Sea Horses

Seahorses and pipefishes, family: Syngnathidae, in British seas.

A family of fishes with a body encased in a hard armour. This means that they use the dorsal fin as a means of propulsion. The seahorses use the dorsal fin exclusively for swimming and the pipefishes use it for slow movements, with the pectoral fin vibrated to keep the fish steady, but the pipefish are able to wriggle their long slim bodies (the extent varies between species) to escape predators.

In this family only, the males incubate the eggs in a groove or a fold, and in the seahorses they are kept within a brood pouch.

The family usually inhabit the shallow seas, but some live deeper than 30 metres, and a few species are pelagic
(i.e. live in the surface waters of the open ocean).

12 February 1999
The World of Seahorse  Exhibition at the National Marine Aquarium at Plymouth due to open. Seahorses are currently on display, but the new extended Exhibition will be open to the public on this date. 

Links to the Seahorse Trust web pagesNEW BOOK


Conservation and Care

by Neil Garrick-Maidment

t.f.h./Kingdom 1997 £7.95

ISBN 185279071-7 

Neil Garrick-Maidment runs the Seahorse Nature Aquarium in Exeter, (now moved to the National Aquarium at Plymouth), and he passes on his knowledge of keeping and breeding them in captivity in this small book. The most important snippet of information is on page 15 when it says that adult seahorses eat about 40 mysid shrimps a day.

"Every year, huge numbers of seahorses die in aquaria as a result of the lack of accurate information on
how to keep them. This book redresses the balance by giving a comprehensive account of how to care for
these most difficult of marine fish, but also stresses the need for conservation in the wild".

Feeding live food to seahorses is more likely than not to be an insurmountable problem for the home aquarist, and anybody wishing to keep this fish will need to buy this book. If you are just interested in these fascinating fish the 48 page book contains information not published elsewhere.

Full Book Review


Sea Horse

Spiny Seahorse, Hippocampus guttulatus (=H. ramulosus)

Hippocampus ramulosus  Leach, 1814  : Ambiguous synonym of Hippocampus guttulatus  Cuvier, 1829 .
Treated as junior synonym, for this name is still widely used for H. guttulatus; however, it is unclear what species the type species represents, for it is not similar to H. guttulatus group (Ref. 30915). Valid in Dawson (Ref. 4509).
 Etymology of Generic name : Greek, ippos = horse + Greek, kampe = curvature (Ref. 45335).
Photograph by Robert Jones (Trowbridge, Wiltshire, U.K.)

Pipefishes and Seahorses

Family Syngnathidae

Greater Pipefish

British Species

Greater Pipefish, Syngnathus acus. Very common, widespread.
Aquarium Study of the Greater Pipefish

Lesser Pipefish, Syngnathus rostellatus. Very common, widespread.

Deep-snouted Pipefish, Syngnathus typhle. Local, frequent.

Straight-nosed Pipefish, Nerophis ophidion. Local, uncommon on the shore.

Worm Pipefish, Nerophis lumbriciformis. Very common in the south and west only. Unknown from the east coast.

Snake Pipefish, Enterulus aequoreus. Uncommon, west coast only, frequent in some areas.

Spiny Seahorse, Hippocampus ramolosus. Rare in English Channel, Dorset and western approaches only.
Now  Hippocampus guttulatus

Short-nosed Seahorse, Hippocampus hippocampus. Occasionally found in deep water around the Channel Islands. Extremely rare, probably absent elsewhere. Also recorded off the coast of Holland in 1998. This species is found in deep water off the Sussex coast, notably off Southwick, near Shoreham-by-Sea.

British Pipefish
Feeding Pipefishes:  Mysids
Leafy Sea Dragon (MLSSA List of Photographs of Australian Marine Fish)

Seahorse Park - Facts & Figures

List of the World's Seahorses

Seahorses are on display in the major Sea Life Centres.
A major expansion to our seahorse display and this will be opening at the National Aquarium at Plymouth as the
World of the Seahorse at the on the 12th February 1999.

Articles on British Pipefish by Jim Hall (Swansea) in the Vernal 1995 and Vernal/Summer 1997 issues of Glaucus.

  • Late November 2002
    A Short-snouted Seahorse, Hippocampus hippocampus, is captured by an oyster fisherman in the Solent. In Victorian times, there are records from off Dorset and the Solent.

    Late August 2002
    Three specimens of the Short-snouted Seahorse, Hippocampus hippocampus, were discovered about 95 miles east of the Solent in the English Channel. They were picked up during DEFRA sponsored fish habitat studies by the University of Wales Bangor research vessel Prince Madog. Each came up in separate gear deployments, though at a single sampling station. On UWTV the benthic biotope where they came from was seen to be sand with a dense bed of tube worms, Lanice conchilega. All three seahorses were "pregnant" males.

    Report by Ivor Rees
         (Erick Staal)


    The Marine and Estuarine Fishes of Wales shows confirmed records of the Seahorse Hippocampus guttulatus (=H. ramulosus) in north Cardigan Bay, Pembrokeshire and the Severn Estuary! I would be extremely interested to hear from you if you find any!!!

    You could also try looking in the Seagrass beds at Port Dinllaen (which appear to survive being in a mooring area so I can't see a few divers causing any damage). Also Shell Island just south of Harlech could be a good shore dive for looking for them - very shallow and weedy, quite interesting at times but varies too.


    Paul Kay BSc FRPS - Marine Wildlife Photo Agency
    Photography - underwater & above! 

    Hippocampus. guttulatus.
    This is still known as Hippocampus guttulatus (=H. ramulosus) until the identification and renaming has been approved in Switzerland by the nomenclature society.
    They start to breed at about 6 months but are seasonal.

    Seahorse Trust
    Neil Garrick-Maidment

     Phylum:   Chordata
     Subphylum:   Vertebrata
     Superclass:   Gnathostomata
     Class:   Osteichthyes (bony fishes)
     Subclass:   Actinopterygii (ray-finned fishes)
     Infraclass:   Neopterygii
     Superorder:   Acanthopterygii
     Series:   Percomorpha
     Order:   Syngnathiformes
     Suborder:   Syngnathgoidei
     Family:   Syngnathidae


    The other suborder in the Order is the Aulostomoidei.
    I think the Snipefish, Macrorhamphosus scolopax, is included in this Order.
    In the books the Syngnathidae are usually placed after the Dories (Zeiformes) and before the Sticklebacks (Gasterosteiformes).
    However, this may have changed recently. AH 2000

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