What Do Seahorses Eat? Diet And Nutrition Explained | Kidadl


What Do Seahorses Eat? Diet And Nutrition Explained

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Read these Tokyo facts to learn all about the Japanese capital.

Seahorses are one of the most distinct-looking sea creatures living in the shallow seas.

It is interesting to know that seahorses sleep with open eyes as they do not possess eyelids. Their eyes move independently of each other, resembling a chameleon.

The seahorse is a fish belonging to the category of bony fish, though they do not have scales like fish. They breathe with their gills. Seahorse belongs to the genus Hippocampus, in the animal kingdom. The word Hippocampus originates from Greek. Hippo means horse, and campus means sea monster.

Seahorses are found mostly in shallow temperate and tropical saltwater, ocean habitat around the world. They live in sheltered regions like coral reefs, seagrass beds, mangroves, and estuaries. The size of an adult seahorse can range from less than an inch to almost 14 in (25 cm) with 46 different species. These animals have a head and neck similar to a horse and are named for their equine appearance.

With a long-snouted head and bent neck, their trunk and tail look very distinct. Surprisingly, though they are bony fish, they do not possess scales but have a series of bony plates arranged throughout the body with thin skin. These bony plates act as protective organs against predators. Seahorses are experts in camouflaging and can absorb and regrow the spiny appendages based on their living habitat. The neck is flexible and well-defined, sports a coronet, a crown-like horn, which is distinct to each of its species.

Another fascinating fact about seahorses is that they change colors and camouflage themselves to blend in the background color to protect themselves. Seahorses do this to communicate and express emotions, especially during courtship.

The courtship happens for several days before mating, extending over four stages. During courtship, they change color and swim together side-by-side, which is called the pre-dawn dance. Eventually, they engage in a true courtship dance, when the female lays dozens of thousands of eggs in the male's abdominal pouch. Then the male discharges its sperm into the pouch to fertilize the female's eggs. The gestation period is two to four weeks. These eggs remain in the male's pouch for 20 to 45 days to adjust to the salinity of brine for incubating and giving birth to the young seahorses.

You can learn more such fun facts like what do frogs eat? and what do iguanas eat? on our website Kidadl.

What do seahorses eat in captivity? 

Unlike most other aquatic animals, adult seahorses do not have teeth. They simply suck the food through the long snout and swallow it. They also do not have a stomach, so they need to eat many times in the day. Hence, the food they eat in a natural habitat like the ocean is tiny live food such as insects, plankton, baby shrimp, and small fish.

Keeping seahorses in captivity is challenging because they should be kept in a separate salt tank, safely protecting them from getting hurt by other fishes. There is no evidence of seahorses surviving in freshwater. Even Dwarf seahorses are expensive, and having them is a costly affair.

Seahorses need a lot of tiny food as they are continuously feeding. Having them as pets requires a significant investment of time and money, as with any other pet. Seahorses usually eat foods like frozen food, live food, pellets, or flakes while in captivity. Pellets and flakes are mostly alternate foods when live and frozen foods are not available.

Did you know the Chinese once believed that seahorses could be used to treat ailments like wheezing and infertility? Seahorses are popular in some Asian countries as marine food delicacies. Several snack recipes find their place in the cuisines of countries like Taiwan, China, Japan. They are also used for ornaments. Due to these reasons, several million seahorses are removed from the oceans and traded for values as high as gold or silver. Apart from this, habitat threats due to industrialization and pollution have caused the seahorses to reduce in numbers, significantly threatening their existence.

What do seahorses eat in an aquarium? 

Among all species, the biggest seahorse of the genus Hippocampus is a big-belly seahorse, which can grow up to 15 times that of the smallest species.

Satomi's pygmy seahorse is the smallest species that can grow up to half an inch in size. This species is nocturnal, which means it is active during the night. All other species are diurnal, stay active during the daytime. It is known that some species of seahorse are monogamous and mate for life, showing high levels of fidelity. However, a few species switch mates when the opportunity arises.

Pipefishes, seadragon, and weedy seadragon belonging to the family Syngnathidae are the closest seahorses', which are signified by their bony structure and long snouts. They are becoming popular as exotic pets, though maintaining them is an expensive hobby. They can live up to four years when taken care of well.

As a pet, live foods, such as plankton and shrimp, are the perfect type of food for the seahorses in an aquarium. They contain the required nutrition, especially for baby seahorses. Generally, they carry the highest risk of diseases and parasites. It is essential to buy high-quality live food which is free of diseases. They should be sourced from reliable places for safety.

Since live food can be seasonal, switching to frozen food may be required in captivity, especially in winter. Baby shrimps, daphnia, crustaceans, etc., can be an excellent source of frozen food in such an environment. Frozen food can be purchased from a reliable pet store or online.

How often do seahorses eat?

In tropical and temperate brine waters, seahorses eat small crustaceans crawling at the bottom or floating in the water. Tiny crustaceans like amphipods, decapods, mysid shrimp are favorites in their diet. Though the seahorses eat small marine animals, they also feed on plant food in shallow seagrass habitats, seagrass, kelps, algae, larval fish, and other invertebrates.

Most often, once the male seahorse gives birth to the baby seahorses, it eats most of them. Of the hundreds of young seahorses born, only a few survive, and most of them are eaten by the adult male seahorse or sway with the oceanic currents, which their delicate structure cannot survive.

An adult seahorse eats 30-50 times a day to survive as the food quickly passes down the body. They have a very simple digestive system, with no organs like stomach; they continuously have to eat to stay alive.

Seahorse swimming.

How do seahorses get their food?

Even adult seahorses are ridiculously slow swimmers, but they ferociously feed on small marine animals and copepods, which are one of the tiny creatures and fastest swimmers. They are considered deadly because they sneak towards their prey with absolutely zero disturbance to their surroundings. Its movement is so sneaky that the copepod cannot sense the danger and falls prey to the seahorse.

Seahorse strikes its prey with almost 90% accuracy, which is why it is considered the ocean's most ferocious predator and deadliest killer despite not having teeth. The natural shape of the heads and the long snouts aid them in this process. Having simple digestive systems, they eat up to 50 times a day to stay alive.

With the excellent ability to camouflage themselves, they ambush prey floating in seawater, within striking range, patiently waiting for the right moment. They close in on their prey without alerting it and suddenly raise their head to bring the snout close to the prey. This is important because they can only suck the prey from a close range. This two-step prey capturing mechanism is called pivot feeding.

Did you know that seahorses swim upright, unlike many other fishes? They are poor swimmers, and the slowest moving fish in the world is a Dwarf seahorse. Its maximum speed is five feet per hour. Being poor swimmers, they frequently rest, winding their tails around a stationary object. They cling to other entities like corals to camouflage themselves while resting. The long snout helps them suck the food quickly.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for what do seahorses eat? Then why not take a look at what do insects eat or lined seahorse facts?

Written By
Deepthi Reddy

<p>With an MBA under her belt, Deepthi has discovered her true calling in content writing. Her writing repertoire is diverse, covering travel, movies, pet care, parenting, animals and birds, and more. Her joy of learning and creating has helped her craft well-written and engaging articles. When she isn't writing, Deepthi enjoys exploring new cultures, trying different foods, and spending quality time with her two children aged 7 and 12.</p>

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