The Sea Horse is of the genus —– Hippocampus. The word comes from ancient Greek : hippos —- horse ; kampos —- sea monster.
The Sea Horse is mainly found in shallow tropical and temperate waters throughout the world and lives in sheltered areas such as sea-grass beds, estuaries, coral reefs or mangroves. Colonies have been found in European waters such as the Thames Estuary.
Sea Horses range in size from 1.5 to 35.5 centimetres. They are named for their “equine” appearance. Although they are bony fish, they do not have scales, but, rather, thin skin over a series of bony plates, which are arranged, in rings, throughout their bodies.
They swim “upright”, another characteristic, not shared, by their close ‘pipefish’ relatives, which swim horizontally. Razor-fish are the only other fish that swim vertically like a sea horse. Unusual among fish, a sea horse has a flexible, well-defined neck. It also sports a “coronet” on its head, which is distinct for each individual.
Sea Horses swim very poorly, rapidly fluttering a dorsal fin and using pectoral fins (located behind their eyes) to steer. Sea horses have no “caudal” fin. Since they are poor swimmers, they are most likely to be found resting with their “prehensile tails” wound around a stationary object. They have long snouts, which they use to suck up food and their eyes can move independently of each other (like those of a chameleon).
They feed on small crustaceans floating on the water or crawling on the bottom. They ambush small prey, such as “copepods”. They use “pivot feeding” to catch the copepod, which involves rotating their snout at high speed and then sucking in the copepod.
In recent years, ‘captive breeding’ has become popular. Such sea horses survive better in captivity and are less likely to carry diseases. They eat frozen crustaceans that are readily available from aquarium stores and do not experience the stress of moving out of the wild. Sea horses should be kept in an aquarium with low flow and they should have placid tank-mates. They are slow feeders and can co-exist with many species of shrimp and other bottom-feeding creatures.
The consumption of sea horses is widespread in China, where they are used in traditional Chinese medicine, primarily for the treatment of wheezing and pain, as well as to promote labour.