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Unread 10/17/2008, 03:21 PM   #1
BrianD
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The Mandarin Primer

Please offer your suggestions and advice for keeping these wonderful fish.

Possible items to cover:
  • Training mandarins to eat prepared foods
  • Establishing a productive refugium
  • Tank mates (good and bad)
  • Mated pairs
  • Design and layout of "mandarin tank"


Please improve the usefulness to the reader by stating opinions as such and actual experiences as such.

Thank in advance to all who participate.


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Unread 10/17/2008, 03:58 PM   #2
snorvich
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Well, first of all, my experiences with Mandarins include 40 hours of underwater observation and photography in a variety of places: Papua New Guinea, Palau, and Indonesia. In addition, I have kept them in singles and pairs in my tanks for about 8 years.

I have found that not every mandarin you see in a LFS is going to make it. Why? I don't know. Some come in and do not hunt and consequently never eat. This may be because they are captured with Cyanide but I am not sure of this.

I have found that the minimum tank size for successfully keeping a mandarin varies and depends on how long the tank exists before mandarin introduction AND whether or not there is competition for the live food found in tanks which have live rock or with live rock and refugia. Generally, that minimum seems to be about 75 gallons but with introduction of a refugium, that number can be less. All of my mandarins will eat mysis. BUT they are terrible hunters in comparison to tankmates so you must overfeed if they are to get any or create an area where other fish cannot take their food. Mandarins hunt constantly and do not do well if they are only fed periodically. You can maintain them that way for months but in the long run, they will perish.

The success threshold for saying one is successfully keeping a mandarin seems to be about 1 year. My shortest is about three years at this point.

Mandarins will spawn at the last light of day. Literally. In my tanks, since I have a sunset effect with my lighting I can get spawning behavior. I have pictures which have been previously posted. However, I have never tried to raise the spawn. I don't know for sure if anyone has, but I have heard rumors of such. If you do this, introduce the male and female simultaneously or they may kill each other. Two of the same gender will NOT get along.

Mandarins do not have to be quarantined. They have a slime coat and are highly resistant to parasites.

I have never seen any fish harass a mandarin except another mandarin.

If you have tank mates that feed on copepods, you will need a much larger tank.

I see many opinions about mandarins but I value most those that have successfully kept them for over a year.


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Unread 10/17/2008, 04:19 PM   #3
Zaita
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My experience. I had a female Mandarin for over 12mnths (tank crash). I now keep a CBB, which is very similar to a Mandarin in care and feeding. I have a special interest in plankton (zoo and phyto) and have been culturing both for >12months now. I also work for a Marine research organization and have access to many thousands of scientific papers (which I do try to read alot :P).

Mandarins are zooplankton hunters. They spend 12-20 hours a day hunting for live prey from the rockwork in a tank snagging them when possible. It's not known what species of zooplankton the Mandarin will or will not eat. It's generally considered that they will feed off most benthic copepods, isopod and small amphipods.

I also beleive also that a suitable minimum tank size for a Mandarin is 75g, reduced with the addition of a refugium (with live rock or macro-algae). Having a suitably sized tank is coupled with that tank having a seeded population of zooplankton that has had sufficient time to grow and stabilize in number. The main reason mandarins die is from starvation or malnutrition by exhausting the supply of zooplankton and not having enough supplemental foods to survive.

Zooplankton is the most abundant and common source of food for most (if not all) marine fish during some point of their lives. Zooplankton s generally very nutritious and high in proteins and HUFAs fish need to survive.

Considerating must also be given to the amount of live rock and tank-mates that will be housed with the mandarin. It's important to understand the level of predation the other fish will have on your zooplankton population before adding a Mandarin. Some very voracious zooplankton consumers are Bangaii Cardinals, 6-Line Wrasse, Butterflyfish and other Wrasse. While some fish may seldom eat zooplankton like Tangs.

It is possible to train your mandarin to eat prepared/frozen foods. This is generally seen as a way to supplement the diet of the mandarin and to help it increase weight if starved. This is not a suitable replacement for zooplankton, as we do not yet understand the metabolism and nutritional requirements of this fish.

