In the water, they give the complete illusion of floating seaweed and one research group in Hawaii is trying to successfully breed them for their own good.
“For anyone who’s ever seen a sea dragon, one word to describe them is breathtaking,” said biologist Malini Parker of the Waikiki Aquarium.
Sea dragons are remarkable creature that can grow up to 10 inches long, but biologists say sighting one of these guys is rare. The weedy sea dragons are only found in Australia and they are rarely kept in exhibits.
"Sea dragons haven’t really been kept in captivity for very long and at the moment only a few aquariums have managed to breed them successfully,” said Parker.
Like their relative the seahorse, biologists say males are the ones that carry the babies.
“The females will deposit their eggs on the underside of the males and what happens is that they will stick on there and then they will get vascularized and carry them to full term,” said Parker.
After a small male dropped its eggs, aquarium scientists adjusted their living conditions to make them as close to natural as possible.
The changes included altering their water's temperature and by adding more mysis shrimp to their diet. Even the carotenoids in that shrimp helped their colors become more vibrant and attractive.
When looking at the animal, it’s hard to miss all of their extra appendages. Biologists say they use all 12 to help make them camouflage. They’re the more ornate creature of the syngnathidae family,” said Parker.
Sea dragons are ornate that people try to illegally snatch them from the wild. To combat that issue, biologists are looking to breed them in exhibits to take pressure off the wild population.
“Instead of people looking to the natural population to get animals, they will be able to get them from other aquariums,” said Parker.
It’s just one of the many reasons biologist are trying to educate people about this species and say you can't conserve what you don't know. ?
Starting Friday you can see sea dragons for the first time ever, along with seahorses and pipefishes, in the Waikiki Aquarium's new Syngnathid Exhibit.