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The many methods of training Dragonets


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#1
Fish Bowl

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Hi everyone! I'm a long time fish keeper (both salt and fresh for quite some time) and a first time poster. With the subtle introductions aside, I'd like to try and share my experiences with all my fellow nano-reefers about these fish specifically for those who wish to tackle them with less than adequate environments.

First and foremost, the equipment and supplies:

I highly recommend having or purchasing some if not all of these items.
1- A Breeder Net OR a Fish container that LFS use
2- A Turkey Baster OR Coral Feeder OR Pipette
3- Power Heads (I'm sure everyone has these)
4- A Clear Shot Glass OR Small Clear Glass bowl OR Both (This will be explained in the training section)
5- A Glass Jar

Now for the Food and additives in order of importance.
1- Any Vitamin additive of your choice (Vita-chem,Zoe,Reef Plus, etc)
2- Any HUFA additive of your choice (Selcon, Zoecon, etc)
3- Any Garlic Additive of your choice (Garlic Extreme, etc)
4- Live Brine Shrimp or Live Baby Brine Shrimp (OPTIONAL but recommended)
5- Frozen Brine Shrimp (with or without Spirulina) (OPTIONAL but recommended)
6- Small Mysis Shrimp (Chopped is fine in the case of the larger types)

Any of these below are completely optional but do help in some cases or may be the preferred food to feed in the long run and are not in order of importance but rather ease of training from experience.
7- Prawn Eggs
8- Frozen or Live Blood Worms
9- Frozen Cyclops
10- Freeze Dried Cyclops
11- Small sinking Pellet foods (Ocean Nutrition, New Life Spectrum, etc)
12- Rods Food (Courtesy of StevieT)

The Training Methods

As many people know, the Dragonet Species usually thrives off a large and fully established system filled with Copepods and seldom adapt to "some" of the listed foods.
However with enough patience and time, ANY dragonet can be trained to eat at the bare minimum, frozen foods.

I will go step by step with each of the equipments I have listed to provide hopefully, adequate understanding of each method. Keep in mind, that some of these methods work on some fish and not others, due to their individual personalities. (Note: All non pellet foods will be assumed as Enriched with Vitamins and Fatty Acids and Garlic)

-The Breeder Net

How this works: Dragonets are attracted by movement and once they learn something is edible, they usually continue to consume similar looking items or adapt to others by accidentally consuming them. Additionally, they are slow "predators" and will often times be out competed by everyone and everything in your tank for food. Thus in an enclosed space, they are given ample opportunity to eat(or sample) whatever you introduce into the container via pipette or any other method.

1. Start by introducing the live brine shrimp to your dragonet either by pipette or by simply pouring them in (Pipette,Coral Feeder or, Turkey Baster are preferred)
(Note!: Live Brine shrimp is Completely omit-able although for some it may make things easier)

2. Angle the flow towards the breeder net just enough to keep the brine shrimp lightly pressed against the sides without making it so they're incapable of moving.

3. BE consistent with when and what you feed with.

4. After the dragonet accepts the live brine shrimp, start mixing the live ones with frozen at a 9/10 ratio and slowly convert it over to 8/10 and so on until it accepts frozen brine completely.
(Starting with the Baster, etc makes things easier in the long run)

5.Start by mixing Brine Shrimp with Mysis shrimp at the same ratio method as before until Mysis is fully accepted.
(It is entirely possible to start training Dragonets with mysis first which is what I normally do)

6. For any other foods other than mysis, the mixing ratio method works fairly well although for pellets, having excess food and pellets lying around in the breeder is one of the only methods that work more readily than using the pipette and will require a large amount of patience and time.

-The LFS Fish container
How this works:
There are actually many methods to work this one. One being to leave as is and throw food in while it hangs in the tank. (Water quality will suffer inside there quite heavily), then there's the method that I have done and had much success with which I will be explaining in further detail to create below.

