The Spiny Sea Dragon is an exquisite marine fish which often takes a back seat to the much better known and more ostentatious leafy and weedy sea dragons. The only time we’ve ever come across this species in our ongoing research of marine life was from a photographic essay of the Spiny Sea Dragon by Ryan Photographic.
There are very few photographs of live Spiny Sea Dragons but they illustrate an incredibly beautiful temperate species of pipefish. In some frames the Spiny Sea Dragon appears to be red overall, though not as red as the newly describe Ruby Sea Dragon. But if you look closer at the Spiny Sea Dragon you can see that it is actually orange with a beautiful pattern of bright yellow lines and spots.
The leafy and weedy sea dragons are somewhat commonly seen at public aquariums and institutions but Kelly Tarlton’s Sea Life Aquarium in Auckland, New Zealand is the only place in the world to have spiny sea dragons on display. Now this public aquarium can also claim to be the first in the world to captively breed Solegnathus spinosissimus, the spiny sea dragon.
Breeding sea dragons in captive aquarium is a very rare occurrence indeed; only five public aquariums have ever spawned and reared the weedy seadragon, Phyllopteryx taeniolatus, and no institution has ever succeeded in captive breeding the leafy sea dragon, Phycodorus eques. Kelly Tarlton’s joins a very exclusive list of sea dragon breeders, but like the few others in the club, they don’t know precisely how they did it.
Aside from providing a safe, nurturing aquarium environment with mature pairs of healthy fish, there is no known trigger for getting any species of sea dragon to spawn. The only thing the curators know is that one day they came in to work to discover a bundle of eggs attached to the underbelly of the male, and thankfully the resulting hatchlings are about as easy to rear as baby seahorses.
We wish aquarium curators the best of luck in their efforts at captive breeding all species of Weedy, Leafy, Spiny, Ruby and Ribbon Sea Dragons. Our primary marine aquarium interest is definitely biased towards the tropical reef fish and corals, but if captive bred Sea Dragons ever became ‘a thing’ we’d be all over it. [TVNZ]