Last week's deaths of two weedy sea dragon babies did not dash hope for future hatchlings at the Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific, officials said.
"We're pretty hopeful that we'll have more opportunities here for breeding," said Perry Hampton, an aquarium director. "Just by getting that far, we've already had more success than anyone in North America."
The fragile sea dragon, a relative of the sea horse, has given birth at only two other aquariums, in Germany and Japan. None of the babies survived more than eight weeks.
The sea dragon is a protected species in Australia. It is among five fish groups in which the males incubate eggs.
In Long Beach, on June 6, a pregnant sea dragon known as "Mr. Mom" died about a week before he was expected to give birth to 80 hatchlings. Two babies that were born prematurely never grew strong enough to eat or swim.
The aquarium has 23 adult sea dragons.