Birch Aquarium

Birch Aquarium Welcomes Baby Weedy Seadragons

More than 70 seadragons are thriving behind the  scenes.

La Jolla, CA (March 3, 2023) — Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego is celebrating the arrival of more than 70 tiny newborn Weedy Seadragons, which are incredibly difficult to breed and rear in captivity.

Only a handful of facilities have successfully hatched and reared this unique species of fish that are related to seahorses and pipefish.

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Celebrate World Octopus Day With a Baby California Two-Spot Octopus

Species: California Two-Spot Octopus, Octopus bimaculoides

Home: Birch Aquarium

This baby octopus is about 1 month old (born August 9)

Right now it's about the size of a quarter - this species of octopus can get up to about 2 to 3 feet.

This species has a bright blue “eyespot” on each side of its head.

This cool adaptation tricks predators and prey alike into thinking it's a real eye.

It also makes this octopus appear bigger and helps ward off potential predators like sea lions, seals, and sharks.

This is a local species of octopus for Birch Aquarium and can be found along the waters of Northern California to Baja California, Mexico.

Birth of Seven Seadragons Kicks Off Birch Aquarium's Captive Breeding Program

1 seadragon

Between September 19-30, seven baby Seadragons hatched from a male Weedy Seadragon carrying eggs on its tail at Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego, an event captive breeding programs rarely experience. The male was one of 10 weedy Seadragons donated to Birch Aquarium by the Monterey Bay Aquarium in Monterey, California.

The hatchlings were part of the first brood raised in Birch Aquarium’s new Seadragon Propagation Program, which aquarists hope will follow in the footsteps of its successful Seahorse Propagation Program. Now that the first Seadragon babies have hatched, the team can begin to work on replicating the process with additional Seadragons. Eventually, the team also hopes to breed another species of Seadragons, the Leafy Seadragon. Only five other aquariums in the United States have successfully bred Weedy Seadragons in captivity and no aquarium has yet been able to breed Leafy Seadragons.

Seadragon male with eggs

2 seadragon

3 seadragon
Photo credits: Birch Aquarium

Famous for their leaf-like appendages and found in the wild only off the coast of southern Australia, Seadragons are relatives of the Seahorse. 

To ensure delicate handling and limit the amount of car travel required for the animals, the Weedy Seadragons were carefully packed into shipping bags in coolers at the Monterey Bay Aquarium on September 1 and flown to San Diego in a private plane piloted by former Scripps marine technician Eddie Kisfaludy.

“Transporting adult Seadragons is not something that happens very often, and we were a bit concerned about how well they would handle the move from Monterey to Birch. When the male weedy was discovered with eggs on its tail, that elevated our worry to a new level, ” said Jonelle Verdugo, associate curator of fish and invertebrates at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. 

If the male seadragon were stressed, he might have dropped the eggs, aquarium officials said. The experts at both aquariums did everything possible to reduce stress that might be caused by the trip to San Diego. 

“Being able to fly the Seadragon in a private plane significantly reduced the amount of time it took to get him from his old home to his new home,” Verdugo added.  

Visitors to the Birch Aquarium at Scripps can learn more about Seadragons, seahorses, the aquarium’s successful Seahorse Propagation Program (currently in its 19th year) and its new Seadragon Propagation Program in the exhibit, There’s Something About Seahorses, currently on display.

“We are simply delighted that our talented aquarists helped welcome these baby Seadragons into the world,” said Nigella Hillgarth, executive director of Birch Aquarium at Scripps. “Seadragons are such magical creatures, and a successful breeding program will help support the aquarium’s education efforts as well as limit the number of Seadragons that are taken from the wild.” 

Baby Nautilus - A ZooBorns and Birch Aquarium First!

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A few thousand posts later, it's getting harder and harder to showcase new species on ZooBorns. Well today we have a special treat: the first baby Nautilus for Birch Aquarium at Scripps and the first Nautilus to be featured on ZooBorns! This little guy or gal was a long time in the making. The egg was laid in early November of 2012 and the hatching process has taken weeks... all leading up to last Wednesday, when it finally emerged!

So far, the hatchling appears to be doing well. However, raising a baby Nautilus is both an honor and challenge because only a handful of aquariums have had the opportunity. The photos of the emerged Nautilus below were taken and shared with ZooBorns the day of the birth. The photos of the Nautilus emerging from its shell were taken over a series of weeks. It's a slow process!

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Nautiluses are ancient cephalopods (relatives of octopuses, squid and cuttelfish) that long pre-dated the dinosaurs and have remained relatively unchanged for 500 million years!

Back in the November, the eggs were laid in the display tank and then removed and placed into an incubator tank where the temperature was maintained at 76 Farenheit. The eggs were glued onto a vertically positioned piece of plastic in order to keep them upright. Water changes using only "extra clean" natural sea water were performed weekly to keep the incubator tank clean. The multi-week hatching process is detailed in the photos below:

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Helping Wolf Eel Babies to Hatch at Birch Aquarium


Birch Aquarium at Scripps is proud to announce the hatching of baby Wolf-Eels! Birch aquarists have so far collected about 250 Wolf-Eels from the mass of eggs, with another few hundred expected to hatch over the next two weeks. The tiny fish are born brownish-pink, about 1 1/2 inches in length. They begin to turn dark gray within a day or so, and begin snacking on tiny shrimp after a few days. They will grow to several feet in length. Check out the video below of aquarist Mark Ball overseeing the hatching!

Wolf Eel eggs weeks after being laid

Mother Wolf Eel guarding her little ones

Photo and video credits: Birch Aquarium