1. First off, get a phillips head screwdriver (1 cm is preferred) and heat it over a stove. (Non magnetic top is HIGHLY recommended)

2. After the screw driver is heated, place it on either the right or left side of the container and twist it (The heat will melt the plastic and allow the screw driver to gradually go through and make a small hole)

3. Clean the screw driver and repeat Step 1 & 2 until you have the desired amount of holes on both sides while leaving about an inch to 3/4ths an inch from the bottom of the container on both sides. (Cracking the container is okay as long as it holds together reasonably)

4. Clean off any residual plastic from the inside and outside of the container.

5. Place this inside the tank (hanging from a side) next to a power head (for one side)

6. Using a pipette, coral feeder or turkey baster introduce Live or Frozen Brine shrimp directly to the dragonet (Literally in its face or pretty close if possible)
Note1: the way this is set up slows down the flow from the power head into the container and will keep everything moving as if its alive and somewhat self cleans any leftover foods
Note2: Brine Shrimp live or frozen can be skipped entirely although it may make things easier

7. After Brine Shrimp is accepted, mix it with Mysis Shrimp at a 9/10 ratio and gradually increase the amount of mysis until it is fully accepted.

8. After Mysis is fully accepted, mixing any other desired foods in ratios will eventually make them accept them.
(Note, for this method pellets and mysis may be added without a pipette in large quantities to cause the mandarin to accidentally eat them however, water quality will suffer and it will still take some patience and plenty of time)

One fun piece of information. I have just shown you how to make a cheap in-tank refugium.

The Shot Glass Method
How it works:
Some of you who saw this would automatically assume I am insane in some regards this method is one of the most effective in teaching dragonets how to eat pellets! Unlike the above 2 methods, this allows the dragonet to fully explore your tank without being confined in a small breeder net or container and is unfortunately incompatible with the use of live brine shrimp. Luckily however, a shot glass is too small for most other "larger" fish to steal the food.

1. Place the shot glass(es) in an area(s) where the dragonet visits often (They are creatures of habit)

2. Using a pipette, squirt in the food of choice (you can start with frozen or pellets)
Note:I have had great success using this method with New Life spectrum Thera A+ and New Life Spectrumax Finicky Fish Formulas (both being at 1mm)

3. Angle a power head so the flow causes the food to move in a circular motion without the food shooting all over the place and voila, eventually the dragonet will investigate the shot glass and possibly sample the food.

The Glass bowl method
How it works:
This method is almost entirely the same as the Shot Glass method, however the only difference is that it's more suitable for multiple Dragonets and some fish are in fact, capable of stealing food from those locations.

1. (Refer to shot glass method.)

Fun piece of information: I just taught you how to feed Moorish Idols easier if they are accepting Dry/Frozen foods without using a powerhead to create flow in the bowl and coax Wild Sea Horses into eating Frozen/Dry food (with minimal flow)

The Glass Jar Method
How this works:
Essentially by using a glass jar, you provide a safe haven for the dragonet and it's food by giving only a small opening that only a few smaller inverts or fish can fit through. This method however I only recommend after having a Dragonet that's fully trained to eat frozen or dry foods due to the restrictions of flow (to make some foods seem live)

1. Hang or place the jar with food horizontally. (preferably in a location that the dragonet visits often or more frequently than others)

2. Clean out any excess food that is uneaten within 10-45 minutes to prevent further pollution of the tanks water due to excess food.

3. Repeat steps 1-2 multiple times a day to ensure the dragonet gets enough to eat (if it infact does eat)

Observational Notes.

-Using a trained dragonet to "help" train other dragonets isn't always a smart idea since any stress from aggression makes training significantly harder and highly reduces survival rates.

-Scooters are the easiest to train with Targets being next in line.

-Female Dragonets seem to more readily accept food than their male counterparts.

-Smaller is not always better, but Large isn't any good either. Settle for Medium Dragonets if possible (at least in the case of Pellet Training)

-ORA Tank Raised Dragonets may have to go through the same training processes as a wild one in order to not perish in smaller tanks or simply only accept prawn eggs rather than other frozen/pellet foods.

After Note:

-All of this is based of my own personal experience of being in the hobby and industry and successfully training 28 of the 29 dragonets I have worked with, the one failure being one that jumped out of the breeder net and died a premature death.
- I actually never used live brine shrimp for any of my training, however I have heard of others using it to some success and included it for that sole reason.
-I am not intentionally promoting nor do I support the idea of people new to the hobby getting any type of dragonet without adequate research or time to care for them.
-I may have missed some things since this a long post, if something isn't clear or needs clarifying just let me know.

