Leafy Seadragon - Oceana

Ocean Fishes

Leafy Seadragon

Phycodurus Eques


Restricted to the southern Australian coast


Seagrass beds and rocky reefs

Feeding Habits

Visual planktivore (predator)


Order Syngnathiformes (pipefishes and relatives), Family Syngnathidae (pipefishes and seahorses)


Leafy seadragons are very poor swimmers and rely on their camouflage to avoid predation. They are relatively large compared to their closely related species and reach lengths of up to one foot (30 cm) long. Leafy seadragons eat small, plankton crustaceans but are small enough themselves and have sufficient vision to see and attack individual prey (unlike large filter feeders). Their heads are relatively large compared to their very small mouths, so they are able to concentrate enough pressure at their mouths to easily suck in their prey.

Like in seahorses and pipefishes, male leafy seadragons care for the fertilized eggs. They do not have a specialized pouch like male seahorses but instead carry the eggs under the tail. There, they remain exposed to the elements but safe, and the male provides them with necessary levels of oxygen through a specialized, nearby organ. Newly hatched leafy seadragons receive no further parental care. They reach sexual maturity in approximately two years.

The leafy seadragon is a popular species in public aquaria and its trade is tightly regulated. There are very few people licensed to collect leafy seadragons, and a more significant threat to their populations comes from their accidental capture in fisheries targeting other species. Scientists consider this species to be near threatened with extinction. Without continued careful management of the human activities that affect leafy seadragon populations, the species could become more seriously at risk of being lost.

Engage Youth with Sailors for the Sea

Oceana joined forces with Sailors for the Sea, an ocean conservation organization dedicated to educating and engaging the world’s boating community. Sailors for the Sea developed the KELP (Kids Environmental Lesson Plans) program to create the next generation of ocean stewards. Click here or below to download hands-on marine science activities for kids.

Kids Environmental Lesson Plans

Additional Resources:

IUCN Red List