Patience patience patience.
Not sure about time of month, but we have never seen any difference in moon cycles.
Time of night, the best time to see mating is exactly at dusk. So get in at sunset, and watch the reef go to sleep and come to life again. What you need to look for is somewhere between 5 and 8 m's look for good Porites cylindrica, P. nigrescens or Hydnophora corals (the branching finger corals that look a bit like root ginger which top the reef crest). Mandarins seem to congregate around a rubble patch or whole in the coral. For mating and interaction, you need to look for the larger female. She is the one with the threadfin on the first dorsal. The males will congregate around her as she chooses her pals for the evenings fun! She will select a number of males and mate with them in turn. Now heres the patience part and where knowledge and experience of the dive site helps. You need a small and understanding group too. Keep your torches off the female and dimmed (maybe a red filter helps and a small torch, not some silly torch that lights the whole reef - the inon focus lights are way too bright) and try to save yourself for the main event.
They will hopefully now be swimming around the coral heads the female checking out her suitors. You will have opurtunitites for pics now, but u may scare her with the strobes and the evening is lost for the one pic. WAIT FOR IT....
After she is happy with her selection, she will move closer to the smaller male and slowly rise in the water where the male will join her for a second. The mandarins then mate and its all over. Once it starts it should last a while and give u time to get the shot u want. She will share her time between her suitors mating with them each in turn. maybe a non-photog can hold the torch on the female and u can concentrate on getting the settings bang on. Fire away.
Once she has finished mating, thats it. Over until tomorrow. We often see them sleeping, dull and grey, even at 6:45. So a short window.
I found that AI Servo focus setting is the best, even if the focus isnt perfect, theres nothing worse than missing the moment like this after 20mins sitting waiting.
Hope this helps
- dpaustex likes this