Seahorses are probably as close to a real live mythical creature you will ever see.
These mysterious horse-mermaids may look like miniature horses with tails, but they are probably as different from horses as can be.
Seahorses are small marine fish and are part of the genus Hippocampus family. There are just about 46 species of seahorses and they all mainly dwell in shallow tropical saltwater sources.
Seahorses have a very simple digestive system. They do not have a stomach which means they constantly need to feed to stay alive.
The need to consume food all the time is what drives these fish species to stay in habitats that are rich in foods.
Seahorses are omnivores and will consume both plant and animal matter.
Despite that they are fish, they are not the best swimmers. They are not fast and cannot easily travel. Seahorses survive by anchoring themselves to natural growths such as seaweed so they can stay in place to feed.
They might not be the best swimmers but they are excellent at hiding or seeming invisible due to their camouflaged bodies. With this camouflage, they can easily get access to lots of foods such as the following;
Seahorses mainly live on plankton. Plankton includes a huge variety of organisms that live in the water. Plankton usually cannot swim against the currents because they are so tiny. Many fish species live off plankton and these organisms are often so small, they are invisible to the naked eye but some, like jellyfish, can get pretty large.
Seahorses will munch on any specie of plankton they can find as long as the plankton is small enough to be swallowed whole. Their long snouts and camouflaged bodies make them agile hunters for these tiny organisms.
Seahorses love to catch and eat small crustaceans such as tiny crab, lobsters, crayfish, shrimp, and more.
They will hunt and consume any of the 67,000 species of crustaceans that are small enough for them to catch and consume.
Since seahorses cannot chew their food, they will however avoid any crustaceans that are too large to be swallowed whole.
Invertebrate marine fish do not have any backbones or bony skeletons and as such are very tasty treats for seahorses. Seahorses will consume any type of microscopic invertebrates such as mites, squids, starfish, and many others.
Seahorses will also catch and eat fish but they can only consume larval fish that are tiny. As long as the larval fish is small enough to fit in their mouths, they will eat them irrespective of species.
Algae are also a popular food source for seahorses. These fish will eat just about any type of algae they can find growing under the sea.
Algae are also a very helpful hunting tool for seahorses because these fish like to blend into algae so they can easily catch their prey.
There is a huge variety of algae organisms growing under and on top of the sea. Seahorses will consume any type of algae but since these fish flourish in warmer climates, they do tend to feed on algae that are found in tropical climates in shallow waters.
Being omnivores, seahorses can have quite a few diet variations. They can eat both plant and animal matter. Their need to constantly feed might drive these fish to consume other types of foods such as coral particles they find in their region.
Seahorses can easily mistake non-food items such as microplastics with plankton and pollution is one of the leading causes of death for these tiny fish.
The tiny size and need to constantly feed makes seahorses quite challenging to feed. These fish do not have any teeth and as such cannot nibble small foods off larger pieces. They can only consume foods that are small enough to fit into their teeny tiny mouths and all foods are swallowed whole.
It is very hard to keep seahorses alive in captivity. These animals do need a very specific aquatic environment to survive.
They also need the right type of food to stay healthy.
At this moment, lots of aquariums are encouraged to keep seahorses to help increase their number.
It is found that seahorses that were bred in captivity have a much higher survival rate than those that are captured and transferred to aquariums. This is because they grow used to the foods offered in captivity where wild seahorses find it hard to adapt to these foods.
In captivity, seahorses are fed on frozen crustaceans. But these fish fare much better when they are offered live foods such as rotifers and other live copepods.
These fish need to constantly feed to stay alive. Adult seahorses will eat 30 – 50 times per day where baby seahorses can consume up to 3,000 tiny pieces of food in a single day.
What Do Wild Seahorses Eat?
In the wild, seahorses can only consume foods they find in their habitat. They will consume both plant and animal matter. While they can consume algae organisms, they do seem to prefer tiny animals such as crustaceans, plankton, and larvae fish.
These fish will hide amongst algae and coral and will then snap and catch any of these tiny organisms and food pieces they find within their reach.
Baby seahorses are known as fry. Fry can survive on their own since birth. In the first 2 – 3 weeks of their lives, they drift along in a layer of plankton in the ocean where they will feed on other plankton and any plant life they find.
Fewer than 1 / 1000 seahorses will reach adulthood due to the vast range of predators that feed off these tiny fish.
Seahorses are edible and are considered a delicacy in China, Japan, and other countries. It is however not good to eat these fish species at all because they are so rare and already face extinction.
Seahorses can and will eat their own young. Young seahorses are part of the plankton organism species range. The fathers of these fish do however give their young a fighting chance by refusing to eat until several hours after giving birth.
This gives the fry a chance to escape and reduces the chances of seahorses eating their own young.
Seahorses are in danger and they need all the help they can get. One of the best things you can do for the seahorse population is to avoid eating these rare fish species entirely. If you are a seahorse breeder then you should do your very best to continue breeding and increasing their numbers by creating them an ideal habitat and by offering them the right foods so they can flourish.