Leafy Sea Dragon

Phycodurus eques - habitat, range, life cycle, dive sites

By Scott Gietler

 

 
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The Leafy Sea Dragon, Phycodurus eques, is one of the most beautiful fish in the world. Seeing one underwater is an amazing experience, you can watch these fish for hours while diving underwater. Leafy sea dragons are in the family Syngnathidae, which also includes seahorses and pipefish, and its close relative the Weedy sea dragon.

 

leafy sea dragon

Leafy sea dragon photo, Adelaide

Leafy Sea Dragon Habitat and Range

 

Leafy sea dragons are found on the shores of southern Australia, usually between Adelaide and Perth, hiding in seaweed, also known as brown kelp. They are not found east of Melbourne, and sightings around Melbourne are very rare. They are usually somewhat in the open, so if you are near them they are not too difficult to spot. They are most commonly found in water 4-15 meters deep, but have been found deeper. The water temperature is 19 Celsius in the summer, 14 in the winter.  The close relative of the leafy sea dragon, the Weedy sea dragon, is found more around Sydney, Melbourne and Tasmania - especially Sydney.

 

Leafy Sea Dragon Dive Sites

 

Unfortunately sometimes poachers and licensed collectors will remove Leafies from dive sites.

  • Rapid Bay Jetty
  • Edithburgh Jetty
  • Wool Bay Jetty
  • Kangaroo Island
  • "The Bluff" at Victor Harbour
  • Other places along the southern coast between Adelaide and Perth

 

Leafy Sea Dragon Photos 

leafy sea dragon

Leafy Sea Dragon male carrying eggs, found near Adelaide, Australia on a shore dive in 9m of water.

 

leafy sea dragon photo Leafy sea dragon and diver. F11, 1/80th, ISO 400, Tokina 10-17mm 

 

Leafy Sea Dragon Photography Tips

 

  • Leafy Sea Dragons are large, they can be over 30cm. Use a wide-angle lens or mid-range lens for photos of the entire fish
  • Do not harass the fish, touch them, or try to move them up in the water column, they have a sensitive swim bladder and are easily injured.
  • They have a limited home range (10x10 meters), so don't chase them or swim them out of their region or this can stress them out.
  • Take only a few photos and then give them time to relax, after 2-3 minutes give them a 15 minute break or they will swim erratically due to stress
  • Do not harass males with eggs as they may drop the eggs
  • Get Low with your camera and shoot at an upwards angle
  • Use a local guide to maximize your chance of finding a leafy. Sea dragons can be difficult to find.
  • Take your time - they love posing for your underwater camera, and are very photogenic!

 

Leafy Sea Dragon facts and life cycle

 

Males carry up to 250 eggs during the Australian summer. Males with eggs are often seen by divers in November and December. Females deposit eggs on the male's body (there is no pouch), and they hatch after 7-8 weeks according to the "Vanishing Dragon" film. They reach full size after 2 years, and probably live up to 10 years long.

 

Leafy sea dragons feed on mysid, plankton and other small crustaceans. Their camouflage is some of the best in the animal kingdom. Leafy Sea Dragons will sometimes have Isopods attached to them, which are parasites. The leafies that I saw were active during the day, so they are definitely not nocturnal.

 

Leafy sea dragons were previously heavily over-collected, but are now protected. Still, licensed collectors sometimes remove subjects from dive sites.  Leafy sea dragons are the official marine emblem of South Australia.

 

Resources

 

Other Marine Life Articles

 

leafy sea dragon photo

 

 


Where to Buy

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Comments

Their camouflage is some of

Their camouflage is some of the best in the animal kingdom. Leafy Sea Dragons will sometimes have Isopods attached to them, which are parasites.

As interesting as it is

As interesting as it is beautiful. I would love to visit Australia someday and see one in person.

LEAFY SEA DRAGONS ARE

LEAFY SEA DRAGONS ARE BEAUTIFUL AND AMAZING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

they look like sea weed

they look like sea weed

they look like sea weed

they look like sea weed

Nice and nice and nice

Nice and nice and nice

Wow it was so interesting for

Wow it was so interesting for my project.

I'm just finishing my science

I'm just finishing my science project about em. They are such amazin and facinatind creatures. That would be the experoence of a life time! bucket list.

ABC BOOK PROJECT ABOUT THE

ABC BOOK PROJECT ABOUT THE OCEAN HAD TO PICK 5 LETTERS ONE FOR EACH OF THE 5 OCEAN ANIMALS I PICK (EXAMPLE:L FOR LEAFY SEA DRAGON LUV THIS CREATURE IT'S AMAZING-LY SPECTACULAR. I WENT TO THE NEW ENLAND AQUARIUM AND THERE WAS A BUNCH THERE, TOOK PICTURES OF EM TOO.

wow leafy sea dragon is is so

wow leafy sea dragon is is so leafy .what a great experiance for you both and i have never seen anything like this in my whole life eira elizabeth thomas

Cool Critter, I saw one in

Cool Critter,

I saw one in Southern Leyte!!! I've wondered for years what the heck I was looking at. Now I know what it was but why was it lost? Has anyone else seen one away from it's usual habitat?

Diver Dan

Great images Scott... South

Great images Scott... South Australia is a great underwater photography destination with leafy sea-dragons the cuttlefish breeding aggregations, seals and Great White Sharks. It is on my 'must do' list. But then, considering I am based in Australia. That makes it a little easier for me! Also very pretty are the weedy seadragons.

Xanthe Rivett

[url]http://www.xantherivett.com[/url]
Underwater Photographer based in Queensland, Australia

G'day Scott, Great work with

G'day Scott,
Great work with your website mate, very impressive.

As an Adelaide local, I read your LSD and Adelaide write up with interest. Glad you had a good time.

Nice pics. I recognise the leafy you took pics of with eggs (as they have unique markings like fingerprints) and you'll be pleased to know his eggs hatched successfully!

Cheers

No compilants on this end,

No compilants on this end, simply a good piece.

Thank you so much for the

Thank you so much for the wonderful photos of the seahorses and the leafy sea dragons. I love that you dive and take photos while respecting the subject. I have been a seahorse lover, protector and advocate since I was a little girl. I was so touched when you did not give the location so no one could "scoop"them up. You rock!
They are so wonerful and your photos are a real tribute to them
Thanks again
Robin Taylor
New Jersey

nice lots of imformation

nice lots of imformation

write about weedy seadragons!

write about weedy seadragons! Nobody ever does...

I would also like to write

I would also like to write about the weedy seadragon, but I've only went diving with Leafy sea dragons underwater. Perhaps I'll have someone write about the Weedy's who is more familiar with them - Scott 

Scott Gietler Owner/Editor, Underwater Photography Guide & Bluewater Photo http://www.uwphotographyguide.com http://www.bluewaterphotostore.com

(No subject)

cool pictures!

Never Braaaaaa

Never Braaaaaa

Awesome! Been on my list for

Awesome!
Been on my list for years. Thanks for the great article and can't wait for the trip details.

gayle

Another great article, Scott!

Another great article, Scott! I really enjoyed the last photo with Penny in the background, which helps to show how large these creatures actually are.

Mel

wow! what a great experience

wow! what a great experience for you both! And beautiful photos too. Thanks for the write up and ALL the info!

Cheers~ Judy :)