The Scooter Blenny, or more accurately, the Ocellated Dragonet, is a smaller dragonet that costs less, however needs just as much consideration as it’s colorful mandarin cousins.
The Scooter Blenny has elongated body with features similar to it’s brightly colored mandarin cousin. Their colors can be a mix of mottled brown, tan, dark brown, reddish brown, reddish orange and/or white. On males, the first dorsal fin it significantly taller and larger than the females and he is also physically larger. Their eyes are orange to red and they have a slight arched bulge that has alternating colors that can be colors of the body or have a slight hint of blue speckling. The males can grow to 3.5” (8.9 cm), females can grow to 2.4” (6 cm), and can live 7 years or more.
Scooter Blennies are not actually blennies, but are in the same family as mandarins called the Dragonets. Many similar species are loosely grouped and sold under the name “Scooter” because of their manner of “scooting” along the substrate of the aquarium. They can also look very similar, and it is difficult to keep them all straight even, in the marine trade industry. You may have to research your “Scooter Blenny” to determine for sure just which fish you have!These Dragonets have a noxious mucous layer making for a less tasty prey item. They are scaleless and have spines on their cheeks, so they should not be netted as these spines can become entangled. Some dragonets have been acclimated to aquarium food, however it takes persistence. They are similar to the Finger Dragonet, which is larger and the Starry or Red Dragonet or Red Scooter Blenny, except for coloring.
Scooter Blennies can be very difficult or quite hardy, depending on the preparation of the aquarist. They are best kept by intermediate to advanced aquarists who can understand their specific needs. Scooter Blennies are almost immune to Crypt because of their scaleless body and if fed well will live a long life. Because of their scaleless bodies, do not use copper or Organophosphates (See list under diseases). Do not add your Scooter Blenny to a sparsely fed or a bare bottomed tank, since copepods and amphipods will not have the food available to reproduce fast enough to keep up with their nutritional needs. Avoid netting them, as their cheek spines will become entangled and can cause injury.
Male and female pairs will often spawn in captivity. They can be kept alone, as a a male/female pair, or one male with several females. Two males will attack each other, unless the tank is very large. Do not house with their striped cousin or other dragnets unless the tanks is hundreds of gallons. Most fish will ignore the Scooter Blennies except for the most pugnacious fish. Do not house with potent sea anemones, strong stinging LPS, large crabs, aggressive fish, fish in the Scorpion family, Halichoeres Wrasses, Lined Wrasses or mantis shrimp.
Make sure your tank is at least 12 months old and has 75+ pounds of established live rock packed with pods for each Scooter Blenny. Provide sand for the substrate for them to hunt and sleep on and avoid bare bottomed tanks. Some aquarists have used a ‘pod pile,” which is a few small rocks that are piled up tightly enough to protect most of the pods from predation. Added to the middle of this pile would be a small piece of shrimp, fish flesh or other food every few days so the pods will rapidly breed and come out to be eaten! You can also add a refugium to the tank to keep the pod population up or culture your own pods.
- For more information on keeping this fish see: Guide to a Happy, Healthy Marine Aquarium
Scooter Blenny – Quick Aquarium Care
|Aquarist Experience Level:
|Minimum Tank Size:
|55 gal (208 L)
|Size of fish – inches:
|3.5 inches (8.89 cm)
|72.0 to 82.0° F (22.2 to 27.8° C)
Habitat: Distribution / Background
Scooter Blennies are found in the Pacific Ocean from southern Japan to the Marquesans Islands. They inhabit areas with sandy bottoms such as lagoon reefs, seaward reefs and shallower sheltered rocky reef habitats at depths from 3 to 98 feet (1 to 30 meters). These little fish feed on benthic crustaceans such as copepods, amphipods, in the Philippines, eastern Indonesia and Northwest Australia in shallow sheltered reefs, tidal creeks, lagoon patch reefs and mangrove swamps, where there is a sandy bottom. They are found in small loose groups that are spread out over a small territory. The depths they are found are from 3 to 66 feet (1 to 20 meters), feeding on zooplankton such as early stages of fish eggs and larvae, copepods (specifically Harpacticoid), small mollusks, isopods, ostracods, cumaceans, caprellid amphipods (skeleton shrimp), tanaids, small polychaetes and annelids (marine worms).
