Is the seahorse a fish?

Is the seahorse a fish?

In nature we find certain animals that, although they are not related to others, have similar names. One of these cases is found in seahorses (Hippocampus hippocampus), which, due to their characteristic head and neck similar to that of horses, bear this name, but in diminutive terms, given their great differences in size and other features. Seahorses are exclusively aquatic animals, globally distributed, however, many of them are in some category of risk due to human actions. 


Is the seahorse a fish or a mammal?

Due to its name and peculiar appearance, surely you have wondered what kind of animal is the seahorse. Probably due to these two mentioned aspects, you may have related it to an aquatic mammal, but it really is not, since the seahorse is a fish . In fact, the seahorse ( Hippocampus hippocampus ) is a very particular fish.

We commonly associate fish exclusively with their typical shape, with an elongated body, in a horizontal position and several fins. However, in the animal world there are not always absolute rules and the anatomy of a species may be different from that of the rest of the members of the group to which it belongs, as is the case with seahorses, which are fish but with a different body.


Why is the seahorse a fish?

Despite its peculiarities in terms of body shape, the seahorse is a fish, since it has certain features that allow it to be included in this group, such as:

  • Bone structure .
  • Fins : specifically of the radiated type.
  • Breathing through gills : which absorb dissolved oxygen from the water and expel carbon dioxide into it. Discover more Animals that breathe through gills here.
  • Presence of a swimming bladder : which is filled with gas and helps in the buoyancy of the animal.

What kind of fish is the seahorse?

As we already know the seahorse is a fish, but now let’s know what kind of fish it is and what is special about it. Among the characteristics that define the seahorse as a fish we have:

  • It belongs to the class Actinopterygii : which is a group of bony fish, with ray-type fins, which are formed from webs of skin, supported by bony or horny spines.
  • Seahorses are found within the Syngnathiformes order : which brings together fish with elongated bodies, somewhat narrow and surrounded by bony rings. Also, the mouth is tubular in shape and small. However, the most peculiar feature of the group is that it is the males who are dedicated to the breeding and care of the embryos, which they keep in an osmoregulated bag until they develop.
  • As for the family, it corresponds to Syngnathidae, which are fish that live in temperate or tropical seas worldwide: some are located in shallow waters, but others in the open sea. In addition to the elongated snout, the jaws are characterized by being fused. There are no pelvic fins and the body is covered by bony armor plates. This armor gives them a rigid body so they are relatively slow to swim compared to other types of fish, although they can control their movements with great precision.
  • In relation to the genus, all seahorses are classified within Hippocampus : in relation to the number of species, these are very diverse, and vary according to the source [1] [2] , so they are reported from 41 to about 72.
  • The seahorse, being a type of fish that does not have the same swimming skills as other species, is usually found clinging through its prehensile tail : to corals, plants or any other surface from which it can be fixed. In this sense, their habitat is made up of sea grass beds, coral reefs , mangroves or estuaries, which are ecosystems that provide them with protection and the possibility of staying attached.
  • Another of the customs that characterizes the seahorse corresponds to the fact that it is one of the few fish that swims upright and moves vertically .
  • In relation to the behavior prior to the fertilization of the eggs, seahorses have a complex and long period of courtship. Various species of these fish also form lasting bonds, while others frequently change partners.
  • On the other hand, it is a carnivorous fish : it feeds mainly on small crustaceans, other invertebrates and larvae. You may be interested in consulting the Classification of invertebrate animals .
  • The seahorse is a type of fish that causes concern in the scientific community : because the real state of various species is unknown, but in general it is known that they are highly susceptible animals subjected to constant pressure from human actions. . In some cases, it has been possible to establish the conservation status of some species, which have been included in the categories of vulnerable and endangered .
  1. Lourie, Sara a.; Pollom, Riley A.; Foster, Sarah J. (2016). «A global revision of the Seahorses Hippocampus Rafinesque 1810 (Actinopterygii: Syngnathiformes): Taxonomy and biogeography with recommendations for further research». Zootaxa. 4146 (1): 1–66. Disponible en:
  2. ITIS. (2020). Hippocampus . Available at:
  • Animal Diversity Web. (2020). Available at:
  • IUCN. (2022). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2022-1. Disponible en:

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