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Seahorse Facts

Size 0.5-14 inches (1.35–35.5 cm)
Speed 5 feet per hour (1.5 m/h)
Weight Unknown
Lifespan 1-5 years
Food Sea monkeys, plankton
Predators Fish, crabs, rays
Habitat Flat oceans in tropical and mild regions
Order Syngnathiformes
Family Syngnathidae
Scientific name Hippocampus
Characteristics Horse-like head, males have a pouch

Main Characteristics

Seahorses are fish. Their special characteristics are a horse-like head and neck as well as a long prehensile tail. There are about 30-80 seahorse species. This number is inaccurate because scientists are very divided over which seahorses really a seperate species.

Seahorse Seahorse - Photo: MyImages - Micha/Shutterstock

Anatomy and Appearance

What Do Seahores Look Like?

Seahorses have many different colors, they are mainly orange, red, yellow, grey or green. They also have different patterns, stripes or dots. They can actively change their color, e.g. for camouflage. When seahorses perform their love dance, both of them take on the same color to show that they belong together. Romantic, isn’t it?


What Do Seahorses Have in Common With Chameleons?

All three animals have grasping tails. Many animals use their tails to keep their balance, e.g. cats, squirrels or cheetahs. A grasping tail has muscles and the power to deliberately hold on to objects. Chameleons use their prehensile tail to avoid falling off branches. Seahorses use their grasping tails to prevent drifting during their sleep.

Also, seahorses can move their eyes independently of each other, just like chameleons.

The Smallest Seahorse

The largest species is the big-belly seahorse (hippocampus abdominalis) with 14 inches (35.5 cm), which is bigger than a DIN A4 exercise book.

The Largest Seahorse

The smallest seahorse is Denise’s pygmy seahorse (hippocampus denise), which is only 0.5 inches (1.35 cm) big and therefore smaller than a one cent coin.

Denise's pygmy seahorse Denise's pygmy seahorse - Photo: JumKit/Shutterstock



What Do Seahorses Eat?

Seahorses eat more than 3,000 small sea monkeys every day. As they have no teeth and no stomach, the food passes very quickly through their digestive system. This is why they have to eat practically all the time.

Seahorse Seahorse - Photo: Frolova_Elena/Shutterstock

Senses and Abilities

Seahorses Are Poor Swimmers

They take advantage of ocean currents and concentrate on navigating with the little fins on their back and the back of their head.

The Slowest Fish in the World

Seahorses are the slowest fish. The top speed of the dwarf seahorse is about 5 feet per hour (1.5 meters per hour). Even snails are faster.

Seahorse Seahorse - Photo: Kristina Vackova/Shutterstock


Babies? A Man‘s Thing!

Male seahorses give birth to the babies. This is unique among all animal species worldwide. Male seahorses have a pouch into which the female seahorse lays between 8 and 600, but mostly about 250 eggs. The male seahorse fertilizes the eggs and carries them along in its pouch for 45 days until the young seahorses are fully developed and leave the pouch.


How Did the Seahorse Get its Scientific Name?

The term hippocampus originates from the sea monster Hippokamp in Greek mythology. Hippo indicates a horse and campus stands for the surface of the ocean. Hippokamp was a draft and riding animal of the gods of the sea. Many gondolas in Venice are decorated with images of Hippokamp.

Video: 13 Facts About Seahorses

Seahorse Video

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Syngnathiformes Species Fact Sheets


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