The Scooter Blenny has not been evaluated by the IUCN Red List for Endangered Species.
Species Variations and Similar Species:
- Finger Dragonette (Dactylopus dactlopus): Similar in coloring, though larger. Fins are darker brown mottling and body is tan and white mottling.
- Red Scooter Blenny or Starry Dragonet (Neosynchiropus stellatus) – similar size and mottling favors reds and oranges instead of browns and tans.
- Scientific Name: Synchiropus ocellatus
- Social Grouping: Groups – Found in loose groups in the wild.
- IUCN Red List: NE – Not Evaluated or not listed
The Scooter Blenny has elongated body with physical features similar to it’s brightly colored mandarin cousin. This would include a noxious mucous layer, making them less palatable to predators, along with spines on their cheeks. Their colors can be a mix of mottled brown, tan, dark brown, reddish brown and/or white depending on location. On males, the first dorsal fin it significantly taller and larger than the females and he is also physically larger. His first dorsal fin can be twice as tall as the second dorsal fin and it has a maze of clear and green or tan irregular bands, along with an area of yellowish orange to orange toward the front of the fin close to the body. They have 4 spines on the front dorsal fin that blend in with the coloring of the fin rays;,however, the spines turn white (filaments) and extend an inch or so past the rays. The second dorsal fin and the tail fin both have thicker spines that are the same mottled color as the body, with clear to opaque rays. Their eyes are orange to red and they have a slight arched bulge that has alternating colors that can be colors of the body or have a slight hint of blue speckling. The males can grow to 3.5″ (8.9 cm) and females grow to 2.4″ (6 cm). Scooter Blennies can live 7 years or more.
- Size of fish – inches: 3.5 inches (8.89 cm) – 2.4″ (6 cm) is more than likely the female’s size.
- Lifespan: 7 years – 7 years or more with proper care.
Fish Keeping Difficulty
Scooter Blennies can be difficult to moderately easy to care for, depending on your set up and preparation. Tank should be at least a year old and large enough, at least 29 gallons to hold 75+ pounds of live rock per Scooter Blenny you want to keep. This rock should be heavily populated with copepods and amphipods before an aquarist brings home their Scooter Blenny. Purchase your Scooter Blenny as soon as they arrive at the store, yet avoiding any emaciated or very thin specimens, since these individuals are difficult to restore to proper health. To be sure you have a healthy Scooter Blenny, look at the area behind their pectoral fins, near the bottom of the body. If that is pinched in severely, recovery may not be possible. Order one from your LFS, have them call you when it arrives and before they acclimate it to their system, bring your Scooter Blenny home right away and acclimate it as you would a fish that was shipped directly to you, unless it has already been acclimated to the stores tanks. These are one of those rare fish that should be put directly into the main display, unless you have a quarantine tank that is 12 months old and has 50 pounds or more of live rock, with a heavy population of amphipods and copepods.
To adjust them to prepared foods, some aquarists have had success placing a narrow glass bottle filled with pellets or mysis, that other fish cannot get into, on the bottom front of the tank to ensure they are getting enough food. This can be done to train them, however the tank still needs to have plenty of live foods. This will allow the long period of time it may take to wean them over to prepared meaty foods. They will still eat the live foods, so this is merely a supplemental feeding.
- Aquarium Hardiness: Moderately Difficult – If 75+ pounds of live rock loaded with copepods and/or amphipods is provided, they are moderately hardy.
- Aquarist Experience Level: Intermediate
Foods and Feeding
Scooter Blennies are carnivores, eating benthic organisms from the crustacean and marine worm groups. Scooter Blennies tend to only go for live food, so a mature aquarium that is 12 months or older with 75+ pounds of pod populated live rock is essential. They will predominately eat copepods and amphipods, however some have trained them over to prepared foods by starting with live brine shrimp, live black worms and live mysis, then adding frozen/thawed into the mix and slowly changing the mix to all frozen/thawed. Some have tried formula I, and formula II pellets once they have been trained. You can attempt to start out by adding a small jar that they can fit into that larger fish cannot enter and put the food in there. Monitor this jar and do not let the food rot. Feed 3 times a day minimum.
