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Alexraptor's 10g Mandarin Garden


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Given that I have managed to nurse her back to good health, I am feeling confident in sharing my litlte Mandarin's tank. :)

This tank previously served as my G. Smithii's home until a failed molt claimed his life last spring. =/



Tank Details:

- 43 Liter standard glass aquarium.

- 50w AquaEl glass heater

- Hydor Koralia Nano 900 stream pump

- Hagen-Glo 2x39w T5HO fixtured shared with a neighboring 10gal.

- Sylvania Aquastar 10000k

- Hagen Marine-Glo Actinic



- Green Mandarin Dragonet

- Unidentified elusive green hitchhiker pistol shrimp.

- Wheeler's Shrimp Goby

- Hermit crab

- Star Polyps

- Yellow Montipora Digita frag

- Pink Mushrooms.



Well this is one of my more intersting setups.

A skimerless 10 gallon which has been up and running for almost 2 years and 6 months at the time of this post.

Originally it was home to my mantis that sadly passed away in the spring of 2013 from a failed molt.

Its a very high nutrient skimmerless tank with a few hardy corals and is dominated by algae, both desirable ones such as small mermaids fans, some halimeda and recently introduced C. Prolifera, as well as ones commonly considered pests such as two species of bubble algae and red and green turf algaes.

As such it boasts a very strong pod population that is suprisingly, for the time being, able to keep up with the demands of a little female dragonet.

It is also a very suitable habitat to a small species of turbosnails I maintain and breed and am now on the third of fourth generation.


My Mandarin was a scrawny thing when I got her, but while she rejected my efforts to train her to accept prepared foods, she actually started to gain a modest amount of weight without wiping out the pods.

And over a month later they are still going strong.

But things really changed with her when I introduced her to frozen prawn/lobster eggs.

Instant success with very little hesitation, and now i supplement her natural diet of microfauna with two feedings a day of frozen eggs, and she is now really really nice and plump. :)


She shares her home with a wheeler shrimp goby that i got some months back to try and lure out a hitchhiker pistol shrimp that refuses to show itself.

Unfortunately i had no luck, but they get along very well, and my mandarin will sometimes even bunk with him. :)


So, enough talk, more pictures!!!






She is verrry camera shy.

But here's a couple of vids to make up for that. :)


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  • 3 weeks later...

Nearly another month gone by, still very shy, but food seems to keep her distracted enough for me to carefully sneak up on her.

Had to throw out the hermit though, as he kept stealing her food.




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  • 4 months later...

Well Ive had her for over 6 months now, and she's the picture of health.


Unfortunately though I missed a couple of Ca/Alk dosing sessions, and one of my calcerous macro's went sexual and nearly nuked the tank.

My wheeler goby died in the incident. :(

I ended up getting a skimmer for her as a failsafe, as 1.) It will help remove organics from the water should it go sexual again, and 2.) Skimmers actually do help oxygenate the water.

I'm still a firm believer in skimmerless tanks, only that I need to be more careful in the future with the macroalgae i cultivate.


This is where my Mandarin tank has progressed to today, minus a goby and plus an overdimensioned bigass skimmer.




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  • 3 weeks later...

My personal and honest opinion is that a healthy super fine live sandbed is absolutely essential in a mandarin tank, along with lots and lots of macroalgae.




I don't know how many people have realised it, but not only is it great for burrowing pods and crustaceans, Mandarins will actually hunt things on and in the surface of the sandbed as well.

And for them to effectively do that, the sand needs to be fine enough so it can safely pass through the gill cavity.


I can often see mine pecking about in the sandbed, and when she finds something really interesting she just digs in and sprays a flurry of sand through her gills.

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Mr. Microscope

Wow! I can't believe this thread hasn't seen more action. I always wanted to keep a manderin, but never felt my tank was ready for one. You've inspired me to go for something similar to your setup sometime in the future. Thank you Alex! You have a beautiful fish and I really appreciate your observations about care (like your sandbed thing). Following.

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Haha, thanks. :)


I reguarly check up on my pod population by looking at the glass, gives me a general idea of how their faring. I was worried after I had a calcerous macro go sexual from missed ca/alk dosing, as the pods took a hit from that incident. But they seem to have rebounded nicely.


Btw, anyone spotted the pod on the photo yet? :)

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about 3:30 in front of the leaf. ;) do I get a prize?

You win a proverbial cookie! :D


Well this is certainly interesting.

I knew for certain her tank was teeming with amphipods, and I "suspected" I may have copepods, but I was never able to confirm it.... until now.



I think having kept a sustainable pod population with a mandarin in a 10 gallon tank, without a fuge, for 6-7 months is a notable achievement. :)


Also I have been trying something new lately. Subjecting my mandarin tank to full and direct sunlight a few hours every day, and I have to say there is a marked difference in growth here since I started doing that.



Its a pretty dense jungle I got going there, plenty of shelter for critters, and a lot of surface area to graze on. :)

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Went away for 4 days, zero feedings.

Came back to a still nice and plump mandarin, and still plenty of pods skitterting around. :)

Not gonna change her feeding regimen, but its nice to know the tank is stable enough to sustain her by its own for a short while at least, when one needs to go places.

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The resident Asterina reared its... arms... today, managed to get a few nice pictures of it.

By far the largest one I have ever seen in any of my tanks.




Definitely an impressive specimen, and nice colors too. :)




Last I saw it, was about a month ago when I shot this video of it. :)

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this build is awesome, I am about to do a split 10g tisbe pod culture to feed my tank pods and hopefully be able to support a mandarin.


that star is awesome btw

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  • 1 month later...

Ive been skimping a lot with feeding lately, even as rarely as twice a week now, but she's still doing fine! Why is that??? :haha:



I officially reject this archaic dogma: "Smaller tanks cannot have large enough populations of copepods to feed a mandarin dragonet long-term. They'll be wiped out in a matter of weeks."

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I officially reject this archaic dogma: "Smaller tanks cannot have large enough populations of copepods to feed a mandarin dragonet long-term. They'll be wiped out in a matter of weeks."


Oh, they can, if set up properly... but most AREN'T set up to do so successfully is the real issue. As you've found, lots of macroalgae/a healthy sandbed and a nutrient-rich environment pretty much sets the stage. I'm at the other end of the spectrum with my own tank - the clean up crew I've assembled to consume the mandarin's leftovers and keep it from lowering the tank's water quality have done so admirably - but also consume every display macro I've stocked, even the stuff described as "unpalatable". My tank LOOKS low-nutrient and while I do get waves of pods every now and then, but nothing like the spread you have in your latter videos. I have to supplement ever few weeks with a bag of Algagen tsibes... worth it as my little girl's approaching the 1-year mark and seems quite healthy.


I envy you and your LobsterEgg purveying store-having country. My mandarin's getting acquainted with a few foods now that were recommended over in the Mandarin Show-off thread, but nothing anywhere as easy & readily accepted as Nutramar/LobsterEggs!


Beautiful tank and excellent shots!

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