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Mating Mandarin Fish - A Memorable Moment

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Mating Mandarin Fish - A Memorable Moment

Post Number:#1  Postby toodus » Tue Mar 17, 2015 7:10 pm

Back in 2010 when I first set foot on Mabul Island, I did not know what to expect. My first plunge in the waters of Mabul got me so addicted to macro and during that time, I was shown a mandarin fish for the first time. My photo of 3 mandarin fishes in one frame remains my most memorable underwater photo to date. The colors on a mandarin fish can't be found on any other fish that I have seen before. So colorful, vibrant and mesmerizing.
In 2010, blindly shooting inside a coral at Mabul.

As I got interested in underwater photography, photos of mating mandarin fishes came to view on the Internet. And after much research, I came to discover that there is only one dive area in Malaysia that has the ritual behavior of mating mandarin fishes and that place is no other than Mabul. I don't know about this but I hear that in order to take the specific mating mandarin fish, the charges are extra for the guides to take you there during sunset. And in other parts of the continent, an extra fee of USD45 is charged for just this purpose.

Fast forward back to 2015. I have been to many dive spots in the world and I have to say, I have seen a great deal of critters like the elusive Melibe colemani, Doto sp, two tone pygmy squid, bobtail squid and the list goes on. In a nutshell, I'm a dive snob la....

A few weeks ago, I was back at my usual dive centre - Celebes Beach Resort on Pom Pom Island for a bit of R&R. There has always been mandarin fishes on Pom Pom Island and there's even a dive site called Mandarin Playground. If you move slow enough, you can spot the mandarins darting in and out of rubbles that are strewn all over the area.
On the day of my arrival, I did a dive at Mandarin Playground and spotted 2-3 mandarin fishes but did not pay attention. My dives continued on photographing nudis and other critters. However, on my last day of diving , I decided to try and photograph a pair of mating mandarin fish since I have never taken one and it has always been on my list.

it is common knowledge that mandarins mate during sunset. So, I went down at 5:55pm. Swam to the spot where I spotted the mandarins 4 days ago and planted myself there. By 610pm, I saw a mandarin slowly moving and within 1 second, it dissapeared into the rubble. My heart skipped a beat. A few minutes later, I could see another mandarin fluttering out in the open for 2 seconds and went back in. By that time, I knew this was the spot that they will mate. I looked at my dive comp and 20 minutes has passed. With the fading light, it was quite tough to look for the mandarins. Mandarins are very sensitive towards our torch light and the moment a ray of light is pointed towards them, they will dart right back into the rubble.
It's 6:20pm and finally, a pair rose up and moved closer to each other and that was the moment , I pressed the shutter.

So close
That magical moment

At the end of the day, I realized it is not the photograph but the exhiliration of an occurance that excites you. Nevertheless, capturing that moment is an added bonus.
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Re: Mating Mandarin Fish - A Memorable Moment

Post Number:#2  Postby seamoth » Tue Mar 17, 2015 11:20 pm

You can try covering the torchlight with transparent red colour paper. The fish is not so sensitive to red light. I have done that before but you have to shoo away other divers who come calling with their superbright Kowalski torches.
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