Weedy Seadragon

Phyllopteryx taeniolatus
Image by Richard Ling.

Weedy seadragons are only found in Australian waters.

They are weird and mystical looking – not quite seahorse, not quite fish. However, the weedy seadragon is closely related to the seahorse, being a member of the syngnathidae family. As well as looking like seaweed, seadragons move in a similar swaying motion as seaweed in the water current. This enables them to camouflage themselves and deceive unsuspecting prey.

They are not strong swimmers and are often found washed ashore after storms. Their habitat is listed as exposed reefs between 1-50 metres. Weedy seadragons can grow to about 46cm in length. The camouflage is quite good – they do resemble seaweed floating on the bottom of the sea floor so unless you know what you are looking for, can be easily overlooked. Once you have found a few of these creatures it becomes easier to spot them.

The seadragon’s diet mainly consists of plankton, sea lice, larval fishes, and small shrimp-like crustaceans called mysids. They seem to suck their prey straight into the snout!

There is much concern for the future of the weedy seadragon and others in their family. While larger fish prey on young weedy seadragons, adults have few, if any, predators. They are mainly threatened by marine pollution, habitat destruction, and international aquarium trade.

Breeding occurs annually, usually in late spring. Prior to mating, the male weedy seadragon prepares the area of his tail where he will keep the eggs. His tail becomes slightly swollen, soft, and spongy. The female lays up to 300 eggs on this area and they are fertilized. The male seadragon carries these eggs for two months after which hatching occurs over a period of six days. They can live for up to 10 years in the wild.