sea dragon

Are Seahorses the Only Males That Give Birth?

4 min read

It is generally considered normal for a female to get pregnant and give birth.

At least that’s what I thought when I was growing up and even as an adult, I thought the female was the one to give birth to all species.

However, not long after researching seahorses for an aquarium, I was stunned to discover that this wasn’t true…

Seahorses, pipefish, and sea dragons are all three very closely related and all three of these cousins share the same trait of the male getting pregnant and giving birth rather than the female.

But, do they all three do it the same way? Let’s find out…

How Do Seahorses Males Give Birth?


The seahorse mating season usually begins in April and lasts until winter when seahorses will move into deeper water unless they are far enough south. Souther seahorses will breed year-round.

The seahorses usually pair together with the opposite sex although, it has been discovered that sometimes, the same-sex pairs together.

After they are paired together, the seahorses will begin their courtship dance for several days, which is really to get them both moving together in unison because there is only a six-second window for the male to receive the eggs from the female, so they need to be spot-on when the moment arrives.

The male seahorse will also begin expanding what is called his brood pouch that holds the eggs, letting the female know that he is ready.

At the end of the courtship, the female will extend her ovipositor into the seahorse’s pouch and wrap herself around him, depositing her eggs into his pouch along with some seawater.

Once all of her eggs are in his pouch, they will be fertilized with the sperm of the male and he will begin gestation which is the time in the womb.

Gestation can last around 45 days or even more, supplying the eggs with oxygen and prolactin. Prolactin is similar to the milk produced by pregnant females of other species and nourishes the eggs while they stay at the proper temperature.

The baby seahorses receive nourishment from the egg yolk, lipids, and calcium secreted in the brood pouch from the seahorse.

The brood pouch also offers immunological protection and osmoregulation, gas exchange, and waste transport.

After this process is done, the female will leave the male but come to visit him every day.

After gestation, the male seahorse expels the baby seahorses from the brood pouch with muscular contractions.

The seahorses are already developed so much that they look like miniature seahorses and are fully self-reliant to the point that mom and dad don’t have anything to do with the babies. The father seahorse will even eat the babies if they get too close.

How Does the Male Pipefish Give Birth?


During the summer, the male pipefish will stay in a small area and the female will find him every day.

They will swim together in the male’s territory, similar to the seahorse, entwining their bodies and swimming in unison, so that when the time arrives to exchange the eggs, they will be fast and efficient.

When ready, the male rubs himself against the female to entice her to release the eggs which actually get stuck to the belly of the male pipefish, where they are pushed some more to make sure they are stuck good and won’t come loose.

After this, the female leaves but returns every morning to swim with the male.

It only takes ten days, before the male pipefish seeks out darkness and shakes the eggs loose and the babies are born.

How Does the Male Sea Dragon Give Birth?

sea dragon

Both of the sea dragons encourage each other to head to the surface and while swimming together they rub their anal fins together, causing the female to release her eggs.

While still swimming together, the eggs release in a string along the male’s tail and stick to his tail in an area called the brood patch that nourishes the eggs with oxygen.

After 9 weeks, similar to the pipefish, the sea dragon, shakes his tail, and the eggs hatch as they fall off.

Similar to the seahorse and pipefish, the babies of the sea dragon become completely independent as soon as they hatch, which leads us to our next question…

Why Does the Male Seahorse, Pipefish, and Sea Dragon Give Birth?

Scientists have concluded that the male in this seahorse, pipefish, and sea dragon family gives birth in order to sustain the population.

The babies of all three of these cousins are completely independent when they are born, but the parents also completely leave them alone to fend for themselves.

Seems strange, but not very many of the babies survive, some are even eaten by their fathers.

So, in order to keep a steady supply of babies, the male carries the eggs until they hatch while the female gets more eggs ready, so the male can get pregnant again soon after each batch.


I hope we explained that seahorses, pipefish, and sea dragons are the only male species that give birth, how, and why.

If you enjoyed this article on seahorses, please check out the rest of our website.

Written by:

Pet Aquariums

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