Mandarin fish spotted in Singapore for the first time

A PAIR of mandarin fish – colorful reef fish known to divers for their exotic moonlit mating dances – have been spotted for the first time in Singapore.

The fish species is not known to be found naturally in the Republic, although it does occur in nearby waters, such as the Philippines, as well as Borneo and Java in Indonesia.

Yesterday fish experts said it was likely the pair had been released from the aquarium trade.

Hospital Care Coordinator Venus Tan, 49, spotted the two Mandarin Dragons (Synchiropus Splendus) at One°15 Marina on Sentosa while recreational diving around 5:30 p.m. on April 22.

On the phone yesterday, Tan said: “I hadn’t used my camera for a while, so I was hovering near some rocks on the seabed, trying to adjust the settings, when I saw a dark shape going in and out of the rubble.”

She slowly moved closer to the pile of rocks, trying not to startle the fish, and shined a faint beam from her dive torch on the rubble.

It was then that she saw flashes of the characteristic mandarin fish coloration – wavy patterns of bright blue and orange.

“My first thought was, isn’t that a mandarin fish? I got some hits quickly,” Tan said.

There were two of them, she added, although she did not see them doing their nuptial dance. The show usually takes place after sunset, when the females gather to watch the males play.

Tan’s sighting was confirmed by Zeehan Jaafar, a fish scientist at the National University of Singapore.

The sighting was published as a biodiversity record in the scientific journal Nature In Singapore. —The Straits Times/ANN

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