Spawning of the mandarins is possible by obtaining a pair. This is best done by adding both fish simultaneously to the aquarium and supplementing their natural food source with some enriched frozens. The larvae require extremely tiny first food and as such rotifers are generally seen to be unsuitable. Matt Witt (author of marine breeding book) has successfully raised significant numbers of the green mandarin by using wild-caught zooplankton napulaii.

It's not uncommon for your mandarin to become white at night and look like it has died when sleeping. This is a natural camouflage employed by the fish to ensure it's survive from predation. Although many fish are not too keen to eat a mandarin because of it's foul tasting slime coating. They are generally ignore by fish in a home aquarium, except when they may stray into the territory of another fish and be forcefully pushed out (My clownfish used to do this frequently to my mandarin).

It is also worth noting, that other fish share identical care requirements to the Mandarin.
- Green Mandarin (aka: Blue/Red Mandarin, Psychedelic Mandarin, Mandarin Dragonet)
- Spotted Mandarin
- Finger Dragonet
- Scooter Blenny (aka Scooter Dragonet, Occ Dragonet)
- Red Scooter Blenny (aka Red Scooter Dragonet)

For some reference. I designed my tank around the premise of having a spawning pair of green mandarins for my breeding. The tank is 125g (520L) display with a 200L (100L water volume) sump/refugium. The sump contains about 15kg of live rock, the display contains about 100kg (200lbs). The tank was seeded with 50kgs (100lb) of live rock from a 10yr old 400g reef tank and 3 months passed before a mandarin was added.



Last edited by Zaita; 10/17/2008 at 04:34 PM.
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Unread 10/19/2008, 12:37 PM   #4
tcmfish
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The way I have kept mandarin's is that I have trained all mine to eat prepared foods. I started with live brine, then went to frozen brine, then mysis. It wasn't that hard for me and maybe I got lucky. I didn't put my fish in a breeder net, but I know this is a successful way to isolate the fish to let them feed and get used to prepared foods.

All my fish were in tanks paired up by themselves. The intent was to establish spawning pairs, which isn't too hard. The male's have a long first dorsal spine while the females don't. Pairing the spotted ones can be tricky but just get small females to make sure they are female.

As far as tank size. I think if you are planning to keep it with larger fish or lots of fish a large tank will be necessary to allow it enough food to eat, but I also think in a small tank they can thrive being fed prepared foods. I try to feed my fish as much as possible (which everyone may not) so keeping them in a little tank and feeding one, two, three, maybe four times a day is not a problem. IME they can be kept in little tanks because the fish normally kept in these tanks are not very aggressive so they are able to get food. I can see how getting food in a large tank would be hard and you would have to over feed.

I passed my pair of spotted's onto Matt Wittenrich and they are still doing great and spawning.


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Unread 10/19/2008, 05:37 PM   #5
BrianD
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TCM, it might be helpful if you added some how-to steps for your success in feeding prepared foods.

Thanks


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Unread 10/19/2008, 06:32 PM   #6
tcmfish
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Well I didn't do anything too fancy. The times I trained mandarins were done in my ten gallon reef tank.

First, I picked up a male spotted mandarin and while it was at the LFS, I asked if they could feed it. The employee brought out live brine and I saw him peck at it.

Second, once it was home I offered it frozen brine until it accepted it.

Third, I would take a cube of PE mysis and set it in the corner of the tank where the flow was minimal and just let it disperse slowly. And within a week or two he would come up to the cube after I placed it in and pick shrimp off the cube.

Fourth, he would pick food out of the water column after this.

It probably took three weeks.

After christmas break (he made it the three weeks I was gone, but was thin, which shows he would definately have not survived without eating prepared foods), I moved him into the lab and paired it with a female. There were in a 20H that had lots of PVC cyanobacteria and a sponge filter as the only filtration. In there, I fed lots of newly hatched brine shrimp (live) and then one to two times a day I would feed frozen mysis. The female slowly starting accepting it, but I think starting with live adult brine, then going to frozen brine, then frozen mysis is much better.

Some use a breeder net to do the same steps, which is good if you have other tank mates.

