CHRIS Carey describes it as the “holy grail” of breeding Australian sea creatures in captivity – achieving the successful egg transfer for weedy sea dragons.
The feat is so rare that it has only been accomplished a handful of times anywhere in the world.
And Seahorse World at Beauty Point could soon join their ranks after a male weedy sea dragon was seen carrying the eggs under his tail, completing the successful courtship process with a female.
Now they are just waiting for them to hatch.
Mr Carey, the aquarium’s manager, said it was a delicate process that required close attention, but was also shrouded in mystery. There is still little understanding of exactly how the breeding process takes place.
“You need a whole lot of luck on your side,” he said.
“You have to provide the perfect environment for the sea dragons to do their thing that they naturally do – allow for the right space for them to perform their courtship dance.
“Now we just play the waiting game, dote on him a little bit, give him a lot of food, make sure he’s well nourished and provide the nutrients for his eggs and babies to grow.”
The sea dragon could carry the eggs for between eight and 12 weeks before they hatch, giving the public ample time to observe the rare occurrence.
The successful mating pair were among the hatchlings of sea dragons captured while carrying eggs in the wild, and have spent their lives in captivity. The male has been with Seahorse World for at least five years.
Sea dragons that have been hatched in captivity do not require live feed, and so are easier to raise. They are also the only ones that will breed in captivity, provided the waters match their natural environment.
Mr Carey said it was an exciting time.
“Seahorse World has always been trying to push the captive breeding conservation message. We teach our visitors about these amazing creatures, why they’re so important, and why we need to look after them,” he said.