Do Seahorses Have Stomachs?

4 min read

Seahorses may have a head that makes them look like a horse but they are actually considered fish.

The reason I am writing this post is because of something that seahorses don’t have…

Even though seahorses are fish, they do not have teeth or a stomach. Seahorses have a very short digestive tract which is a tube with muscles that move food triggering enzymes or hormones to help absorb the needed nutrition from the food. Seahorses wait until their food is close enough to suck it in whole into their digestive tract.

Since seahorses don’t have stomachs, they will eat constantly in the wild because the food passes through their body quickly, not letting them build up and store reserves.

Seahorses are carnivores and mainly eat tiny shrimp, fish, and other plankton copepods.

Seahorses range in size from millimeters to over a foot but even the tiniest seahorse is capable of eating thousands of crustaceans like brine shrimp in a day.

I guess you can say they have a very fast metabolism!

How Do Seahorses Eat Without A Stomach?


Something else seahorses don’t have is the ability to swim fast!

How in the world do seahorses eat if food passes right through their digestive system and they can’t swim fast to catch critters since they are carnivores and need to eat constantly?

As stated above seahorses will eat 30-50 times per day in the wild.

Further complicating matters is the fact that seahorses don’t have teeth so their food needs to be small enough for them to swallow whole.

Seahorses have four awesome physical characteristics which make up for their seeming disabilities…

  • Their bodies are in an S shape.
  • Their eyes have a kind of their own.
  • They can camouflage.
  • Their snouts are narrow.

S-Shaped Body

Although a seahorse is a slow swimmer, its s-shaped body helps to compensate for this.

As soon as their prey is close enough, the seahorse will spring its neck forward with the s-shape and snatch its prey.

This is extremely effective since most crustaceans or copepods can escape very fast.

Seahorse Eyes

Seahorse eyes can move in completely different directions.

If their prey is advancing on two different sides they can watch both of them at the same time.

They can literally move their right eye forward while moving their left eye in a completely different direction.

This helps them keep an eye on their entire surrounding area without moving their body at all, making it almost impossible for their prey to notice them.

Seahorse Camouflage

PygSeahorseCamo PetAquariums Do Seahorses Have Stomachs?
Can You See The Seahorse?

Seahorses have different colored pigments contained in their skin cells that can be mixed together to create many different colors in their skin.

This means they can change their skin color to completely blend in with their environment making it even more impossible for their prey to see them.

Seahorse Snouts

The seahorse’s mouth is at the end of a long narrow snout so when it does use its s-shaped spring motion, its mouth moves through the water with little resistance.

It is the same principle that boats use to move through the water with a long narrow front.

So if you put all of this together, a seahorse is actually a pretty deadly predator since they use stealth and their s-shaped spring speed despite their slow swimming speed.

Seahorses use their long tails to grab onto things, called hitching. In fact, if you have a seahorse tank, it is recommended to have several ‘hitches’ or things that can hitch to.

But back to hunting, seahorses will usually hitch their tails to plants or coral and use their camouflage ability to completely blend in.

Divers have discovered some species of seahorse on accident when they have gathered plants and pieces of coral to study, then found a camouflaged seahorse attached to the coral or plants when they analyze it in the lab.

Anyways, when the seahorse’s prey swims by, it will get very close to the seahorse’s mouth since the seahorse is camouflaged. The seahorse will instantly snap its mouth at the prey while sucking it in at the same time, making it impossible for the prey to get away.

Why Don’t Seahorses Have Stomachs?

Seahorses come from the ocean which is a vast ecosystem containing several different creatures that are actually natural filters for the water.

Seahorses feed on tiny shrimp after the tiny shrimp feed on algae.

The tiny shrimp known as mysis or brine shrimp don’t have much of a brain and basically are designed to do nothing but eat algae. This helps keep the ocean from being overrun by algae.

This is great but brine shrimp are constantly breeding and laying eggs so the ocean needs a buffer to keep the brine shrimp population down.

In come creatures like seahorses that can eat thousands of tiny shrimp in a day.

Alas, if the seahorses had a stomach instead of just a digestive tract, their bodies wouldn’t be able to process as many shrimp as they do in a day, hence no stomach which speeds up the digestion process and in turn helps keep the ocean from being overrun by algae or shrimp.


Hopefully, we made an entertaining post explaining everything we know about seahorse stomachs for you to enjoy.

We tried to keep it short and entertaining so you could digest it faster than a seahorse eats a brine shrimp haha!

Anyways, enjoy your seahorse research and always come back here for more specific specialized knowledge.

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Pet Aquariums

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