Seahorse is a small-sized fish that is a member of the Needle family from the Pestaceae order. Studies have shown that seahorse is a highly altered needle fish. Today, a seahorse is a rather rare creature. In this article you will find a description and photo of a seahorse, learn a lot of new and interesting about this extraordinary creation.
What does a seahorse look like?
Seahorse looks very unusual and the shape of the body resembles a chess piece of a horse. The seahorse fish has many long bone spikes and various leathery outgrowths on its body. Due to this body structure, the seahorse is invisible among algae and remains inaccessible to predators. The seahorse looks amazing, it has small fins, its eyes rotate independently of each other, and its tail is twisted into a spiral. Seahorse looks diverse, because it can change the color of its scales.
The seahorse looks small, its size depends on the species and varies from 4 to 25 cm. In water, the seahorse swims vertically, unlike other fish. This is due to the fact that the swimming bubble of the seahorse consists of the abdominal and head parts. The head bubble is larger than the abdominal one, which allows the seahorse to maintain a vertical position when swimming.
Now the seahorse is found less and less and is on the verge of extinction due to the rapid decline in numbers. The reasons for the disappearance of the seahorse are many. The main one is the destruction by man of both the fish itself and its habitats. Off the coast of Australia, Thailand, Malaysia and the Philippines, skates are massively caught. Exotic appearance and bizarre shape of the body became the reason that people began to make gift souvenirs from them. For beauty, they tail artificially bend their tail and give the body the shape of the letter "S", but in nature skates do not look like that.
Another reason that contributes to the reduction of the seahorses population is that they are a delicacy. Food lovers appreciate the taste of these fish, especially the eyes and liver of seahorses. In a restaurant, the cost of one portion of such a dish costs $ 800.
In total there are about 50 species of seahorses, 30 of which are already listed in the Red Book. Fortunately, seahorses are very prolific and at one time can produce more than a thousand fry, which allows the horses to not disappear. Sea horses are bred in captivity, but this fish is very whimsical in maintenance. One of the most extravagant seahorses is the seahorse-rag, which you can see below in the photo.
Where does the seahorse live?
Seahorse lives in tropical and subtropical seas. Seahorse fish lives mainly at a shallow depth or near the shore and leads a sedentary lifestyle. Seahorse lives in dense thickets of algae and other marine vegetation. It attaches with its flexible tail to the stems of plants or corals, remaining almost invisible due to its body covered with various outgrowths and spikes.
Fish seahorse changes color to completely merge with the environment. Thus, the seahorse is successfully masked not only from predators, but also during the extraction of food. Seahorse is very bony, so few people want to feast on them. The main hunter for seahorse is a large land crab. Seahorse can travel long distances. To do this, he attaches his tail to the fins of various fish and holds onto them until a “free taxi” swims into the algae.
What do seahorses eat?
Seahorses eat crustaceans and shrimp. Seahorses eat very interestingly. The tubular stigma, like a pipette, draws prey into the mouth along with water. Seahorses eat quite a lot and hunt for almost a whole day, taking short breaks for a couple of hours.
During the day, seahorses eat about 3 thousand plankton crustaceans. But seahorses eat almost any food, if only it does not exceed the size of the mouth. Seahorse fish is a hunter. With its flexible tail, the seahorse clings to algae and remains motionless until the prey is in the necessary proximity to the head. Then the seahorse absorbs water along with food.
How do seahorses breed?
Seahorses breed in a rather unusual way, because the male carries the fry in them. Seahorses often have monogamous pairs. The breeding season of seahorses is an amazing sight. A couple who is about to enter into a marriage is held together by their tails and dances in the water. In the dance, the skates are pressed against each other, after which the male opens a special pocket in the abdominal area, into which the female throws eggs. In the future, the male carries the offspring within a month.
Seahorses breed quite often and bring great offspring. A seahorse gives birth to one thousand or more fry at a time. Fry is born an absolute copy of adult individuals, only very tiny. Babies born are left to their own devices. In nature, a seahorse lives for about 4-5 years.
