A Dwarf Seahorse
A Dwarf Seahorse
Photo graciously lent by:  J. Jeffords/Dive Gallery



Florida Seahorses


The Dwarf Seahorse
Hippocampus zosterae


To begin: what is a Seahorse?

A Seahorse is a very tiny marine fish, that like other fish,

breathes through gills and swims or floats, upright.

They are only about one to two inches long.

Their colors can be yellow, black, green, beige or almost black and

the Dwarf Seahorse is the third smallest of all species in the world.

Seahorses get their name from their unusual shape, which is somewhat like a tiny horse.

In Florida, they are found in shallow seagrass beds of the Atlantic and

in the coastal waters of the Gulf of Mexico.


Dwarf Seahorse(Hippocampus zosterae )

Their Genus is Hippocampus.

Hippo is from the Greek meaning horse

and kampos for sea monster.


*At the present time, the Dwarf Seahorse is not Endangered, but due to their rapidly declining numbers

a petition to change this has already been put in motion by the Center For Biological Diversity.*


There may be as many as 30 - 40 varieties or species of Seahorses in the World,

and the numbers differ wildly depending on which source you quote.

some are only about an inch long, some go up to fourteen inches.


Due to the make up of their bodies of a very thin skin covering mostly bony plates, not scales,

the Seahorse has few predators, in other words, they don't taste very good!

Like some lizards, Seahorses are able to hide by blending in with,

or camouflaging themselves within their environment.

Seahorses are the slowest moving fish,

but they actually don't swim,

they float on seagrass and they can live up to 2 years.


The Seahorse's ancient origins may date back to somewhere between 20 - 40 million years ago;

there are almost as many theories as there are scientists writing them:

Fossil Seahorses

Oldest Seahorse Fossils Found!

Origin and Evolution of Seahorses

Evolutionary History of Seahorses


The Dwarf Seahorse is the smallest of the four Seahorse species found in the United States

and they are about 1-2 inches long.

They are found in the Atlantic Coast of Florida, the Bahamas in the Caribbean,

the Gulf Of Mexico, the Florida Keys and elsewhere in the U.S.

There are at least four species of Seahorses in the United States:

Hippocampus erectus
Hippocampus ingens
Hippocampus reidi
Hippocampus zosterae


Another species of Seahorse,

the Pygmy Seahorse ( Hippocampus bargibanti  ) 

 is about one inch long and is found in the western central Pacific Ocean.


Seahorses are the only animal where the father gets pregnant year round.

Actually, the female puts her eggs inside the male and he incubates them,

then gives birth to them.

The gestation period is 1-2 weeks and after they are born,

the newborn babies are, like sea turtles, on their own.


Seahorses are monogamous during breeding time,

if one gets taken, the other will not breed

A Dwarf Seahorse
A Dwarf Seahorse
Photo by: stickpin

Seahorses use their tails to hold onto the Seagrass and as they have no teeth,

they catch tiny bits of fish that swim or drift by them,

by sucking them into their nose.

Not having a stomach, food goes quickly through their bodies

and requires that they must eat almost continuously.


Habitat loss is the main cause of Seahorse decimation and

their Seagrass Habitat is in rapid decline in Florida.

In fact, Florida has lost more than half of its Seagrass since the 1950's.

As to be expected, the devastating BP Oil spill has only hastened Seahorse demise:

Worlds Smallest Seahorse Facing Extinction In Oil Spill Clean-Up

Oil Spill Kills Seahorses


More than eighty countries in the world are involved in the wholesale trade of the Seahorse.

Many people all over this state catch them and sell them to people for pets.

But, sadly, most Seahorses are caught live, then sold and shipped to Asia

and the Chinese to be used as food/snacks and/or medicine.


Places to learn more:


Bay Soundings:

Seahorse Roundup


Center For Biological Diversity

Detailed Species Description and Petition

Nation's Smallest Seahorse Moves Towards Endangered Species Act Protection


Coastal News Today

Gulf of Mexico - Government Considers Protection for Dwarf Seahorse


Federal Register: Finding on 90 Day Petition

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife


Gaia Discovery

Seahorse Exploited, Overfished For International Trade


IUCN Red List

Hippocampus Zosterae



Smallest Seahorse in US Waters Might Get Endangered Protection


National Geographic

Worlds Smallest Seahorse Facing Extinction In Oil Spill Clean-Up

PBS - NOVA Online

Kingdom of the Seahorse

Part Two

Seahorse Basics


Scientific American

Deepwater Doom: Extinction Threat For World's Smallest Seahorse


Smithsonian Marine Station Ft. Pierce

Dwarf Seahorse

Seagrass Habitat


Tennessee Aquarium

Dwarf Seahorse


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Last edited September 11, 2022

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