I did the same for a green mandarin pair, but after I moved them out of my ten gallon to the lab one of them starting beating up on the other, which was odd because they had been together for a while. (It slips my mind which one was the aggressor)


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Unread 10/19/2008, 08:36 PM   #7
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All of mine eat mysis with no training whatsoever. I don't know if this is accidental or if they just naturally like it.


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Unread 10/20/2008, 07:13 AM   #8
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I have a pair in a 90g with refugium not reach the 1 year mark yet only about 10 months but the female eats brine and mysis onher own no training - the male as yet to show interest. They cannot compete for the shrimp at all - I've seen a snail beat them to the food. A mandran cafe is a must I guess.


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Unread 10/20/2008, 01:47 PM   #9
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Have had a scooter blenny for about 18-20 months now and as Zaita pointed out they have the same husbandry requirements as Mandarins. (Possibly change the thread to dragonet primer?)

Anyway, mine has been in an 8 Gallon biocube. I know that I am way off the norm here but feel that there is some good info gained from this. I would NOT recommend anyone try this as I did it due to not researching first and then scrambling to keep him happy.

The history is, I saw them in the store, there were a few in a tank all hopping around pecking at the rocks. I had to have one. I had read a little about them and knew that they were difficult but if you could get them to eat frozen food they were much easier. I asked if they did and the employee fed them for me. They would strike at the food in the water column and I was convinced that it couldn’t be that hard. I got a male and female that looked to be a pair. They hid a lot the first month or so and I was a little worried about the male as he didn’t eat quite as well as the female. She would go nuts and he would just drift about and pick whatever came near him. About 3 months in a bristle worm went through the pump and she struck at a piece as it drifted down. She never ate again. They only thing I can figure is that she got the spines lodged in her mouth and starved. The male continued to do well and started to eat much more heartily.

Despite the fact that they ate frozen food I was worried that they would not get all the nutrients they needed from just one food source. I had heard that people had success making a "pod pile”, basically an area in the tank that was a pile of rubble that fish would not be able to get into and pods could live in. I was able to find some rock at a lfs that was labeled as Tonga branch but looked like old sps skeletons, thin branches that are tightly packed together. I replaced all the rock in the tank with this and filled the back chamber with it as well. For a couple months I didn’t see any pods and thought I would have to find a new way to get pods in the system. Soon enough though I would see a few when I cleaned. Now they are all over the place. I even have a little group of about 6 amphipods that live right up against the glass in a spot he cant get to. I still feed at least once a day more often its morning and night. He has been this way for over a year and is fat and happy.

I will say it again I do NOT recommend putting any of these guys in a small tank. In couple of months mine will actually be placed in a 120 gallon tank with a large sump. I feel that will be a much better environment for him in the long run. What I do recommend is making a pod pile. It has proven to me without a doubt that if done properly you can actually have a these fish in a tank without a large fuge.


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Unread 10/20/2008, 07:19 PM   #10
tcmfish
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Here are some articles that may be of interest:
http://en.microcosmaquariumexplorer....Green_Mandarin
http://en.microcosmaquariumexplorer....otted_Mandarin


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Unread 10/20/2008, 08:45 PM   #11
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I've kept and bred seahorses for about 6 years. Although I don't recommend this, I kept a mandarin in a 12 gallon eclipse tank for 4 years. I had three tanks a 55, the 12 and a 40 gal. sump for my seahorse rearing tanks. My intention was to rotate him to each if my copepod, amphipod supply got low. I put him in the 12 gal. with a pair of seahorses. I believe that he learned to eat frozen mysis shrimp from the seahorses. I have trained many seahorses to eat frozen mysis shrimp. Sometimes, I would have some seahorses that were slow to switch from live brine to frozen mysis. I would put a couple of juvenile trained horses with the reluctant eaters and they would start eating the mysis. I also kept a mandarin in a 18 gal. tank with 4 seahorses with the same results. That one I saw eating live brine at the store so, i thought that i could keep it alive with enriched brine until it learned to eat frozen mysis. He lived for more than 3 years in that tank.