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Origin of view and description
Seahorses belong to the genus ray-finned fish from the order of the needle-shaped. Studies conducted on seahorses have shown that seahorses are a highly modified subspecies of fish needles. Like needle fish, seahorses have an elongated body shape, a peculiar structure of the oral cavity, and a long movable tail. There are not so many remains of seahorses - the earliest dates from the Pliocene, and the separation of needle fish and seahorses occurred in the Oligocene.
The reasons are not exactly established, but the following stand out:
- the formation of multiple shallow waters, where fish often swam as vertically as possible,
- the spread of numerous algae and the occurrence of a current. So the fish had a need to develop the grasping functions of the tail.
There are bright varieties of seahorses that are not considered unanimous by all scientists.
One of the most colorful seahorses are:
- pipefish. In appearance it resembles a tiny seahorse with a very elongated thin body,
- spiky seahorse - the owner of strong long needles throughout the body,
- sea dragons, especially leafy dragons. They have a characteristic camouflage shape, as if completely covered with leaves and processes of algae,
- dwarf seahorse - the smallest representative of seahorses, whose dimensions barely exceed 2 cm,
- Black Seahorse is a species that does not have spikes.
Appearance and features
Photo: What does a seahorse look like?
The seahorse got its name not by chance - it resembles a chess horse in the shape of its body. The elongated curved body is clearly divided into the head, trunk and tail. The seahorse is completely covered with chitinous growths, which have a ribbed shape. This gives it a resemblance to algae. The growth of seahorses is different, depending on the species, it can reach 4 cm, or 25 cm. It differs from other fish in that it swims vertically, holding its tail below.
This is because the abdominal bladder is located in the abdominal and head parts, and the head bladder is larger than the abdominal one. Therefore, the head, as it were, "pops up" up. The fins of a seahorse are small, perform the function of a kind of “rudder” - with their help it unfolds in the water and maneuvers. Although seahorses swim very slowly, relying on disguise. There is also a dorsal fin, which allows the seahorse to constantly maintain a vertical position.
Interesting fact: Seahorses can look different - sometimes their shape resembles algae, stones and other objects among which they are masked.
The seahorse has a sharp, elongated face with pronounced large eyes. In the classical sense, a seahorse does not have a mouth - it is a tube similar in physiology to the oral cavities of anteaters. He draws into himself water through a tube to eat and breathe. Color can be the most diverse, it also depends on the habitat of the seahorse. The most common species have a gray chitinous cover with rare small black dots. There are types of bright colors: yellow, red, green. Often a bright color is accompanied by corresponding fins resembling algae leaves.
Interesting is the tail of a seahorse. It is curved and unbends only with intensive swimming. With this tail, seahorses can cling to objects to hold during a strong current. The abdominal cavity of seahorses is also noteworthy. The fact is that there are reproductive organs. In females this is the ovipositor, and in males it is an abdominal bag that looks like a hole in the middle of the abdomen.
What does a seahorse eat?
Thanks to the peculiar physiology of the mouth, seahorses can only eat very small feeds. He draws water into himself like a pipette, and along with a stream of water plankton and other small food fall into the mouth of a seahorse.
Large seahorses can retract:
- small fish
- eggs of other fish.
It is difficult to call an active predator of a seahorse. Small species of seahorses feed continuously, drawing in water. Large seahorses resort to camouflage hunting: they cling their tails to algae and coral reefs, waiting for nearby prey to be found nearby.
Because of their slowness, seahorses do not know how to chase a victim. During the day, small species of seahorses eat up to 3 thousand, crustaceans as a part of plankton. They eat continuously for any time of the day - the fact is that the ridge does not have a digestive system, so you have to eat constantly.
Interesting fact: There are frequent cases when seahorses also ate larger fish, they are illegible in food - the main thing is that the prey fit into the mouth.
In captivity, seahorses feed on daphnia, shrimp and special dry food. The peculiarity of feeding at home is that the food must be fresh, and must be fed regularly, otherwise seahorses can get sick and die.
