South Australia’s Leafy Sea Dragons

The iconic Leafy Sea Dragon is South Australia’s marine emblem common to our coast line.


Leafy Sea Dragons (Phycodurus eques) are exquisitely camouflaged and belong to the same family as seahorses and pipe fish (Syngnathidae). They are found either solitary or in pairs moving slowly in sheltered water relying on their elegant camouflage to protect them from predators.

Like seahorses, it is the male Sea Dragon that carries the developing eggs. The breeding season runs from October to March, and males develop a ‘brood patch’ on the underside of the tail that consists of cups of blood-rich tissue, which each hold an egg.┬áThe female transfers around 120 eggs into these pits; the eggs are then fertilised and carried by the male for about a month. Hatchlings emerge over several days and are initially only around 10-20 mm long. They are extremely vulnerable to predation but grow quickly, attaining adult maturity in about 2 years. Sea Dragons feed on small organisms such as plankton and mysids by sucking them into their tube-like snout appearing somewhat like sneezing.


Our most visited dive sites for encountering the Sea Dragon are Rapid Bay and Victor Harbor. Approaching these delicate creatures should be with minimal water disturbance using good buoyancy and trim so they are not stressed. A sudden sweep of the hand or fin can damage their frail appendages so it is imperative to maintain good water conduct in their proximity. They are quite camera shy and will turn away from lights insomuch that the front portrait facial view is almost impossible to shoot without strobes and soft focusing lights. Should a Sea Dragon sense intruding danger they will move away and possibly up into the water column and in flight mode can stray out of the gentle water into strong surge and current to their detriment. Hence you will mostly find Sea Dragons ebbing and flowing in quiet sheltered surroundings.


Every Sea Dragon has distinctive facial markings that give them unique identification. They are quite territorial rarely venturing a few meters from their familiar surroundings.

The majestic Leafy Sea Dragon has captured the attention of the dive community and divers come from all over the globe to behold and photograph this most unique and mystical creature.

Divers Delight promote and facilitate diving tours to visit Leafy Sea Dragons regularly and accommodate divers with a seasoned dive guide, required gear and transport to sites.

Call us on 83637518, email or Facebook Divers Delight

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1 Comment on “South Australia’s Leafy Sea Dragons

  1. Great information, thank you! I was at Edithburgh jetty recently where I snorkelled in the hope of seeing one of these beauties. No luck I’m afraid. Can they be seen while snorkelling or do you need to be a diver? Best time of year to see them? Thanks, Barb

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