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What is a Seahorse?



Seahorse - Hippocampus

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
A seahorse is a fish - a very fascinating fish. Seahorses have heads that look like horse heads and pouches like kangaroos. They are notable for being one of only a few species where the males get pregnant. Let's learn about these interesting creatures.


A hippocampus (or seahorse) is a genus of fish (family Syngnathidae) found in temperate and tropical waters all over the world. There are 35 known species of seahorses. They live in three main habitats:

  • Seagrass beds
  • Coral reefs
  • Mangrove forests

Seahorses have unique body parts:

  • Coronet - Most seahorses have a little crown on top if their head.
  • Eyes - Their two eyes can move in different directions.
  • Snout - The snout is like a straw and is used to suck up food.
  • Fins - Seahorses have three fins that help them swim. They have a dorsal fin on their back and two pectoral fins on each side of the neck.
  • Gills - They have gills to get oxygen from the water so they can breathe.
  • Tail - They have a curly tail used mostly to grasp on to branches of seaweed.

Moving About:

Seahorses swim upright, but are weak swimmers. They have pectoral fins on either side of their head and are used for balance. The dorsal fin on their back is used for propulsion. They move forward by flapping the dorsal fin very fast. To move up or down, the seahorse rolls or unrolls its tail.

Diet and Digestion:

A seahorse is a predator. They eat zooplankton. It waits with its tail holding it in place, when a small animal swims by, the seahorse sucks it in. They have no teeth nor stomach. They swallow their food whole and the food passes through them quickly. This is whey they have to eat all day long.


The female seahorse lays her eggs in the male’s pouch where they are fertilized. He takes care of the eggs until they hatch, which takes approximately two to six weeks. The babies look like tiny adult seahorses. They are about 1/4 of an inch long. The babies begin eating soon after they are born. The parents do not provide any care for the babies.

Defending Themselves:

Seahorses don't have very many enemies. Because they are very bony and some have sharp spines, most creatures don't like to eat them. But some do, like crabs, skates, rays and sea turtles. Seahorses rely heavily on camouflage for survival. Their coloring helps them blend into their surroundings. They can change colors to match their surroundings in just a few minutes.

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