Features of character and lifestyle
Photo: Orange Seahorse
Seahorses lead a sedentary lifestyle. The maximum speed that they can develop is up to 150 meters per hour, but they travel extremely rarely, if necessary. Seahorses are non-aggressive fish that never attack other fish, even though they are predators. They live in small flocks from 10 to 50 individuals, have no hierarchy and structure. An individual from one flock can safely dwell in another flock.
Therefore, despite the group habitat, seahorses are independent individuals. Interestingly, seahorses can form long-term monogamous pairs. Sometimes such a union lasts the whole life of seahorses. A pair of seahorses - male and male, are formed after the first successful breeding of offspring. In the future, the pair is produced almost continuously, if there are no obstacles to this.
Seahorses are extremely susceptible to all kinds of stress. For example, if a seahorse loses its partner, it loses interest in breeding and may completely refuse food, due to which it dies within a day. Also a stress for them is trapping and relocation to aquariums. As a rule, caught seahorses must be adapted by qualified specialists - trapped individuals are not transplanted into aquariums for ordinary lovers.
Wild seahorses are extremely poorly accustomed to home conditions, most often become depressed and die. But seahorses born in aquariums calmly survive living at home.
Social structure and reproduction
Photo: Seahorse in the sea
Seahorses do not have a fixed mating season. The males, reaching puberty, begin to circle around the selected female, demonstrating their willingness to mate. During this period, the soft area of the male’s chest, not protected by chitin, darkens. The female does not respond to these dances, freezes on the spot and watches the male or several males at once.
Some large types of seahorses can inflate a bag on their chests. This ritual is repeated for several days until the female chooses a male for herself. Before mating, the selected male can “dance” all day until exhaustion. The female signals the male that she is ready to mate when she rises closer to the surface of the water. The male follows her, opening the bag. The ovipositor of the female expands, she introduces it into the opening of the bag and spawns directly into the bag of the male. He fertilizes her along the way.
The amount of fertilized caviar largely depends on the size of the male - a large male can fit more eggs in his bag. Small tropical species of seahorses produce up to 60 eggs, large species more than five hundred. Sometimes, stable pairs form in seahorses that do not decay throughout the life of two individuals. Then mating occurs without rituals - the female simply lays eggs in the bag of the male.
Four weeks later, the male begins to release fry from the bag — this process is similar to “shooting”: the bag expands and many fry quickly fly to freedom. To do this, the male swims out into the open territory, where the current is the strongest - so the fry will spread to a wide territory. The further fate of the little seahorses parents are not interested.
Natural enemies of a seahorse
Photo: Seahorse in Crimea
Seahorse is a master of disguise and a secret lifestyle. Due to this, the seahorse has very few enemies who would purposefully hunt this fish.
Sometimes seahorses become the food of the following creatures:
- large shrimps feast on small seahorses, cubs and caviar,
- crabs are the enemies of seahorses both underwater and on land. Sometimes seahorses cannot hold on to algae during a storm, causing them to land where they become prey for crabs,
- clown fish lives in corals and anemones, where seahorses are often found,
- tuna can simply eat everything in its path, and seahorses accidentally fall into its diet.
Interesting fact: Undigested seahorses were found in the stomachs of dolphins.
Seahorses are not capable of self-defense, they do not know how to flee. Even the most “speedy” subspecies of speed will not be enough to get away from the pursuit. But they do not hunt seahorses purposefully, since most of them are covered with sharp chitinous needles and growths.
Population and species status
Photo: What does a sea horse look like?
Most species of seahorses are on the verge of extinction. Data on the number of species is controversial: some scientists identify 32 species, others more than 50. Nevertheless, 30 species of seahorses are close to extinction.
The reasons for the disappearance of seahorses are different. They include:
- mass fishing of seahorses as a souvenir,
- catching seahorses as delicacies,
- environmental pollution,
- changing of the climate.
Seahorses are extremely susceptible to stress - the slightest change in the ecology of their habitat leads to death of seahorses. Pollution of the oceans mows the population of not only seahorses, but also many other fish.
Interesting fact: Sometimes a seahorse may choose a female who is not yet ready for mating. Then he still carries out all the rituals, but as a result of mating does not occur, and then he is looking for a new partner.
