Seahorses are odd-looking creatures. These marine marvels have a head like a horse and a tail like a snake, they swim in an upright position and reject scales in favour of skin covered in mucous. Whether they're inspiring folklore, camouflaging themselves to avoid predators or curling their tail around a piece of coral to keep themselves steady, seahorses have raised an eyebrow or two over the ages while being consistently adored. Curious about these cute creatures? Read on for our top ten seahorse facts…

orange pregnant seahorse with a spiky head resting on a piece of coral

‘Horse sea monster’

Let's kick off our seahorse facts with some background on their name. Seahorses have had a bit of a rough start with their scientific name labelling them as something to be avoided. The scientific name for a seahorse is Hippocampus and comes from the Greek words 'hippos' (horse) and 'kampos' (sea monster).

light pink pygmy seahorse with its tail wrapped around pink coral

They’re featured in folklore

Despite their fearsome name, seahorses have long been adored and have featured in folklore tales through the ages. In Greek mythology, seahorses are the ones pulling Poseidon's chariot and embody protection and sea power. Ancient European and Philippine lore viewed seahorses as protectors of sailors, guiding them safely through rough waters and warding off evil spirits. And in Chinese culture, seahorses bring good luck, especially to sea travellers.

light brown seahorse swimming in an upright position

Various shapes and colours

Seahorses come in a wonderful variety of colours, including shades of white, yellow, orange, red, pink, grey, brown and black depending on the species. They also vary in size from the miniscule 14mm Satomi's pygmy seahorse (hippocampus satomiae) to the big-bellied seahorse (hippocampus abdominalis) that grows up to 35cm. While it's not massive in size, it's a lot easier to spot.

a little light sea horse resting on red coral with green sea leaves close by

Small size, big appetite

A seahorse fact that may surprise you is that despite their tiny size, seahorses have huge appetites and eat almost constantly. With no teeth or stomachs, food zooms through their small bodies so quickly that they barely absorb any nutrition, meaning they need at least 30 meals a day to keep up. A single seahorse can chow down up to 3,000 brine shrimp a day and are also known to enjoy plankton.

close up photo of a yellow seahorse swimming

Shocking swimmers

Seahorses differ from other fish in their swimming ability. They're awful swimmers. These little wonders are not built for speed or endurance in the water. Despite having a fin on their back that can beat up to 50 times a second, seahorses receive minimal propulsion from it due to its small size. Their petite pectoral fins aid in steering, but seahorses still earn the title of the slowest-moving fish. They're so delicate, in fact, that they can become fatally exhausted in rough waters during storms.

light pink seahorse resting on pink coral


While they may not be strong swimmers, when they do swim, they have the ability (unlike other fish) to swim backwards up and down. The shape of their head also means that they move through the water silently so despite they slow pace, they are apt hunters with a predatory kill rate of almost 90%.

Their eyes move independently

Speaking of swimming backwards, yet another fascinating fact about seahorses is their ability to look both backwards and forwards simultaneously. Their eyes can operate independently, which is helpful for these slow-moving fish when they need to keep an eye out for predators while enjoying their frequent meals.

Two dark brown seahorses swimming together

They make the most of their tail

One way that these delicate dotes steady themselves is with the use of the tails. During rough conditions, seahorses will anchor themselves to a piece of coral or wrap their tails around some seagrass. They also use their tails as weapons when fighting over food or territory. Better still, couples will interlink their tails, which is their version of holding hands. Cute!

Macro photograph of two pink and white spotted pygmy seahorse resting on pink coral

Seahorse serenade

Since we mentioned seahorses holding tails, we must also mention their mating ritual. These teeny-tiny pairs pirouette with the ocean's gentle current. With fancy fin work, seahorses engage in a graceful and unhurried dance, embracing one another mid-twirl, their noses meeting in an intimate exchange. They even change colour in a kaleidoscopic expression of their affection and some species mate for life.

A group of pregnant male seahorses with females

Fathers carry the load

Of course, no sea horse fact file is complete without the well-known fact that the males carry the babies. During the mating ritual, females will deposit female deposits eggs into a pouch on the male's belly, where he carries them until they hatch. The gestation period can last anywhere from a few weeks to months, and the fathers can carry up to 2,000 fry (baby seahorse) at a time, depending on the species, and give birth to up to 1,000 fry.

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