Do Male Seahorses Give Birth?

You have to be careful when you put two seahorses in the same tank, especially if you are a beginner. It is highly recommended that you stick with two seahorses of the same sex.

Why? Because the male seahorse will constantly be pregnant.

What?! Yes, you heard me right…

Seahorses, seadragons, and pipefish are all from the scientific family named Syngnathidae and are the only known species in which the male is the one that becomes pregnant and gives birth. The female seahorse deposits the eggs into the pouch of the male seahorse where they grow for 14-20 days depending on the species of seahorse, and then the male squeezes 100’s to over a thousand baby sea horses out with muscular contractions.

Wow! That’s what I was thinking when I discovered this but let’s explore it in more detail…

How Do Male Seahorses Get Pregnant?

If there is only one pair of seahorses in the tank then it is very likely that they will mate.

Every day the male and female seahorses will dance around each other and maybe change colors as they get to know each other and decide if they like each other.

Especially the male seahorse will change color and puff his egg pouch out for the female to see, kind of like the human males puffing their chest out when they are attracted to a female.

This courtship can last from just a few minutes to several hours. Scientists believe that seahorses dance and intertwine together sort of like practice, so their movements will be synchronized when the female is ready to pass the eggs.

You will know when they are about to take their relationship to the next level because the female’s abdomen will become swollen and their mating ritual will become much more intense.

The male will then let the female know he is ready for her eggs by contracting his ouch in out, punching water out as he does much in the same way he will later when he uses muscle contractions to push the babies out.

The female will rise up in the water with her tail downward, and maybe even flip her head upward to let the male know she is ready so he can follow.

As they rise together they become intertwined with their tails, facing each other with their tummies touching.

The female passes her eggs through her ovipositor into the male pouch in only a few seconds and the male closes his pouch right away.

After they separate, the male drops back down moving back and forth to settle the eggs and fertilize them with his sperm. The male also has a placenta in his pouch which provides the eggs with oxygen and nutrients.

How Long Are Seahorses Pregnant?

The male seahorse will be pregnant for 2-4 weeks depending on the species of seahorse.

During his pregnancy, the male seahorse will not be as lively as he usually is or eating as much, but he should still be eating. The eggs hatch in the pouch and he is making sure his pouch has the right salinity for the babies since they are saltwater creatures, but this takes quite a bit of his energy.

Seahorses like to hitch to things with their tails and the mail will stay hitched in the same place for quite some time, seeming unenthused about anything.

You will notice his pouch begins to swell right away and gradually swell more as the pregnancy goes on.

The male seahorse will use contractions to squeeze the seahorse babies out.

After birth, the parents have nothing else to do with the babies, which can make them very vulnerable in the wild. Scientists estimate that only 5 in 1,000 baby seahorses survive in the wild.

In fact, the male seahorse will even eat his own babies if they get too close. They have to be separated.

The only thing baby seahorses have in their favor is that they are fully developed and self-sufficient as soon as they are born.

Of course, hundreds of them can survive in the safety of an aquarium but that is another subject for experienced breeders.

Why Do Male Seahorses Give Birth?

Some scientists believe that seahorses have evolved to have the male carry the eggs so the female can keep getting more eggs ready while he is pregnant.

This way she can deposit more eggs into his pouch as soon as he is ready for more.

This way, since the survival rate of baby seahorses in the wild, is so low, the more babies they keep producing, the more likely their species will survive.

Of course, this doesn’t translate well into the aquarium, where it is much easier for baby seahorses to survive, so it is better to separate the babies, male and female as soon as the babies are born.

Do Seahorses Die After Giving Birth?

Seahorses do not normally die after giving birth because it has been scientifically proven that they give birth repeatedly to keep their species from extinction since only 5 out of 1,000 seahorse babies survive after birth.

So, you can say that many seahorse babies die after birth but not the mom and dad unless something is wrong with them.


I hope we have fully explained the male seahorse giving birth to your satisfaction.

It is very interesting that the Syngnathidae family of seahorses, pipefish, and sea dragons are the only species where the male is the one who gets pregnant and gives birth.

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