The Syngnathidae family consist of the pipefishes, seahorses, pipehorses and seadragons. In general, the species in genus Hippocampus are called seahorses. They are found in the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific temperate and tropical waters, typically in shallow waters with abundant vegetation. They can also be found in colder waters like those found off New Zealand, Southern Australia, Argentina, Canada, and the United Kingdom. They are very small in size, the largest seahorse species, Hippocampus abdominalis (Big-bellied Seahorse) can only reach to 35 cm long.

Seahorses look different from most fish, with hard, bony exteriors and long snouts. They breath through gills and have a swim bladder. They do not have caudal fins. They move by using their pectoral fins on the sides and a small dorsal fin on the back of their body. They swim very slowly. Hippocampus zosterae (The Dwarf Seahorse) is the slowest-moving fish in the world, with a top speed of about 1.5 m (5 ft) per hour. They sometimes attach themselves to floating seaweed and debris to travel longer distance.

Seahorses feed on plankton, small crustacean and fish larvae using their excellent eyesight and expandable snout that can suck like a vacuum cleaner. Their eyes are able to work independently on either side of their head. They are different from almost all other animals because male seahorses give birth to babies, after carrying eggs in a pouch at the base of their tail or in their belly. The female transfers her eggs to the male which he self-fertilizes in his pouch.

Seahourses can change colour to blend into their environment. This helps to protect them from predators and ambush their prey. It is often difficult to identify seahorses because individuals of the same species can vary greatly in appearance.

There are altogether 57 genera and about 300 species of Syngnathidae worldwide. The genus Hippocampus has about 57 species.


Scientific Name: Hippocampus abdominalis  Lesson, 1827
English Name: Big-belly Seahorse, Eastern Potbelly Seahorse, Big-bellied Seahorse
Mandarin Name: 膨腹海马 (Péng fù hǎimǎ)
Local Malay Name: Kuda Laut
Main Diagnostic Features: Low triangular coronet, low, rounded bumps above the eyes, and fleshy filaments off the head. Adult males have a very prominent abdomen, whereas females have a compressed abdomen with a keel down the middle. Head and body with irregular darker spots and blotches, and a broadly long banded tail.
Size: Maximum total length 35 cm.

Scientific Name: Hippocampus denise  Lourie & Randall, 2003
English Name: Denise's Pygmy Seahorse
Local Malay Name: Kuda Laut
Main Diagnostic Features: Color in life plain orange with slightly darker rings around tail. Nuchal plate rounded without a raised coronet. No spines above the eye. Body ridges sometimes developed into rounded tubercles.
Size: Maximum standard length 2.2 cm.

Scientific Name: Hippocampus guttulatus  Cuvier, 1829
English Name: Long-snouted Seahorse, Spiny Seahorse
Mandarin Name: 多枝海马 (Duō zhī hǎimǎ)
Local Malay Name: Kuda Laut
Main Diagnostic Features: Coronet small but distinct, with 5 rounded knobs or blunt points. Medium to well-developed spines with blunt tips. Mane of thick filaments.
Size: Maximum standard length 21.5 cm.

Scientific Name: Hippocampus histrix  Kaup, 1856
English Name: Thorny Seahorse, Spiny Seahorse
Mandarin Name: 刺海马 (Cì hǎimǎ), 长棘海马 (Zhǎng jí hǎimǎ)
Local Malay Name: Kuda Laut Duri, Tangkur Kuda, Korek Telinga
Main Diagnostic Features: Body and head with long dark-tipped spines. Prominent sharp eye and nose spines.
Size: Maximum total length 17 cm.