Pygmy Seahorse


Pygmy Seahorses were not even known to exist until they were accidentally placed in captivity with the gorgonians for research.

The Pygmy Seahorse or Bargibant’s Seahorse (Hippocampus bargibanti) is first species of pygmy seahorse that have been identified. Named after a scientist scuba diver who discovered the species in 1969 while collecting specimens for the Noumea Aquarium in New Caledonia.

Pygmy seahorses
Credited Wakatobi Resort, photo by Richard Smith

Since they are so tiny and the color and shape of this seahorse nearly perfectly matches the corals on which it lives they blend so well with the surroundings, they are hard to find without the aid of an expert guides eyes.

This tiny, expert camouflage artist thrives among gorgonian corals (a soft coral also known as a sea fan or sea whip) which they hang on to using their Prehensile tail.

Yellow Pygmy Seahorse by Pipat Cat Kosumlaksamee

Pygmy Seahorses: Masters of Camouflage

Tiny and delicate, pygmy seahorses survive by attaching to vibrant corals where they become nearly invisible to both predators and researchers. Now, biologists at the California Academy of Sciences have successfully bred them in captivity for the first time. Finally, they’re able to study the seahorses’ amazing act of camouflage up close.


Extremely small, no larger than 1 inch. Spines covering entire body. Round trunk in both males and females. Large eyes relative to head size. They are one of the smallest of all species of seahorses in the world. They are often yellow or orange in color. In some locations they may be gray but it all comes down to their surroundings. Their bodies will change with color to help them blend in. They also have a slender snout compared to many other species. It does feature the prehensile tail so that it can successfully attach onto corral found in the natural habitat.



Habitat and Distribution

Pygmy seahorses live in different habitats from their larger cousins. The shallow areas that are also very warm are where they will be living. Larger seahorses are rarely found on tropical corals reefs, particularly current prone walls. Pygmy seahorses have evolved several adaptations to fill this niche perfectly.

Found mostly in many of the top diving destinations of the Coral Triangle. The Coral Triangle is the underwater equivalent of the amazon, considered to be the global center of marine biodiversity. Hence earning the reputation of The Coral Triangle contains 75 percent of all known coral species and is home to over 40 percent of the world’s reef fish species.

It is located in the western Pacific Ocean. It includes the top diving destinations of Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Timor Leste and Solomon Islands. Named for its staggering number of corals, nearly 600 different species of reef-building corals alone.


They attach to a host – gorgonian corals – in order to survive. The coloring of them will blend with them. This is how they are able to survive since they can’t swim well and they are too small to handle the water currents without an anchor.

This is one of the few species of seahorses that live in close proximity. They will live in small clusters that can have up to 20 adults.

Diet /Feeding

Due to the very small size of the Pygmy Seahorse they can’t eat anything large at all. They tend to consume very small particles of food from their environment. Mainly The diet of pygmy seahorses consists of small crustaceans.


Like all seahorses The females will deposit eggs into the body of the male. He features a pouch that allows him to hold them. Hundreds of tiny eggs may be deposited and it can take several weeks for him to be able to give birth to them. The water temperature affects how many weeks it takes for them to arrive. The warmer it is the faster they are going to develop.

They remain within the pouch, which is full of blood vessels, until they are born 11-14 days later. The blood vessels bring nourishment and oxygen to the developing offspring. Between 6 and 34 young have been recorded from a single clutch of eggs.

Courting will occur that allows them to learn the movements of each other and to do them at the same time. Since these seahorses live in close proximity with each other though it takes them less time to complete such courting rituals as they are already familiar with the behaviors of each other.

These are among the smallest of all living things in the water when they are born. They do have a higher rate of survival than most species of seahorses though. This is due to the fact that they are among the best at hiding in their natural setting. Their color allows them to blend easier than any other type of seahorse in the world. They have to care for themselves immediately after birth as there is no parental care at all.


The small size and amazing camouflage of pygmy seahorses mean they do not suffer heavy rates of predation. Occasionally however, they may be opportunistically be taken by one of the reef’s general predators.

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April 12, 2017 |

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