I hope everyone has a merry christmas and hopefully have a happy fish keeping experience too!

Edited by Fish Bowl, 14 December 2010 - 12:15 PM.


#2
DudE31

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:welcome: to nr and great first post

#3
Daleo

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This is a nice concise version of a month of research I did about 5 months ago... I still failed, but nice info. :)

Dude, can I paypal you a quarter so you can buy some punctuation?

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#4
JerseyChick

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:welcome:


thank you for such a precise and educated post

#5
StevieT

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Rods food IME

#6
Nor_Cal_Cuber

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I appreciate your information shared. I may try the fish container method in my 72g for food training. How long do you recommend this method? Until the fish eats??? I assume you put a piece or two of rack in there for the fish to sleep or hide.

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Squared

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I gotta read this some time.

And welcome!

#8
RobE

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Very nicely written and informative. I happen to be one of the lucky ones where my mandarine ate pellets the second day I had him.

#9
Fish Bowl

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This is a nice concise version of a month of research I did about 5 months ago... I still failed, but nice info. :)

Sorry for to hear about your loss. Hopefully things will turn out much better if there's ever a next time. :D

Rods food IME

Never used or heard of anyone using it before for mandarins, I'll update the top with it. Thanks!

I appreciate your information shared. I may try the fish container method in my 72g for food training. How long do you recommend this method? Until the fish eats??? I assume you put a piece or two of rack in there for the fish to sleep or hide.

Basically you keep it in there until it fully accepts whatever food it is that you want it to, then remove it and start spot feeding with the pipette in the area it visits often or simply set up a feeding station (Glass Jar, Bowl, Shot Glass) so it has easy access to food. If that's not available then chances are it still won't get enough to eat, especially in a tank that big with possibly many other fish to out compete it. Also, live rock/rubble or sand isn't neccesary, but it can be added if you want. Kind of restricts the flow inside there and the self cleaning aspect as well though.

Very nicely written and informative. I happen to be one of the lucky ones where my mandarine ate pellets the second day I had him.

Glad to hear that! It's unfortunate not all of us could be that lucky though despite it saving lives :P

#10
RobE

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I was very surprised myself. I was implementing the glass jar method with live brine and he was eating that. I put some hikari marine s pellets in to feed my green anthias and watched him swim over pick up a pellet and didn't spit it out. I was so excited I called my wife in and she couldn't believe it either. I now feed the pellets several times a day and after about 3 months he has started to put on some weight and is looking good. I tried nls pellets and neither the anthias or mandarin wanted anything to do with them.

#11
aquariumcentral

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Great write up. I've been considering getting a mandarin for a while now and this will come in handy when i try to train it :D

#12
jbfrompa

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I am going to be setting up a 125g soon and wanted to get a M and a F mandarin. Would I be able to keep them just living off of the pod pop or would I need to train them. I am planing about 150lb of live rock with a fuge.
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#13
Fish Bowl

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I was very surprised myself. I was implementing the glass jar method with live brine and he was eating that. I put some hikari marine s pellets in to feed my green anthias and watched him swim over pick up a pellet and didn't spit it out. I was so excited I called my wife in and she couldn't believe it either. I now feed the pellets several times a day and after about 3 months he has started to put on some weight and is looking good. I tried nls pellets and neither the anthias or mandarin wanted anything to do with them.

Some mandarins are more are less picky than others with usually scooters and females from what I've seen being the more likely to accept new foods. I'm glad to hear you got yours on some type of pellet food!
As for nls not being disliked by your fish, apparently some people have better luck with a new container over the already opened ones for some strange reason. If you want your fish to eat NLS down the line just let them go hungry for a day or two and they're bound to accept it (aside from the mandarin which you will need to mix the pellets.)
Also, I've had better success with the Thera-A+ and Finicky than I ever would have with Marine Fish formula just in case that's the one your using.

Great write up. I've been considering getting a mandarin for a while now and this will come in handy when i try to train it :D

Always glad to provide some help to the best of my abilities :)

I am going to be setting up a 125g soon and wanted to get a M and a F mandarin. Would I be able to keep them just living off of the pod pop or would I need to train them. I am planing about 150lb of live rock with a fuge.