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Unread 10/20/2008, 09:24 PM   #12
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I quarantined my mandarin in a bare 5 1/2 gallon tank. when I first got him he would not eat any foods I offered. He would swim over frozen mysis and live brine but would pick at tiny zooplankton on the bare glass. I thought he would die for sure.
The turning point came when I decided to take a large pippette and slowly squirt food items such as frozen baby brine shrimp and frozen mysis into his face hoping he would take them. He would sometimes breath some in and then spit it out. You have to be persistant and very patient.
One day I got frustrated and put a ton of live brine shrimp into the quarantine tank refusing to believe that an animal would starve to death while swarms of food surrounded it. He started eating the shrimps! But only certain ones. Who knows what his rationale was. There was no distinction between the shrimps that I could see. Just certain ones he would eat and certain ones he would not. I did notice that he only eats things that have settled on the bottom. Shrimps that swam by would not be eaten. Brine shrimp that would settle on the bottom or swim near the bottom would be eaten. Once he ate brine, I added mysis and he took those too! I suppose Mandarins have tiny stomachs because he would only take about 12 mysis shrimps and then he stopped. As mentioned before you have to feed them frequently in small portions.
Now he will even bite at large pieces of raw shrimp I get from the grocery store. He's now in the display tank with lots of live rock but his stomach isn't as fat as when he was in the quarantine tank. I may remove him and fatten him up in the quarantine again. my display tank is getting a lot of algae from over feeding the tank to make sure the mandarine gets some food!
anyway, I tried something very radical by quarantining him in a bare tank. I did this because I thought that he would ignore this new food offered to him if he was allowed to hunt the way he did naturally among rock crevices and sand. This way he could focus on this new food offered.
secondly, the mandarine that I bought was quite large IMO. 3-4 inches. the bigger the size the bigger the food he is able to swallow.
thirdly, I believe they have to taste the food before they realize that they like it. There had been many times where my mandarine swam over the food or sometimes the brine shrimp would swim on him and he would not eat them. Somehow they have to get it into their mouths by accident or by a little persuasion with a pipette.
Anyway I had a few mandarins before. I followed the rule about putting them in a tank with tons of live rock and they always died of starvation eventually. If not a bare tank, quarantine the Mandarin in a smaller tank so you can help him learn what foods to eat before you put him in the display tank.


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Unread 10/23/2008, 07:11 PM   #13
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I have had a Madarin for over 2 years. I have never went out of my way to feed him anything. I got it when I realized I had a flatworm problem. After I got the mandarin, I now have to look hard to find any remaining flatworms and the mandarin is about as fat as I have ever seen.

I would imagine my experience is not unique.


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Unread 10/23/2008, 11:44 PM   #14
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Here's a video of my mandarin eating raw shrimp that I dropped in the tank. He dines with some really aggressive fish. The green bird wrasse and baby odonus trigger. Since he's a slow eater I may have to make a "mandarin diner" for him so he can eat in peace.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oxzKOy3FC0E
the video is still processing on youtube so if you don't see it then you gotta wait a bit longer.


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Unread 10/29/2008, 11:01 PM   #15
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If you ever get a mandarin to eat pellets/prepared foods I find that you can use them to train other mandarins (of the opposite gender) to "teach" them to take prepared foods as well. My female spotted mandarin has been eating pellets for 4 years now and my newer male > 1 year took pellets without my doing in my 125 gallon reef. I almost think of it as the "anthias" complex> group feeding can stimulate and help other fish to learn what foods they can eat. Mine also feed with some competitive eaters> sixline, ccb, blue tangs, purple tang, yellow tang. They breed at night. p.s live foods, blood worms seemed to help in the beginning.












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Unread 10/30/2008, 12:33 PM   #16
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Lovely fat Spotted you have there!
I did the same as most people, found one that was eating live brine shrimp. As i work at a LFS, i was able to get the Mandarin to eat live food. I got it home, and fed it enrichened brine shrimp with phytoplankton for about a month. I added frozen enrichened brine shrimp with spirulina and i added garlic into the mix and it started to peck at the frozen pieces. I then cut the live brine shrimp out and she was eating frozen brine shrimp very well, even when it was floating in the water column. I then added frozen mysis to the frozen brine and she started to peck at that.
I think the key is to keep offering them food and i think the use of garlic is a good way of making the mandarin interested. I also have a copepod culture running outside the tank and once a week, after a water change, i add a net full into the tank. I also feed her every few days a mixture of frozen foods containing frozen: brine shrimp, mysis, rotifers, baby brine, lobster eggs and cyclopeeze.
I have my female in with Seahorses, so seeing them eating frozen food from a turkey baster may have made her realise it was safe and to sorta teach her, as iceemn360 said regarding Anthias.
iceemn360: regarding live bloodworms etc, did you syphon any uneaten worms etc? Im kinda worried about putting such foods in Marine tanks. And with the pellets, how do you feed them? Do you put them in a jar or just drop them in around the Mandy's?
Any videos????

