Seahorses are the magical creatures of the ocean– beautiful, strange, and unique.
Seahorses are living paradoxes.
He is so small– most of them are not much bigger than a fingernail– but he can drive you crazy just thinking about him!””
He is a fish with the head of a horse– a horse’s head with a crown on top. He has fins that move so fast that you can’t even see them. He has a tail but his tail isn’t a fish’s tail– his tail curls like a monkey’s tail.
He doesn’t have scales– he has armor plating. His eyes don’t stay straight– he is looking in two different directions at the same time. This makes him totally impossible to engage in intelligent conversation– imagining you are crazy enough to make the effort!””
He is incredibly cute and little– but unbelievably deadly. His appetite is voracious– gobbling up 300 shrimps every single hour!
He spends all his precious existence in about a metre of seaweed, seagrass or coral reef– and no wonder! Can you blame him? His swimming is so painfully slow that every single larger predator could swallow him whole in moments– but his global dispersion suggests that his species is at least 20 million years old! He himself on the other hand can live five years at most– boo hoo! “
Oh, one more thing, I am using the word he to describe this insane living being, because– yes, you guessed it, or maybe not– to protect these precious eggs and to survive those 20 million years in the tumultuous oceans, he is the one that gets pregnant. Imagine that– the male taking responsibility at long last. The male seahorse gives birth! Aww– and– ouch!””
Their Natural Environment
There are 36 species of seahorse in the oceans– each is more majestic than the next. Seahorses or Genus Hippocampus belong to the family Syngnathidae– sharing their heritage with sea dragons and pipefishes.”
Specifically named seahorse because of the shape of their heads, these creatures inhabit tropical and temperate coastal waters. They use their tiny prehensile tails to cling to sea grass and to each other too. Aww!
Seahorses are fragile. Fish, invertebrates, sea turtles, marine mammals, and seabirds are their natural enemies. Seahorses are not strong swimmers and therefore rely on camouflaging themselves to escape all these predators.
But seahorses are not totally innocent either. They couldn’t survive even a second if not.” Their camouflaging technique lets them sneak up on their prey, the 300 poor shrimps that they gobble up on an hourly basis!
In an aquarium, it is important to replicate the seahorse’s natural environment. That means that you must add seahorse-friendly corals, gorgonians, hitching posts, macro algae and live rock!
Yes, we all deserve to be cared for properly, don’t we?
Every year there are roughly 37 million wild seahorses caught. Sadly, many end up being sold on the black market– the rest are sold privately or to aquariums.
Most of the seahorses that are caught have been hauled out of lush coastal waters. Due to habitat loss and the global trade, there are millions of seahorses that end up dead every year.
If this continues– coupled to global warming, pollution, oceans clogged up with lethal chemicals and plastic shopping bags– the number of seahorses in the world will drop significantly.
Seahorses are particularly vulnerable in West Africa and Southeast Asia– seahorses are used for symbolic medicinal purposes in China, Korea and Japan.
Their main purpose in Eastern medicine is to cure infertility. In an important 2000-year-old medical text– the Baopuzi– the Tao nature cult recommends boiling them in alcohol or tea.
Hey, Chinese men– don’t blame the poor seahorses for your marital problems– come on, get a life!
So How Do Seahorses Move Around in The Water?
By using a small fin on their backs, seahorses move themselves around. This is very interesting as other fish use their tail fins to move around. Seahorses flutter their tiny back fin up to 35 times per second. They also have tiny pectoral fins at the back of their heads that help them swim around. These are responsible for steering. Seahorses do not have a caudal fin and use their prehensile tails instead.
Seahorses also have impeccable eyesight which allows them to spot prey– yes, that’s why they can’t look you straight in the eye even if they want to! Their eyes “move independently on either side of their heads.
Instead of having scales like other fish, their bodies have bony plates to protect them from predators.
Predators struggle to digest these tiny bony fish. So are seahorses even fish?
That’s a great question!
It is because of their gills– their breathing apparatus– that biologists consider these supernatural horsey beings to be fish!
Here Is What Helps Seahorses Survive
- Feeding habits
- Tank requirements
Seahorses scavenge for food with their long and thin snouts. Their snouts allow them to reach difficult places like nooks and crannies. The snout acts like a vacuum and sucks out food. The greatest part of their snouts is that they can expand if their prey is too far to reach. If not for these snouts, seahorses wouldn’t be able to survive due to them being such bad swimmers.
Seahorses tend to prey on very small crustaceans and very small fish. Seahorses are so small themselves, how could you expect otherwise?
Their strong eyesight permits them to catch sight of the smallest piece of living food and their eyes move both forward and backward.
This is so important in such a hungry hunter!
It so happens that seahorses often mate for life. They are mainly monogamous creatures that go through multiple reproduction cycles with one partner.
Like we said, one of the most interesting facts about seahorses is that the males are the ones that give birth. This sounds bizarre because there are not a lot of living beings in the world that do this
Seahorses are unique.
Female seahorses lay dozens of eggs at a time in a pouch on a male seahorse’s abdomen. This is called a brood pouch– like the pouch of a kangaroo. The male carries these eggs in his pouch for around 45 days. From the moment the eggs hatch, baby sea horses measure about the size of an M & M!
Baby seahorses float together and cling to one another with their tails.
Once hatched, baby seahorses do not return to their father’s pouch and must learn to fend for themselves– or else!
Seahorses are not the easiest of aquatic animals to care for. Their tanks need special care in order to replicate the seahorses’ natural environment. But if you keep them in the correct conditions, it is pretty simple to care for them.
People debate whether or not seahorse tanks require filters. Seahorses have complicated digestive systems– materials end up floating around the tank and decomposing over time. So the hang-on-the-back or HOB filter is recommended.
It is important that there isn’t a strong flow in a seahorse tank. Exposure to strong flows can be fatal as seahorses are not strong swimmers.
If the flow is too low, there isn’t enough oxygen to breathe. It is so important to have the perfect balance as to not distress the seahorses.
Like we have always said, it is so important to respect and love living beings!
1. Consider adding a protein skimmer to the tank. This will help to reduce nitrates as well to skim out excess organics.
2. Create a steady flow by adding a single low-flow power-head in the tank to keep your seahorses happy. This will eliminate dead zones and stress.
3. In aquariums, seahorse tanks are roughly filled with 25 gallons of water.
4. Lighting is important. A basic LED strip or fluorescent light will do.
Thank you– and enjoy the privilege of sharing your life with these amazing beings!