Dutiful Ocean Dads

Introducing the Rad Dads of Birch Aquarium!

Happy Father’s Day! We wanted to give a huge shoutout to some of the most doting dads in the ocean world found here at Birch Aquarium! 

Weedy Sea Dragons

Adult Weedy Seadragon (left); Young Weedy Seadragon (right)

You’ve likely heard that seahorse dads are responsible for childbearing … but did you know this is also the case with the seadragons? While male seahorses hold their eggs in pouches, Weedy Seadragons keep their young safely tucked away on the underside of their tails. Females lay hundreds of teeny tiny bright pink eggs on a small section of the male’s tail. Once these eggs are deposited on a male, the area of skin around them hardens to form a protective shield! It takes about 4 to 6 weeks until their eggs hatch and hundreds of seadragon babies are released into the world. Find these fabulous fathers in Seadragons & Seahorses

Bangaii Cardinalfish

Bangaii Cardinalfish are certainly a stand-out fish! Between the speckled fins and black banding across their body it’s easy to overlook one of their less flashy characteristics … their large lower jaw. Only male cardinalfish possess this unique trait. Why? They’re mouth brooders — females will lay their eggs directly into the mouth of males. While this might seem strange, it’s actually a great form of protection. Most fish release their eggs to the open water, but these devoted dads hold on tight to their eggs throughout development. This extra form of defense means their eggs are less likely to be eaten by potential predators.  

During this time males forgo eating to protect their young. Even if he encounters a meal, he’ll swim in the opposite direction when he’s caring for his young. Why? He doesn’t want to risk any of his young escaping during a feeding frenzy! Males typically hold onto their young for about 4-5 weeks after they hatch which means males go this entire time without eating … talk about a dedicated dad! 

Check-out the Bangaii Cardinalfish swimming through our Research in Action: 100 Island Challenge habitat in Hall of Fishes


Last on our list is the Lumpsucker! Male Lumpsucker fish will prepare nests in shallow, calm water far away from predators. Once females deposit their eggs males are able to truly shine! Males will use their pelvic fins almost like a suction cup in order to attach to a nearby rock and keep watch — some have been known to stand guard for up to 8 weeks!  Lumpsuckers will also use their fins to fan water over the eggs and keep them properly oxygenated.

Be sure to stop by the Lumpsucker habitat in Hall of Fishes during your next visit to the aquarium to show your appreciation for these fin-tastic fathers!