Sea Horse (Hippocampus)


Family:                    Syngnathidae

Status:                     Reported to be at risk but not yet on any endangered list.

Size:                        1 to 14 inches, depending on the species.

Diet:                        Omnivore.

Characteristics:        Social, monogamous.

Area:                       Atlantic coasts of Europe and Africa, Atlantic & Pacific coasts of North America.

Offspring:                50 to 1,500 sea ponies.



·         There are about 35 different species of seahorses worldwide.

·         Sea horses need a high intake of food to survive.

·         Their eyes can move independently of each other.

·         Male sea horses become pregnant, carrying the eggs until they hatch.

·         The scientific name is derived from Greek, meaning hippo—horse, kampos—sea monster.



The name for this fish comes from the head’s similarity to that of a horse, or to the horse-shaped chess piece (knight). These friendly, loyal fish are monogamous and will hold tails while courting, forming a “V” with their bodies. Each morning the sea horse greets its mate warmly, doing what appears to be a dance. If a sea horse’s mate dies or disappears (is caught for use in Chinese traditional medicine or for the aquarium trade), it usually dies of grief. The sea horse wraps its tail around plant stems to hold itself in place while eating or when water currents threaten to sweep them away. It can change colour as camouflage to match its surroundings or even to match its mate. The sea horse has a tubular snout that it uses like a straw, sucking in food and water. The body consists of bony plates, which form body armour arranged in rings around the body and tail, making this fish not a favourite with predators, due to the amount of bones. Sea horses feed on plankton. Males are easily distinguished from females, because of the males’ abdominal pouch.



These fish are found off the coasts of Europe, Africa and North America in shallow, warm water close to land. They usually swim in a horizontal position, but can also swim in a vertical position and make 360° turns. Although not currently on any endangered lists, sea horse populations are reported to have dropped by 50% in the last few years, mainly due to the 20 million sea horses captured each year to be sold in pet stores or killed for use in Chinese medicines and aphrodisiacs.



The male seahorse offers its breeding pouch to the female, opening the pouch wide. The female moves her body to the pouch opening and fills it with up to 1,500 orange coloured eggs. He then carries and incubates the fertilized eggs until they hatch. The sea ponies are born live, taking from less than one hour to one or two days for all of the eggs to hatch. If any of the babies are still born and remain in the pouch, the male may die within days from a bacterial infection. The babies are born looking like miniature versions of their parents. Sexual maturity is reached at four months of age. Sea horses live approximately four years in the wild.