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)
-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.
-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.