also a green color variety where green supersedes the blue.  Males tend to be larger than females and have a pointed extension on the front of dorsal fin that they on occasion display.


Mandarin gobies feed on small crustaceans and other invertebrates and have a very small mouth with which they use to pick their food off the reef.


In aquariums they are known to be difficult to acclimatize to solid foods, preferring live food, it is however possible to get them onto a vitamin enriched brine shrimp diet. They are highly sought after by aquarists and have been known to spawn in aquariums. One has to watch them carefully to ensure that they are feeding and not slowly fading away which is what will happen if one cannot get them onto some form of food.

In reality most that go into aquariums will not survive for long. In a well established reef tank they will thrive if there are plenty of live amphipods and copepods and their diet can be supplemented by live rock.

The mandarin goby is a peaceful fish and adds plenty of color and character to an aquarium, as they slowly wiggle around in search of tidbits and hover over a spot before taking a bite. They have been bred in captivity, but not on a large scale. Hopefully, this is soon to come so that pressure on live stocks can be reduced.


Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Perciformes
Suborder: Callionymoidei
Family: Callionymidae
Genus: Synchiropus
Species: S. splendidus


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