We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

How We Make Money

We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently from our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is a Dragonet?

By J.L. Drede
Updated May 17, 2024
Our promise to you
WiseGEEK is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At WiseGEEK, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

A dragonet is a small perciform marine fish from the callionymidae family that is found in the waters surrounding the eastern coast of Africa and the island of Sumatra. There are many different species of dragonet, but most are small and range between 2 to 3 inches (5 to 8 centimeters) in size. Three of the species in particular — the starry dragonet, spotted mandarin fish and green mandarin fish — are popular choices for reef aquarium enthusiasts.

Most dragonets have extremely bright and flamboyant coloration. The green mandarin fish typically has green, blue, and orange patterns with dark blue fins. The spotted mandarin fish is also green, with blue, black and orange spots covering its body. The starry dragonet is less striking than others and is usually white with patches of red and brown. In the wild, these fish are usually found along reefs close to the shore and in lagoon areas. It is a bottom dweller and is usually seen in pairs or in groups among dead coral and rocks where it can hide from predators. It is a carnivorous fish and will eat small crustaceans.

Despite its popularity, the dragonet is an extremely difficult fish to keep alive and healthy in a marine aquarium and is not recommended by most fish experts for beginner or even advanced aquarium keepers. While most fish kept in aquariums can adapt to flake food or brine shrimp, most dragonets kept in aquariums will only eat live prey. Even if it develops a taste for pre-killed food or flakes, it typically won't get a chance to eat it in a community tank because it is a slow eating fish.

An aquarium with a population of dragonetes will need a steady supply of copepods and amphipod crustaceans or the fish will most likely starve. While it is compatible with most other species of non-aggressive fish, it can be difficult to keep multiple dragonets in one aquarium together. This is especially true with males, which can become territorial.

The water conditions needed to keep a dragonet alive are also strict, further indicating that it is not a fish for beginners. Dragonets require an aquarium that is at least 30 gallons in size, with plenty of hiding spaces and a natural sand substrate. Without hiding spaces the fish will become stressed and most likely die. It can only survive in a very small temperature range, between 75 and 79 degrees Fahrenheit (23 to 26 Celsius), and in with a steady pH level between 8.1 and 8.4.

Frequently Asked Questions

What exactly is a dragonet?

A dragonet is a small, brightly colored marine fish belonging to the Callionymidae family. They are known for their striking appearance, which includes vibrant hues and elaborate fin structures. Dragonets are bottom-dwellers, often found in sandy or muddy substrates of shallow, tropical, and subtropical ocean waters, where they feed on small invertebrates.

How do dragonets reproduce?

Dragonets have a unique mating ritual where males display their fins to attract females. They are known for their elaborate courtship dances, which involve synchronized swimming and fin displays. Fertilization occurs externally, with females releasing eggs into the water column as males release sperm, according to marine biologists studying their reproductive behavior.

What do dragonets eat?

Dragonets primarily feed on a diet of small benthic invertebrates such as worms, crustaceans, and other tiny organisms they find in the substrate. Their feeding habits play a role in controlling the populations of these invertebrates, making dragonets an integral part of the marine ecosystem's balance.

Are dragonets easy to keep in aquariums?

Keeping dragonets in home aquariums can be challenging due to their specific dietary needs. They require a well-established tank with a plentiful supply of live microfauna for grazing. Without this, they may not thrive. Experienced aquarists with mature tanks are more likely to successfully keep dragonets healthy and vibrant.

How many species of dragonets are there?

There are over 180 species of dragonets, each with its own distinct patterns and colorations. These species vary in size and habitat preferences, but all share the common characteristics of the Callionymidae family. Biodiversity within this group is quite high, with new species occasionally being discovered and described by scientists.

What role do dragonets play in their ecosystem?

Dragonets are considered an important part of the marine food web. They help control the populations of the small invertebrates they prey on, and in turn, they serve as a food source for larger predators. Their role in bioturbation also helps in oxygenating the sediment and recycling nutrients, contributing to the overall health of their marine habitats.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

WiseGEEK, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

WiseGEEK, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.