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Dragonets, One of the Most Colourful Fish on the Reef

March 20, 2014

Dragonets are a very interesting and beautiful family of fish.

The colour patterns on each species of this varied family are gorgeous.  They are mostly a bottom dwelling fish that rarely ventures into the water column.  Many dragonets, like the mandarinfish for example, hide among corals during the day and emerge at dusk to feed and possibly mate.
The mandarinfish, Synchiropus splendidus, is perhaps the most spectacular member of the dragonet family with an amazing colour pattern of green, blue, and orange.  Underwater photographers love to encounter them and oftentimes dedicate an entire dive solely to photograph these beautiful fish.

The best time to photograph mandarinfish is at dusk when they emerge from the coral in order to feed and look for possible mates. The mating behavior itself is something to behold as both fish rise into the water column side by side for a brief moment to mix eggs and sperm before dashing back into the cover of nearby corals.

Mature males, which are larger than females, often clash in a brief fight when they encounter each other while searching for female partners.  In certain areas, like in Okinawa (south Japan), they have a mating season which lasts only a few months each year. However, in Indonesia, Palau, and Yap, they seem to mate almost nightly all year round.


Another interesting member of the dragonet family is the “Picture Dragonet”, Synchiropus Picturatus, which closely resembles Mandarinfish but with large circles on its body instead of stripes.  It’s about the same size as a mandarinfish with adults averaging approximately 5cm long.
The “Picture Dragonet” is much less common than Mandarinfish and encounters with them are rare among divers.  However, three of the best spots to find them are in Indonesia in Bali, Komodo National Park, and Raja Ampat.


Written by Luca

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