Photo: Seahorse from the Red Book
Most species of sea horses are listed in the Red Book. Seahorses received the status of protected species slowly, since it is extremely difficult to record the numbers of these fish. The long-snouted seahorses were the first in the Red Book - it was the Red Book of Ukraine in 1994. The protection of seahorses is hindered by the fact that seahorses die from extreme stress. It is impossible to resettle them in new territories, it is difficult to breed in aquariums and home water parks.
The main measures taken to protect skates are as follows:
- the prohibition of catching seahorses - it is classified as poaching,
- creation of protected areas on which large flocks of seahorses are located,
- fertility stimulation due to artificial feeding of seahorses in the wild.
The measures are poorly effective, as seahorses capture is still allowed and very active in Asia and Thailand. While the population is saved by the fecundity of these fish, only one individual survives out of a hundred eggs until adulthood, but this is a record number among most tropical fish.
Sea Horse - an amazing and unusual animal. They are distinguished by a wide variety of shapes, colors and sizes, being one of the most striking species of fish. It is hoped that measures to protect seahorses will bear fruit, and these fish will continue to exist safely in the vast oceans.
Description of the underwater "horse"
At first glance it seems that the horse and not the fish at all. If you look at the photo of the seahorse, then outwardly it resembles a horse in chess pieces. The silhouette of this unusual fish bends, the abdomen stands forward, and the back is rounded. The front of the skate is narrow and curved so that it resembles the neck and head of a horse. The front of the head is elongated, the fish with bulging eyes. A long tail is wrapped in a spiral. The tail is quite flexible, this allows the seahorse to wrap around seaweed.
His body is covered with a wide variety of cones, thickenings and outgrowths. Bone scales are located on their small body, which serve as armor, they are bright and iridescent. Such a shell does not penetrate the horse, it is very strong and protects from marine predators.
Their color differs by variety, but still monophonic. The color of the covering of the skates depends on the environment, they acquire the most similar color for the best imitation of the surface on which they live. So, for example, if the ridge is among corals, then most likely it is red or bright yellow or lilac. Skates that live in the environment of seaweed are brown, yellow or green. They also tend to change the shade in cases of changing habitat.
Seahorses are small in size, the smallest start at 2 cm, and large ones reach 20 cm.
Seahorses live underwater, mainly in the tropics and subtropics. This means that they live all over the planet.
Typically, fish live among algae or corals in shallow waters. Skates are inactive and inactive. Most of the time they are in position, with their tail caught in a coral branch or seaweed. Larger fish - sea dragons - cannot attach to aquatic vegetation in this way.
Skates swim a little, not far from the usual place and slowly, while the body is held upright - this is one of the main differences from other fish. In urgent cases, if you frighten them away, they can swim in a horizontal position. In danger, the skate quickly clings its tail to corals or algae and freezes. He hangs upside down motionless. In this position, the skate can be very long.
They also differ from other inhabitants of the seabed with their gentle and calm character. These fish are not aggressive towards others. But they still belong to predatory fish, as they feed on heterogeneous small organisms - plankton. They trace the smallest mollusks, crustaceans, larvae of other fish and other invertebrates with their rotating eyes. When the victim approaches close to the seahorse, he sucks it in with his mouth, while greatly inflating his cheeks. This little fish is insatiable, and it can eat about 10 hours a day.
And also it should be noted that these fish are monogamous. They say about seahorses that these fish have been living in couples their whole lives. But it still happens when they change their partners. Another of the main features is that male seahorses carry eggs instead of females. During the mating season, the skates change: the female ovipositor grows in the form of a tube, and the male forms a bag with thickened folds in the tail area. Before fertilization, partners have a rather lengthy mating dance. This is a touching courtship by the male. It was also revealed that the male seahorse, as it were, adapts to the female, while changing the color of her tone.
The female lays the eggs in the bag. So the male carries eggs for about two weeks. There is a small hole in the bag through which the fry are born. As for sea dragons, they don’t have a bag. They carry eggs on the stem of the tail. The number of eggs varies for different types of skates. So, some may have 5 fry, while others - 1,500 eggs.