Pod wise, 1 Mandarin will do just fine. 2 however....even with a fuge still has a high chance of one dying because don't forget these guys do in fact grow up to 4 inches and about almost 1 inch in diameter (they look like a sausage for lack of better comparison) and as it grows their pod requirement grows.
Not to mention they eat nearly 24/7 (or until satisfied) and there could be other fish that you have that "COULD" eat pods as well. So either way some form of training is still quite helpful for long term survival even in larger systems (although not quite as necessary if there is only 1 in the tank of that size).
Now for the male and female part, I highly recommend getting a larger male and smaller female (not too significantly different but reasonable enough) since I've noticed that when pairing them a female will drive away the male if he seems "weak", thus a larger male has less of a chance to seem like a weakling to her.
Hope this helps! :)

Oh and most importantly, don't forget to let your tank establish for 8+ months to even come close to enough pods for even 1 mandarin to eat if your not going to bother training it.

#14
jbfrompa

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Pod wise, 1 Mandarin will do just fine. 2 however....even with a fuge still has a high chance of one dying because don't forget these guys do in fact grow up to 4 inches and about almost 1 inch in diameter (they look like a sausage for lack of better comparison) and as it grows their pod requirement grows.
Not to mention they eat nearly 24/7 (or until satisfied) and there could be other fish that you have that "COULD" eat pods as well. So either way some form of training is still quite helpful for long term survival even in larger systems (although not quite as necessary if there is only 1 in the tank of that size).
Now for the male and female part, I highly recommend getting a larger male and smaller female (not too significantly different but reasonable enough) since I've noticed that when pairing them a female will drive away the male if he seems "weak", thus a larger male has less of a chance to seem like a weakling to her.
Hope this helps! :)

Oh and most importantly, don't forget to let your tank establish for 8+ months to even come close to enough pods for even 1 mandarin to eat if your not going to bother training it.
[/quote]

Thanks for the info. I will keep this in mind. I know right now in my cad22 I have thousands of pods just in it. I also have heard that it you put a mound of LR rubble in the tank and drop food in it every so often that will help your pod amount as well. Have you heard this? I am also willing to limit the other fish in the tank for these fish. I also know that I can buy pods if I need to to supplement their diet. My only other question is are you finding that the fish that are eating brine and mysis healthier than the fish that eat only pods assuming they are getting their fill. Or are they the same. I want to make sure I am doing what will provide the fish with what they need to live fat and happy.
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#15
Fish Bowl

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Pod wise, 1 Mandarin will do just fine. 2 however....even with a fuge still has a high chance of one dying because don't forget these guys do in fact grow up to 4 inches and about almost 1 inch in diameter (they look like a sausage for lack of better comparison) and as it grows their pod requirement grows.
Not to mention they eat nearly 24/7 (or until satisfied) and there could be other fish that you have that "COULD" eat pods as well. So either way some form of training is still quite helpful for long term survival even in larger systems (although not quite as necessary if there is only 1 in the tank of that size).
Now for the male and female part, I highly recommend getting a larger male and smaller female (not too significantly different but reasonable enough) since I've noticed that when pairing them a female will drive away the male if he seems "weak", thus a larger male has less of a chance to seem like a weakling to her.
Hope this helps! :)

Oh and most importantly, don't forget to let your tank establish for 8+ months to even come close to enough pods for even 1 mandarin to eat if your not going to bother training it.


Thanks for the info. I will keep this in mind. I know right now in my cad22 I have thousands of pods just in it. I also have heard that it you put a mound of LR rubble in the tank and drop food in it every so often that will help your pod amount as well. Have you heard this? I am also willing to limit the other fish in the tank for these fish. I also know that I can buy pods if I need to to supplement their diet. My only other question is are you finding that the fish that are eating brine and mysis healthier than the fish that eat only pods assuming they are getting their fill. Or are they the same. I want to make sure I am doing what will provide the fish with what they need to live fat and happy.