Cheers


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Axolotl Tank: Breeding Pair of Axies

Current Tank Info: 24/6/08: I have a 6 month old Seahorse Tank, Year Old Reef, 6 Month Dwarf Puffer Tank and an Axolotl Tank

Last edited by connorsbala; 10/30/2008 at 12:39 PM.
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Unread 10/30/2008, 12:43 PM   #17
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I don’t know about iceemn360 but, with my blenny I thaw out a cube and turn off the pump. I then let the food drift to the bottom and everything pigs out. When nobody seems interested anymore (about 5-10 mins) I turn the pump back on. The rest is blown onto the overflow were the water passes though a piece of a filter pad. The leftovers get caught in that and I just rinse it off every now and then. I would say probably once a week. I don’t know if that helps you out at all. If you are really worried about spoiling the water you could give the pump and hour or so and then rinse off the filter pad. I leave it in a for a few days becaue I always find pods all over it eating leftovers.


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Unread 10/30/2008, 12:50 PM   #18
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in the beginning they will most likely need more attention to making sure they eat but in time I find that they become quite aggressive eaters and at least in my tank hold thier own quite well


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Unread 10/30/2008, 10:53 PM   #19
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I thought I was imagining things when I notice my mandarin tearing away at large pieces of food as he observed the bird wrasse and the odonus trigger tear away at it as if he were learning from them. maybe just a coincidence, but agree with Iceemn that fish seem to learn from others.


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Unread 11/02/2008, 09:01 AM   #20
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I would check out www.marinebreeder.com - they have a link that I can't find right now because I just redid my computer (new linux distro) that tells you how to convert mandarins to frozen food.


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Unread 11/02/2008, 12:15 PM   #21
connorsbala
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Posted a topic earlier....but does anyone know if you can keep a spotted and a green in the same tank together?
http://reefcentral.com/forums/showth...readid=1502751


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Seahorse Tank: Pair of H.Reidi, Black Percula Clown and a Mandarin
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Axolotl Tank: Breeding Pair of Axies

Current Tank Info: 24/6/08: I have a 6 month old Seahorse Tank, Year Old Reef, 6 Month Dwarf Puffer Tank and an Axolotl Tank
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Unread 11/03/2008, 10:12 PM   #22
Lunabud74
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Reef Pods

OK, I was at LFS the other day (well, last week) and saw a bag of live 'Reef Pods' by alga glen for sale. Well, I grabbed it up, took it home and dumped it into my tank.

Being frugally minded as I am I noticed that the live algae meant to keep the pods alive was still in the bag with a few pods that stuck to the sides. A little light bulb went off in my head......

I grabbed my turkey baster and squirted until I had refilled the bag with water from my tank. I recapped it and set the bag in my kitchen window where it would receive some decent lighting. Every morning, I would give the bag a gentle shake and uncap it to purge any stale air. The shaking also let me check on the pods. After a few days, I added a few drops of DT's Phyto. A few more days later, I added a few more drops till I had reached a nice green color. Tonight, I added a fresh batch of my own home grown pods to my tank!

Now, I'm not saying you should run out to buy a bag of this stuff. Nor am I promoting it over other types of food, but...... If an idiot like me can figure this out, I'm sure you guys can take it one step further!


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Unread 11/03/2008, 10:18 PM   #23
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meant to say algagen not alga glen....duh! Told y'all I was an idiot....lol


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Unread 11/18/2008, 11:10 AM   #24
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Iceemn360

It's a bit late on this reply but I'd just like to say I think your Mandarins are absolutely beautiful! I've never see any in better condition that the pair you highlight above. Nice!!


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Unread 11/18/2008, 02:58 PM   #25
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lol thanks!


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