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Dragonet Care Sheet

Developed with and approved by a qualified veterinarian.



Scientific name: Synchiropus spendidus, Synchiropus picturatus, Synchiropus cf. splendidus, Synchiropus ocellatus, Synchiropus stellatus, Synchiropus moyeri 

Dragonets, often called gobies or blennies, are popular species among marine aquarists. Mandarin fish are especially popular due to their distinctive color pattern and unusual beauty. Most dragonets have similar characteristics and are well known for their elaborate first dorsal spine or fin. These fish use their first dorsal fins, like peacocks do, to put on a courtship display. Because of their dietary requirements, these small fish must be kept in a well-established, 29-gallon-or-larger aquarium with plenty of live rock, live sand and hiding places. They feed on natural prey and tiny crustaceans found on the live rock and in the sand. 

Typical dragonet appearance and behavior 

  • Dragonets spend most of their time actively skimming the bottom of the aquarium and flitting about the live rock in search of food
  • Slow-moving and shy, they appreciate lots of hiding places
  • They produce a noxious, bitter mucus to deter predators
  • Males have an elongated first dorsal spine or elaborate dorsal fins and may show brighter colors than their female counterparts
  • They can be finicky eaters


Care Difficulty Advanced
Average Life Span Up to 15 years with proper care
Average Adult Size Up to 12 inches, depending on the species
Diet Carnivore
Minimum Habitat Size 29+ gallons, depending on the species
Water Temperature 74–80°F
Specific gravity 1.020–1.025


Habitat size

House in an aquarium that's at least 29 gallons so there's plenty of space for live rock for the dragonets to feed from.

Building your habitat

  • Water health: Provide proper filtration to ensure optimal water quality to help maintain health. Slow to moderate water circulation should be provided to mimic water currents found in dragonets’ natural habitat. Stable water quality (pH, ammonia, nitrate, nitrite) and water temperature are critical to the health of aquatic life. If you are unsure of your water quality, bring a sample to Petco for free testing. A protein skimmer can help maintain great water quality and high dissolved oxygen levels. An aquatic heater should be used to stabilize water temperature and help ensure it does not fluctuate more than 2 degrees in either direction in a 24-hour period. The specific gravity should remain stable; do not allow specific gravity to fluctuate more than 0.001 in either direction in a 24-hour period
  • Décor: Provide plenty of live rock and décor for hiding places; live sand will help provide the natural food supply needed to help keep your dragonet happy and healthy


A well-balanced dragonet diet consists of:

  • Small crustaceans—copepods, amphipods and ostracods—and polychaete worms
  • Live baby brine shrimp called artemia
  • Pellets and frozen brine shrimp or mysis shrimp, which some dragonets may be transitioned to eating

Things to remember when feeding your dragonet:

  • Dragonets must be kept in a tank with plenty of live rock where they can feed on copepods and other tiny life-forms
  • Feed them small amounts two to three times daily, no more than they will eat in 1 to 2 minutes
  • Thaw frozen food before feeding

Dragonet care

  • Water care: Maintaining great water quality with regular water changes and adequate filtration is important to help keep your dragonet healthy
    • Daily: Check filter, water temperature and other equipment
    • Weekly: Test water quality at least once a week
    • Weekly to monthly: Change 10 to 25% of the total volume of water every two to four weeks, or as needed; change filter media monthly
  • Avoid overcrowded conditions, which are a major cause of stress and disease

Where to buy

Dragonets are available for purchase at Petco online and in store; availability varies by location. If visiting your local location, please call ahead to check availability. 

Dragonet supplies

Tank mates

  • Dragonets are best kept in reef-type tanks
  • They can't compete for food with larger or more aggressive-eating fish
  • Mandarin gobies are very territorial toward their own species; keep only one mandarin goby or one male/female pair per tank
  • Scooter dragonets may form small congregations, but territory disputes may occur
  • Introduce new inhabitants to the aquarium gradually


Signs of a healthy fish

  • Clear eyes
  • Healthy appetite
  • Bright, even coloring
  • Completely intact and undamaged fins
  • Free of parasites or disease

Red flags (If you notice any of these signs, contact your local aquatic specialist or aquatic veterinarian.)

  • Loss of color or appetite
  • Spots or fungus on body or mouth
  • Listlessness
  • Erratic swimming
  • Labored breathing
  • Weight loss
  • Cloudy eyes
  • Frayed fins
  • Bloating 

Common health issues

Health Issue Symptoms or Causes Suggested Action
Health IssueFin rot Symptoms or CausesFrayed or disintegrating fins; the base of the fins usually reddens. Suggested ActionImprove water quality; consult your local aquatic specialist or aquatic veterinarian for treatment.
Health IssueMarine ich or marine velvet Symptoms or CausesCysts on fins, gills and skin; rapid breathing; excess skin mucus or pale skin; fish rubs against hard objects or swims erratically Suggested ActionQuarantine fish immediately and use a commercial parasite remedy; complete a water change on main aquarium—freshwater dips can help dislodge the parasites; consult your local aquatic specialist or aquatic veterinarian for treatment
Health IssueBacterial infections Symptoms or CausesCloudy eyes, open sores and/or reddening of the skin. Suggested ActionImprove water quality; add freshwater salt and use a commercial antibacterial remedy as directed; consult your local aquatic specialist or aquatic veterinarian for treatment.
Health IssueViral infection (lymphocystis) Symptoms or CausesWhite nodule growths on fins or body Suggested ActionImprove water quality; consult your local aquatic specialist or aquatic veterinarian for treatment



Dragonets feed on small crustaceans known as copepods, amphipods and ostracods, and polychaete worms.

Dragonets should be observed picking at the live rock—that’s a good indication that they’re eating. They should be full-bodied with no weight loss.

Mandarin gobies primarily feed on small crustaceans living on live rock or in live sand but may be transitioned to consuming pellet diets or frozen brine and mysis shrimp. There are also commercially offered copepod cultures. Additionally, gobies can be offered newly hatched brine shrimp called artemia.

Mandarin gobies can reach an adult size of 3 inches.

Dragonets may accept newly hatched brine shrimp called artemia. With some patience, they may be transitioned to accepting commercial foods like brine or mysis shrimp.

Additional care sheets

Notes and resources

Ask a Petco Pet Care Center partner about Petco's selection of products available for the care and happiness of your new pet. All products carry a 100% money-back guarantee.

Because all aquatic life are potential carriers of infectious diseases such as atypical mycobacterium and salmonella, always wash your hands before and after handling your aquatic life or habitat contents to help prevent the potential spread of disease.

Pregnant women, children under the age of 5, senior citizens and people with weakened immune systems should contact their physician before purchasing or caring for aquatic life and should consider not having aquatic life as a pet.

Go to the Centers for Disease Control at for more information about aquatic life and disease.

The information on this care sheet is not a substitute for veterinary care. If you need additional information, contact your veterinarian as appropriate.