There are over 40 recognized fish in the genus Hippocampus meaning "sea monster." These seahorses inhabit tropical, sub-tropical and temperate waters around the world and are related to the more linear pipefish. Having a head and neck suggestive of a horse, seahorses also have segmented bony armor, an upright posture and a curled prehensile tail adept at grabbing onto structures and holding tight even in small currents. Seahorses collected from the wild tend to fare poorly in home aquariums, but these six species are typically encountered in the aquarium trade.
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The Brazilian Seahorse (Hippocampus reidi) was initially introduced into the aquarium trade after being imported from Brazil even though it is actually an Atlantic Ocean species that occurs from as far north as the Carolinas, Bermuda. The Brazilian Seahorse has many colors and is one of the largest known species. As coral reefs and seagrass beds worldwide are deteriorating, this drastically reduces viable habitat for seahorses. Additionally, bycatch in many areas causes high cumulative effects on seahorses, with an estimated 37 million individuals being removed annually over 21 countries.
Length: Up to 8 inches
Physical Characteristics: Yellow, black, orange, or red
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In the wild, the Dwarf Seahorse (Hippocampus zostera) is found in the western Atlantic Ocean, from Bermuda to the Bahamas, southern Florida and the entire Gulf of Mexico. As the name Dwarf Seahorse implies, this is a tiny species which makes them ideal for mini or nano-reef tanks. According to Guinness World Records, it is the slowest-moving fish known, with a top speed of about five feet per hour.
Length: Up to 2 inches
Physical Characteristics: Beige, yellow, green, or black, with possible white spots; camouflaging lumps and larger protrusions
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Gorgonian Pygmy Seahorse (Hippocampus bargibanti)
The Gorgonian Pygmy Seahorse (Hippocampus bargibanti) is arguably one of the cutest animals in the oceans. It is named for the gorgonians or "sea fans," which they inhabit for their entire lives. Discovered in 1969 near New Caledonia, these fish are fairly new to the aquarium trade. Unlike the larger seahorses, pygmies have one single gill opening on the back of the head, instead of one on each side. Females have a raised ovipositor pore for extruding eggs and males have a slit for accepting the eggs.
Length: Up to 0.5 inches
Physical Characteristics: Tiny, covered in camouflage bumps; bulbous head, truncated snout; coloring matching to the sea fan they inhabit
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The Lined Seahorse (Hippocampus erectus) is also known as the Erect Seahorse or Atlantic Seahorse. This Seahorse adapts well to aquarium life if it is fed properly and if the tank is well maintained. The Lined Seahorse prefers a quiet tank with other non-aggressive fish, such as the Mandarin Dragonet.
Length: Up to 5.5 inches
Physical Characteristics: Gray, orange, brown, yellow and red to black with a pattern of white lines following the neck contour; white dots along the tailContinue to 5 of 6 below.
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The Smooth Seahorse (Hippocampus kuda) is also known as the Spotted, Yellow, or Black Seahorse. A protective trait that this and many other seahorses have is their chameleon-like ability to change color to match their surroundings. It is not unusual for them to take on the coloration of an object one has decided to adopt as a favorite hiding place.
Length: Up to 6.5 inches
Physical Characteristics: Black to orange to yellow
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Of a bold yellow coloration and named for the tiger-like rings on its tail, the Tiger-Tail Seahorse (Hippocampus comes) is a very hardy species. This is a reef-dwelling seahorse that inhabits tropical waters around Malaysia and Singapore, and as far east as the Philippines. It prefers to live among soft corals, especially finger and toadstool leather corals, gorgonians and sponges.
Length: Up to 6 inches
Physical Characteristics: Yellow females; dark or black males