- Diet Type: Carnivore
- Flake Food: No – They typically won’t eat flake
- Tablet / Pellet: Yes – Once they have been acclimated to prepared foods.
- Live foods (fishes, shrimps, worms): All of Diet
- Meaty Food: All of Diet
- Feeding Frequency: Several feedings per day
Guidelines for water changes with different types and sizes of aquariums are:
- Fish only tanks:
- Medium sized up to 90 gallons, perform 20% to 30% monthly depending on bioload.
- Large Tanks 100 gallons and over, once water is aged and stable can be changed 20% to 30% every 6 weeks depending on bioload.
- Reef tanks:
- Medium sized up to 90 gallons, perform 15% bi-weekly.
- Large Tanks 100 gallons and over, once water is aged and stable can be changed 10% bi-weekly to 20% monthly, depending on bioload.
For more information on maintaining a saltwater aquarium see: Saltwater Aquarium Basics: Maintenance. A reef tank will require specialized filtration and lighting equipment. Learn more about reef keeping see: Mini Reef Aquarium Basics.
- Water Changes: Bi-weekly
Scooters do best in larger reef tanks with at least 75+ pounds of good live rock per fish, loaded with copepods and amphipods. These fish can occupy reef tanks or fish only tanks, however fish only tanks should have enough light to provide the algae that copepods like to hang out and breed in. Provide a sandy bottom and rock work for them to hide in, avoiding bare bottomed tanks. Temperature should range from 72˚F to 82˚F with a salinity of 1.023 to 1.026. They can be housed alone or as a male/female pair, however there should be 150+ pounds of established live rock for a pair. They do best in a peaceful community tank with a refugium or “pod pile” to provide copepods or a regular addition of copepods and amphipods from a separate tank that they are being cultured in separately.
- Minimum Tank Size: 55 gal (208 L) – Tank needs to be big enough to accommodate 75 to 150 pounds of live rock.
- Suitable for Nano Tank: Sometimes – Only if Scooter is eating prepared foods.
- Live Rock Requirement: Typical Amount
- Lighting Needs: Moderate – normal lighting – Enough to promote some algae growth that their natural foods like to live in.
- Temperature: 72.0 to 82.0° F (22.2 to 27.8° C)
- Breeding Temperature: 79.0° F – Summertime temperatures
- Specific gravity: 1.023-1.026 SG
- Range ph: 8.1-8.4
- Brackish: No
- Water Movement: Weak – Weaker near the bottom where they feed, however other parts of the tank can have stronger flow.
- Water Region: Bottom
Scooter Blennies are peaceful and can be housed alone, as a male/female pair, or one male with several females. Two males will fight unless the tank is very large. Male Scooter Blennies will attack their Dragonet cousins.
While most fish ignore the Scooter Blenny, some of the more obnoxious fish will pester smaller slower moving fish like some aggressive Damsels, Pygmy Angelfish, Dottybacks etc., especially in smaller tanks. Scorpionfish, including Lionfish and predatorial fish will eat them. Avoid soapfish as well as aggressive fish like the more aggressive triggerfish, large dottybacks and the more aggressive large angelfish. Lined wrasses and Halichoeres wrasses will eat too many of the copepods that your 75+ pounds of live rock is housing. I personally had no problem with a Mandarin, which is larger and eat more than a Scooter along with several fairy wrasses in a 150 gallon tank; however I had over 225 pounds of live rock, so that is probably why.
If housed in a reef, they will not bother any of the corals, however, similar to some seahorses, certain corals should be avoided. Stay away from strong stinging anemones, especially carpet varieties and elephant ear mushrooms. Strong stinging LPS such as the Elegance Corals will kill them with their sting, and it will not be instant, but a long and painful death lasting a day or more.
Inverts are safe, although they will eat a lot of copepods and amphipods. Avoid large crabs and mantis shrimp.
- Venomous: No
- Temperament: Peaceful – Males are not compatible unless tank is very large.
- Compatible with:
- Same species – conspecifics: Sometimes – Male and female pairs or one male and several females.
- Peaceful fish (gobies, dartfish, assessors, fairy wrasses): Safe – Do not house with other dragonets.
- Semi-Aggressive (anthias, clownfish, dwarf angels): Monitor – Avoid aggressive Dwarf angelfish and aggressive clownfish like Maroons and Cinnamon Clownfish in smaller tanks under 55 gallons.
