The seahorse is one of my favorite ocean critters. I have always been intrigued by them. Seahorses fall into the genus “Hippocampus.” In Greek, Hippos means horse and kampos means sea monster.
They get their name, of course, from the appearance of their horse-like head. There are 54 different species of seahorse and they can be found in the shallows of temperate ocean waters. Fossils of seahorses have been found that date back 3 million years!
Those are some fun facts about seahorses! Here are some other interesting seahorse facts to make you a straight up seahorse expert!
Seahorses are actually fish
Even though they look nothing like a fish, they are, indeed, a fish. They live in water and breathe through gills. But, unlike other fish, they have a prehensile tail and flexible neck.
And, they’re just adorable. Which is something I can’t say about any other fish I’ve ever seen.
They are terrible swimmers
How about this for an unlikely seahorse fact? You wouldn’t think that a creature that resides in the ocean would be a bad swimmer, but seahorses are.
They swim in an upright position and are propelled through the water by their dorsal fin. They are the slowest moving fish in the ocean and swim about 5 ft per hour. And, I thought I was a bad swimmer!
What do seahorses eat? A lot!
Just like a human teenager, seahorses have a voracious appetite. Since they don’t have a stomach or teeth, they have to eat constantly so they don’t starve. So what do seahorses eat? The diet of a seahorse is comprised mostly of plankton, small fish, and small crustaceans. They can eat up to 3,000 brine shrimp per day!
They eat by suction
Seahorses use their snouts like little vacuum cleaners, sucking up tiny crustaceans and plankton. Their long, thin snout enables them to find food in tiny crevasses and their snout is flexible. It can expand to allow a larger meal in.
They use their tails like hands
Since they are weak and such bad swimmers, seahorses prefer to grasp a reed, sea grass or coral to hang onto. This keeps them from getting tossed around in stormy waters and helps them hide from predators.
Seahorses mate for life. To catch the eye of a female, male seahorses will show off with a wrestling match. Winner gets the lady, of course. When they mate, they twist their tails around each other and do a little courtship dance that can go on for hours.
Males carry the eggs
This is a strange but true fact about the seahorse! After mating, the female seahorse deposits the eggs into the male seahorse’s brood pouch, where he fertilizes them. He then carries the eggs in his pouch for 2 – 4 weeks until they hatch.
Seahorses are born independent
Newborn seahorses, called fry, are able to fend for themselves. After birth, they look for the closest thing to hang on to. Unfortunately, because of predators, fewer than 1 in 1000 baby seahorses grow to adulthood.
They can change color
Seahorses hide from predators by changing color to blend in to their surroundings. They can do this because they have chromatophores, special cells in their skin that allow them to change color.
Humans are their biggest threat
Perhaps the saddest seahorse fact of them all: Because seahorses live near the coast in shallow water, they are exposed to dangers caused by humans. Development, pollution, and fishing are the biggest culprits. They are also caught due to their use in traditional Asian medicine.
Their shallow water living makes them easy to catch and keep for pets in aquariums, even though wild-caught seahorses do not usually live long in captivity.
If you want this exotic creature as part of your home aquarium, you can purchase captive born seahorses.
Always remain mindful of your impact on the environment and be respectful toward all living creatures.