Leafy seadragon

(Phycodurus eques)




Facts about this animal

Leafy seadragons reach a total length of 35 cm. They represent one of the most spectacular examples of camouflage in the animal kingdom: neither prey nor predators recognize them as fish. Their body is very slender, cylindrical and somewhat S-shaped with numerous large, leaf-like skin flaps on the body and without a caudal fin. The body is lightly pigmented, with narrow dark bands encircling tail and dorsal third of thorax.

Leafy seadragons are ovoviviparous and re external brooders. About 250 eggs are incubated by males on the underside of the tail, where they are embedded in a brood pouch of spongy tissue.

Leafy seadragons feed on mysids and other crustaceans.

Did you know?
that 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.


Name (Scientific) Phycodurus eques
Name (English) Leafy seadragon
Name (French) Dragon des mers feuillu
Name (German) Grosser Fetzenfisch
Name (Spanish) Dragón de mar foliado
CITES Status Not listed
CMS Status Not listed



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Range Eastern Indian Ocean: endemic to southern Australia
Habitat Near rocky reefs supporting stands of kelp or other macroalgae, or over shallow (5–15 m depth) Posidonia seagrass meadows and patches of sand amongst seagrass.
Wild population Unknown
Zoo population 26 specimens reported to ISIS (2007). Considering that most public aquaria are not part of the WAZA system and do not register their collections with ISIS, available ISIS data are not significant.

In the Zoo

Leafy seadragon


How this animal should be transported

During transportation sea dragons are enclosed in a restrictive container that does not allow for ideal water quality parameters and is subject to unpredictable movement orientation and noise levels. The following points, therefore, should be taken into consideration: Transit time must be minimized wherever possible. Only healthy individuals should be selected for transportation. Packaging must be adequate. Strong containers with good thermal retention qualities should be used (i.e. polystyrene) to allow for external temperature fluctuations. Heat/coolpacks can be used should the transit conditions dictate. Packs must not be placed directly next to the water.

For air transport, Container Note 51 of the IATA Live Animals Regulations should be followed.

Fish must be unpacked carefully and under low illumination.


Find this animal on ZooLex


Photo Copyright by
Derek Ramsey

Why do zoos keep this animal

Leafy seadragons are not an endangered species - rated only "Near Threatened" by IUCN - but their habitats, are threatened in many places. They are thus presented by zoos and aquariums as an ambassador species for the protection of coasts and estuaries, and they are of educational intrerest because of their very peculiar morphology.