- Large Semi-Aggressive (tangs, large angels, large wrasses): Monitor – Avoid Halichoeres Wrasses which will outcompete them for food. Other large wrasses should be okay. Monitor the more aggressive genus of Angelfish and Triggerfish
- Large Aggressive, Predatory (lionfish, groupers, soapfish): Threat
- Anemones: Monitor – Avoid the stronger stinging anemones and those that are near the middle or bottom of the tank
- Mushroom Anemones – Corallimorphs: Monitor – Elephant Ear mushrooms anemones and other fish eaters will eat them
- LPS corals: Monitor – Avoid the strong stinging LPS like Elegance Coral and similar.
- SPS corals: Safe
- Gorgonians, Sea Fans: Safe
- Leather Corals: Safe
- Soft Corals (xenias, tree corals): Safe
- Star Polyps, Organ Pipe Coral: Safe
- Zoanthids – Button Polyps, Sea Mats: Safe
- Sponges, Tunicates: Safe
- Shrimps, Crabs, Snails: Monitor – Avoid large crabs and mantis shrimp.
- Starfish: Safe
- Feather Dusters, Bristle Worms, Flatworms: Safe
- Clams, Scallops, Oysters: Safe
- Copepods, Amphipods, Mini Brittle Stars: Monitor – Scooter Blennies will decimate populations of copepods and amphipods unless there is enough live rock
Males are larger, growing to 3.5″ (8.9 cm) and females are closer to 2.4″ (6 cm). Males have much larger and taller first dorsal spine with 4 filaments that extend past the rays of the fin.
Breeding / Reproduction
Similar to their cousin the Mandarinfish, in the wild, for a few months a year, right before the sun sets, 3 to 5 females will gather in an area where the males are found. Some dragonets have been known to migrate far distances to find a suitable place with a strong current. Females can only spawn once per night. Males will then display for the females, who by the way, greatly outnumber the females. Once a male has won the heart of a female, she will sit on this pelvic fin and they will then move to a belly-to-belly position. In this position, they will raise together slowly to an area that is about 3 feet above the reef and at the peak of this rise, they will instantly release sperm and eggs and dart off into the reef again. Interestingly, some small males will sneak up on the couple and release his sperm with hopes of fertilizing some of her eggs too! The male will court several females in one evening. The eggs will take 18 to 24 hours to hatch. The 1 mm long larvae will remain as plankton for 2 weeks before settling into the reef.
In captivity, the Scooter Blenny couple will breed all year long. Provide a separate tank for the spawning since the eggs will float until they hatch. They will spawn once a week and this spawning act is regularly seen in captivity.
The following breeding information was contributed by Aaron in our guest book about Mandarins which are Dragonets and have similar behavior:
“Mandarinfish only spawn in the evening and exhibit very unique mating behavior. If a pair of them are healthy enough, they will begin spawning occasionally just after lights out. The male and the female approach each other and begin to “dance” in a spiral up the water column. They release sperm and egg as they rise. The spawn are planktonic for some time, but will grow to a couple mm in length in a couple days. If there are other kinds of fish in the tank, the spawn should be isolated. I know this info is relatively general, but I have not personally mated Mandarins (I only have a large enough tank for one fish).”
For more information about recent concerns as well as mandarinfish breeding habits check this article at National Geographic.
- Ease of Breeding: Difficult
Scooter Blennies are pretty much disease resistant, however they can fall ill due to suppressed pH or deteriorating water conditions. This is true for any fish! The only ailment they seem to suffer from is starvation or predation by inappropriate tank mates.
Avoid using copper medications or Organophosphates (OPs). The examples of OPs are dichlorvos (DDVP) and trichlorfons. Trichlorfons degrade into DDVP when added to the water. The three marketed names for trichlorfons are Masoften, Dipterex and Neguvon. These medications are used to treat skin flukes, gill flukes, leeches, crustacean ectoparasites (fish lice) and anchor worms. Most OPs have been banned in several countries, and these treatments are very sensitive to water temperature, making them less “user” friendly than less toxic drugs.
These fish are easy to find on line and in stores for $8.00 to $15.00. (USD, 2/2015)
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