The 1st problem with using rubble as a pod "host" is that it often catches a lot of dirt and ends up being a nutrient sink that brings you more problems than it's worth. Cheato will do it significantly better not only because it will improve your water quality, but it serves as an equally good home for pods as well (but yes either method will help slightly with the pod population but do remember, even one mandarin could easily eat in the hundreds if not thousands of pods)

The 2nd problem is the fact that you have to constantly switch back and forth between the rubble (or other variant sized pieces your using) which can stress out your fish (both dragonet and anyone else in the tank) considerably which for the most part is preferably avoided. Not to mention that if you DO want to train your mandarin after possibly spooking it a few times, they act a bit more cautious towards you in general (not a guaranteed fact, but I have in fact observed such with the female I have kept whom I finished training about a month ago.)

As for the brine and mysis fed vs pods, I will have to say one thing first. Brine shrimp is nutritionally worse than popcorn (in my opinion) no matter what you do to it and can easily say I wouldn't even recommend these shrimp to my worst enemy if it wasn't one of the easiest foods to start training dragonets with (I never use any form of brine in my training and have always started with mysis.). As for it living off mysis it will do just fine so long as you enrich it with plenty of vitamins and HUFAs (same with some of the other frozen foods out there), however I have no experience keeping a mandarin strictly on mysis in the long term instead, I have always gotten them on a type of highly nutritious pellet food (Specifically New Life Spectrum) so I cannot speak from experience on whether or not a diet of enriched mysis will be in fact better than pods. Perhaps some other member out there who has done so can enlighten us both on that :P but do consider a high nutrient pellet food down the line for the sake of your dragonet (New Life Spectrum or Ocean Nutrition comes to mind). And if not for them then for your other future tank inhabitants as well (I always considered a high quality pellet food to be better than any of those frozen/freeze dried things you could possibly offer bar Nori in almost any fishes case.)

Hopes this helps and good luck with your future dragonet project! :)

#16
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The 1st problem with using rubble as a pod "host" is that it often catches a lot of dirt and ends up being a nutrient sink that brings you more problems than it's worth. Cheato will do it significantly better not only because it will improve your water quality, but it serves as an equally good home for pods as well (but yes either method will help slightly with the pod population but do remember, even one mandarin could easily eat in the hundreds if not thousands of pods)

The 2nd problem is the fact that you have to constantly switch back and forth between the rubble (or other variant sized pieces your using) which can stress out your fish (both dragonet and anyone else in the tank) considerably which for the most part is preferably avoided. Not to mention that if you DO want to train your mandarin after possibly spooking it a few times, they act a bit more cautious towards you in general (not a guaranteed fact, but I have in fact observed such with the female I have kept whom I finished training about a month ago.)

As for the brine and mysis fed vs pods, I will have to say one thing first. Brine shrimp is nutritionally worse than popcorn (in my opinion) no matter what you do to it and can easily say I wouldn't even recommend these shrimp to my worst enemy if it wasn't one of the easiest foods to start training dragonets with (I never use any form of brine in my training and have always started with mysis.). As for it living off mysis it will do just fine so long as you enrich it with plenty of vitamins and HUFAs (same with some of the other frozen foods out there), however I have no experience keeping a mandarin strictly on mysis in the long term instead, I have always gotten them on a type of highly nutritious pellet food (Specifically New Life Spectrum) so I cannot speak from experience on whether or not a diet of enriched mysis will be in fact better than pods. Perhaps some other member out there who has done so can enlighten us both on that :P but do consider a high nutrient pellet food down the line for the sake of your dragonet (New Life Spectrum or Ocean Nutrition comes to mind). And if not for them then for your other future tank inhabitants as well (I always considered a high quality pellet food to be better than any of those frozen/freeze dried things you could possibly offer bar Nori in almost any fishes case.)

Hopes this helps and good luck with your future dragonet project! :)



Thanks for the info. It looks like I will be training my fish then. Which it should not be a big deal because the fish that me LFS gets are supose to be pre trained. So hopefully I will get lucky with mine and they will be easy to get to eat the pellets. I will still prob be aroung 2 years till I get the fish because I have to move to set up my 125g. Then let it mature first. Thanks.
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#17
Fish Bowl

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Thanks for the info. It looks like I will be training my fish then. Which it should not be a big deal because the fish that me LFS gets are supose to be pre trained. So hopefully I will get lucky with mine and they will be easy to get to eat the pellets. I will still prob be aroung 2 years till I get the fish because I have to move to set up my 125g. Then let it mature first. Thanks.

