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Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Update on Copperband Butterfly and Spotted Mandarin

So, as many of you know, both of these fish are hard to keep.  Each has its own challenges in a reef tank.  But, I am happy to say that both are doing very well so far.  I thought I would take an opportunity to address the challenges of each.

Spotted Mandarin

A mandarin can be a difficult fish to keep.  Because of that, most retailers will offer no guarantee on these fish?  The reality is that you have to meet certain criteria for the mandarin to survive.  If you can meet that criteria, then the fish is actually very easy to keep and will provide you with years of enjoyment.

Mandarins only eat copepods.  Copepods are the little white dots you see on your glass at night when you shine a flashlight.  They look like tiny fleas.  (Yes, some mandarins have been coaxed into eating frozen mysis, but they are the exception that proves the rule.)  And, they eat a lot of copepods.  These fish spend their days fluttering their fins hovering over the rockwork looking for "pods" all day long.  So, you need to have a big enough tank to support their voracious eating.  If not, they will deplete a tank of the copepod population very quickly and then die of starvation.   Most aquarists recommend a tank of 75g or larger with a healthy refugium and that the tank be set-up for at least a year (in order to let the pod population grow and thrive.)

The spotted mandarin I purchased was looking a little thin.  You can tell by looking at their bellies around their fins and the tops of the fish.  I could basically see his dorsal bone and he was concave around the midriff.  He was starving.  Well, he looks so much better now.  He is nice and round and looks to be growing quickly.  I see him from time to time eating off the rocks and he is quite an entertaining fish.

And, they are basically oblivious to other fish in the tank and the other fish ignore him.  I highly recommend a mandarin (either spotted or psychedelic) if your tank can support it.  They are completely reef-safe and a joy to have.

Copperband Butterfly

The copperband butterfly is an entirely different story and a risky addition to a reef tank.  These fish are shy and need to be with fish that are peaceful.  They are known to decimate a feather duster and worm population and then turn their attention to clams and soft coral.  Why?  Because they are hungry and they rarely ever eat frozen anything and hard to even get to live on live brine (sea monkeys).

For me, so far so good.  I made sure the fish actively ate live food while at the store.   I have always been a sucker for this fish and thought I would take a risk.  And, this was a beautiful and quite large specimen.

He still tends to hide in the back of the tank during the day, but as soon as the halides go off, he comes around to the front of the tank.  If you approach the tank too quickly he goes back into hiding.  I am hoping that will change over time as he gets used to his tankmates and the surroundings.

Last night I saw a marvelous thing.  I only feed the tank every other day and then, typically only frozen mysis cubes.  (1 cube every other day).  The butterfly came out and ate the frozen mysis.  Woo hoo!!!

He has yet to bother any of the coral (though I wouldn't mind if he feasted on the xenia that grows like a weed in my tank) and he is eating and healthy!!!

I will try to post a picture of both of these fish soon, but all my previous attempts have failed as they are both camera shy.

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