The birth itself is painful for the male. It happens that the outcome of the birth of fry for the ridge is fatal.
Once, scientists conducted an experiment. A pair of males and a pair of females were placed in one aquarium for breeding seahorses. After all the traditional courtships, the female laid her eggs to one of the males for further fertilization. The fertilized male was removed to a nearby aquarium. The remaining male tried to look after this female, but all his efforts were in vain. She did not pay attention to him and did not try to lay eggs in his bag. When they nevertheless returned the male back to the aquarium to the female, she again chose him to fertilize her offspring. So he was cleaned again and again after the eggs laid to him. Despite the fact that the second male continued to care for her, but for breeding the seahorse, the female still chose her former male. The experiment with the fish was done 6 times - everything remained unchanged.
Of the thousands of newborn fry, only 5% survive and continue labor.
The newly appeared fry are already completely independent and move away from their parents, choosing a new habitat for themselves.
Skates in the Red Book
Now most species of seahorses are rare, while some completely disappear from the seabed. After all, 30 species are listed in the Red Book. And all because the seahorse reproduces in small quantities. A ban has been imposed on catching skates. But despite this, a person catches these fish in huge quantities for the sake of cooking. Gourmets consider the fillet of these fish to be truly a delicacy and sell it at fabulous prices. As well as skates are used in oriental medicine, they make various drugs from diseases of the skin and asthma. Due to the unusual beautiful appearance of the skates, they are dried and sold in large volumes in the form of souvenirs. People specifically bend the tail of the ridge in the opposite direction, so that its shape becomes in the form of the letter S. In nature, such fish do not exist.
Water pollution also plays a large role in the extinction of most species of seahorses. Indeed, every year more and more waste and chemicals processed by industries are thrown into the oceans. Environmental accidents and other pollution affect the extinction of corals, algae, which are so necessary for the life of seahorses.
Breeding seahorses at home
Despite the desire of many owners of aquariums to have such an interesting fish at home, the skate is very whimsical for breeding at home. It is susceptible to various diseases and too demanding on feed.
Rare types of skates are very difficult to tolerate being in the aquarium. They can give in to stress or get sick. Therefore, while breeding houses of the same fish, it is necessary to create conditions close to the natural habitat. If you carefully approach the reproduction of the seahorse, it will delight the owner of 3-4 years.
It is necessary to monitor the temperature of the water in the aquarium. The optimum water temperature for them is about 23-25 degrees Celsius. For hot days, you need to take care of installing an aquarium split system or turn on a fan nearby. Otherwise, hot air adversely affects these fish, and they simply suffocate.
To make the seahorse at home in the aquarium feel comfortable, you need to monitor the quality of the water in it. The water in the aquarium should not contain ammonia or phosphates. At the bottom you need to put corals and algae. Various grottoes, jugs, castles and other products made of artificial materials are also welcome.
Seahorse is very demanding in care, so the owners of these royal fish need to be patient and patient. Here are some features to be aware of:
- The gills of seahorses differ from other fish in their low functional ability. Because of this, gas exchange is limited in skates. It is necessary to constantly supply and maintain oxygen metabolism in the aquarium. Water filtration should not be neglected.
- Gluttony of the skates is explained by the lack of a stomach. They often eat to maintain energy balance.
- Since they do not have the scales characteristic of fish, which would play the role of the immune system, it is necessary to monitor and often check for damage and any changes in their body.
Neighbors in the aquarium
You can place calm fish or invertebrate animals in the aquarium next door. Fish should be small, slow and careful. Ideal neighbors for seahorses would be sea dogs and gobies. They get along well with a snail that does not sting corals and perfectly cleans the aquarium. You can also consider living stones as inhabitants of the "house" of needle-shaped fish. These are small pieces of calcareous rock that were found for some time in warm tropical waters and inhabited by various living organisms. All new neighbors must be healthy so as not to infect the seahorses.
If you read reviews about breeding a seahorse, then people write that an aquarium volume of 150 liters is needed for two pairs of these fish.