Wow, I never heard of any whole seller who sells pre-trained dragonets aside from the tank raised ones from ORA (At least on the west coast) but even those sometimes won't always eat what they are advertised to.

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Wow, I never heard of any whole seller who sells pre-trained dragonets aside from the tank raised ones from ORA (At least on the west coast) but even those sometimes won't always eat what they are advertised to.


Great post. I was also fortunate enough to have a pre trained dragonette that ate mysis from day one.

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Fish Bowl

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Great post. I was also fortunate enough to have a pre trained dragonette that ate mysis from day one.

That's good! Glad to hear more successful stories with these fish. :)

#20
seeyouontheotherside

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excellent post and so useful.
I am looking to get a mandarin in my 1' cube (only fish species) and a HOB fuge.
Again my LFS sells them pre trained and I can see them feed. They are fed a brine, mysis, garlic mix. I would look to get it on a pellet like formula 1.... and try and keep the pod count up.

thanks again for the great post

#21
Fish Bowl

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excellent post and so useful.
I am looking to get a mandarin in my 1' cube (only fish species) and a HOB fuge.
Again my LFS sells them pre trained and I can see them feed. They are fed a brine, mysis, garlic mix. I would look to get it on a pellet like formula 1.... and try and keep the pod count up.

thanks again for the great post

Glad to hear your LFS sells them trained since so many like to sell you the one that's going to die if you don't do anything about it :lol:.

#22
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question about vacation feeding:

I received my mated pair of blue mandarins from ORA 10 days ago. My intent was to keep them isolated in an AccliMate inside the tank until they were eating well and adjusted to their new surroundings. Unfortunately, the female was pretty agitated the first morning and despite having the chamber covered, she jumped into the main tank. I figured that she would be less stressed with her mate, so I turned him loose. While he hangs out on the back wall, she hides most of the time and I have not sighted her for up to 3 days. They seem to be calming down and readily eat freshly hatched, gut fed nauplii that I make daily. The problem I have is that I have to leave the country for 12 days next week and they aren't going into the glass jar to feed yet. I wouldn't have gotten them so close to a trip, but I had waited for a long time for them and they only released a few with no more scheduled to be released for about another 6 months. I don't think that my house sitter will want to make fresh nauplii daily, so my question is, if I make a big batch, can they be stored for a few days (in the fridge or room temp?) and be fed some every day? I know that the brine shrimp molt rapidly in warm conditions, so I have no idea if this will work. I have a Solana 34 that has lots of live rock and has been running for 15 months, but I doubt that there is a large copepod population available--probably some in the rock cave that the ocellaris and boxfish can't get to. Will the mandarins starve in 12 days if I feed them really well the coming week?

Thanks for your help.

#23
JeffYoshiyuki

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i use a olive jar.

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#24
TennisWildcat95

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I just got a Mandarin today that I don't believe is trained. I was thinking about using the shot glass method. Does this method work well with PE Mysis Shrimp or New Life Spectrum Pellets? I added a container of Reef Nutrition Tigger Pods just to be safe. My tank has been set up for 6 months and I have observed a good amount of pods after lights out.

Any tips would be greatly appreciated.

Edited by TennisWildcat95, 01 May 2011 - 02:30 PM.


#25
Zuzu

Zuzu

    Nano Reefer

  • Members
  • 57 posts
  • Joined 23 Jan 2010
  • La Jolla, CA

I just got a Mandarin today that I don't believe is trained. I was thinking about using the shot glass method. Does this method work well with PE Mysis Shrimp or New Life Spectrum Pellets? I added a container of Reef Nutrition Tigger Pods just to be safe. My tank has been set up for 6 months and I have observed a good amount of pods after lights out.

Any tips would be greatly appreciated.


I've had my ORA mandarins for 12 days now. My male briefly entered the spice jar to eat some nauplii yesterday, but ignored the pellets and mysis. According to the ORA folks, why would they eat kibble when there's steak swimming around. I plan to keep offering the pellets and frozen when I get back from vacation to try to wean them off the live stuff. Interestingly enough, even though they have never seen rock and sand, after they got over the initial shock, they started picking stuff off of the rocks and sand.