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Commonly Asked Questions

Appearing in Georgia Aquarium's:
  • Sea Dragon Habitat (Cold Water Quest)

Range / Habitat

  • Occurs in a limited region from Southern and Western Australia to the southern tip of Tasmania.
  • Usually found in kelp forests, along reefs or in shallow, weedy areas of estuaries at depths to 160 feet (50 m); tends to remain in shallower waters unless food is scarce.

Physical Characteristics

  • Coloration is commonly yellow and spotted on most of the body with a series of dark bluish lines along the trunk and a darker olive coloration toward the back. Leaf-like appendages are purple with a dark edge.
  • Very distinctive, long and compressed body with narrow flaps projecting from the body and tail. Body of the female grows deeper than that of the male with age.
  • Color and shape of appendages are based on the sea dragon’s food supply and environment, and also vary with other factors such as depth and geography.
  • Individuals found in deep water habitats tend to be less leafy and brighter in color.
  • Tube-like snout functions like a drinking straw to suck in food.
  • Common length of 12.6 inches (32 cm).

Diet / Feeding

  • Diet consists of small crustaceans, including tiny mysid shrimp, as well as worms and other invertebrates.

Reproduction / Growth

  • Male of the species is the sex that carries the developing eggs and “gives birth.”
    • Female lays up to 250 to 300 eggs onto the soft underside of the male's tail during mating season, usually beginning in October or November.
    • Eggs embed into the skin; hard, cup-like structures form around each egg to hold and protect it during brooding.
    • Bright pink eggs hatch about two months later into miniature juveniles, which settle into the vegetation.
  • Juveniles closely resemble the adult, though smaller and less colorful.

Conservation Status

  • “Near Threatened” on the IUCN Red List.
  • Threatened in some areas of the native range by pollution and habitat loss, especially in waters near large metropolitan areas.
  • Protected by Australian law and can only be imported by collectors with special permits.
  • Protected species in New South Wales and Tasmania.

Additional Information

  • A poor swimmer.
  • Belongs to the same family as sea horses (Syngnathidae); unlike sea horses, swims horizontally with its abdomen facing downward.
  • Camouflages perfectly among seaweed and in sea grass beds with its leaf-like fins and frilly appendages.

Sources

www.fishbase.org
www.iucnredlist.org

Seahorses, Pipefish and Their Relatives. Kuiter, R.  H., pgs. 75-79 
Fishes of the World - An Illustrated Dictionary. Wheeler, A., pg. 286