Sea Dragon

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.

Male + babies_3 (1)

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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.” 

Weedy Sea Dragon Brood a first for Monterey Bay Aquarium


The Monterey Bay Aquarium animal care team and a nurturing weedy sea dragon dad have achieved a milestone reached by only four other aquariums in North America: the birth of a brood of sea dragon babies.

More than 80 of the inch-long fish – Australian relatives of the seahorse – began hatching on July 22. The father, who carried the eggs in a brood pouch under his tail, delivered the young, with the last eggs hatching on August 2.

The young are being raised behind the scenes for now, said Associate Curator of Fish and Invertebrates Jonelle Verdugo, who heads the seahorse husbandry team at the aquarium. If they survive and thrive, visitors may get to see them as part of a special exhibition. Others will be transferred to colleague institutions with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

Verdugo said the papa weedy sea dragon remained on exhibit and was free to swim about as usual while he was giving birth. Each day, the young were moved behind the scenes as they hatched, and placed in smaller aquariums to receive closer attention from caregivers.



Photo Credits:  ©Monterey Bay Aquarium/Randy Wilder

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Baby Sea Dragons at Georgia Aquarium!

The Georgia Aquarium recently introduced three Sea Dragon babies to its display in the Georgia-Pacific Cold Water Quest gallery. The Georgia Aquarium is the third facility in the United States to successfully hatch Weedy Sea Dragons. An interesting fact about the Weedy Sea Dragon is that it is the male of the species that “gives birth.” The female lays up to 250 to 300 eggs onto the soft underside of the male's tail. The eggs are embedded into the skin in cup-like structures that harden and form around each egg to hold and protect them during brooding. After about two months, the bright pink eggs hatch into miniature juveniles, which settle into the vegetation.




Dad is protecting his little ones [below]

Photo credits: Georgia Aquarium


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