Leafy Sea Dragon

Leafy Sea Dragon

Scientific Classification

Common Name
leafy sea dragon
Genus Species
Phycodurus eques

Fast Facts

Particularly well camouflaged with elaborate, ornate skin filaments that hang from the head, body and tail making this animal virtually indistinguishable from the floating sea weed in which it lives. Usually green to yellow in color. The body is covered in protective jointed plates instead of scales and long, sharp spines line its dorsal edge.
Maximum length 35 cm (13.8 in.)
Mysids and amphipods
4 to 6 weeks
Sexual Maturity
2 years
Life Span
2 to 3 years in aquaria. Unknown in the wild.
South Australia on kelp reefs from 4 to 30 meters (13 to 98 ft). Western Australia found deeper than 20 meters (66 ft). Victoria found deeper than 30 meters (98 ft).
Temperate waters over sand patches among kelp reefs and in protected coastal bays.
Global: Unknown. Very limited baseline info available regarding population and reproduction rates.
Regional: Protected in Australia by the following:
Listed as Totally Protected Species in South Australian Waters.
Listed as Protected Aquatic Biota in Victoria.
Listed as Totally Protected fish Status in Western Australian Waters.
Subject to export controls of the Commonwealth Wildlife Protection (Regulations on Exports and Imports) Act of 1982.
IUCN: Listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as Data Deficient
CITES: Not listed
USFWS: Not listed

Fun Facts

  1. The male sea dragon incubates the fertilized eggs in a specialized spongy textured brood patch on the ventral surface of his tail. This area is composed of small cup-like indentations which each hold a single egg laid there by the female. It is during the transfer of the eggs from the female to the male that they are fertilized. The approximately 250 eggs remain attached until they hatch 4 to 6 weeks later. Sea dragons are completely independent upon hatching. The young feed on the remaining yolk sac and then graduate to consuming zooplankton. 
  2. Sea dragons do not have any predators. Their combination of excellent camouflage, tough jointed plates and sharp dorsal spines offer adequate protection. Researchers have even observed sea dragons curling up to present predators with the row of menacing spines.
  3. For more information about bony fishes, explore the Bony Fishes InfoBook.

Ecology and Conservation

Pressure from poaching for aquarium hobbyists, curio seekers and Chinese traditional medicine market. Vulnerable to pollution from run-off and storm damage to kelp reefs. Protected by legislation in Vicoria, South Australia and Western Australia. The "Dragon Search" project managed by Australia's marine and Coastal Community Network records sightings by the public in an effort to monitor the number and size of sea dragon populations.


Government of Australia's Department of the Environment and Heritage
deh.gov.au/coasts/species/marine-fish/syngnathidae32.html 1/4/05

Marine Biology
marinebio.com 1/4/05

San Francisco State University Department of Geography
bss.sfsu.edu:224/courses/Fall99Projects/seadragon.htm 1/4/05

Government of Western Australia Department of Fisheries
fish.wa.gov.au/rec/broc/fishcard/dragon.html 1/4/05

World Wildlife Fund Australia
wwf.org.au 1/4/05