Cabrillo Marine Aquarium

Pacific Seahorse

Hippocampus ingens


Fun Facts

    The Pacific seahorse reverses traditional birthing roles.

    The genus name “Hippocampus” is derived from the Greek word hippos meaning




The Pacific seahorse is a type of marine bony fish that lives in seagrass beds and on rocky reefs.  It attaches its prehensile tail to grasses, seaweeds, and gorgonians usually at depths shallower than 20 meters (65 feet). Pacific seahorses occur from San Diego, California to Peru and are the only species of seahorse that lives along the Pacific coast of North and South America. Though typically uncommon along the southern California coast, they have been recorded as far north as San Francisco during periods of warmer waters. The body can be gold, maroon, brown, white, or a combination of these colors. The Pacific seahorse can grow to 30 cm (12 inches) in length and is the 2nd largest species of seahorse in the world.

Pacific seahorse feed on mysids (small shrimp-like crustaceans) and other plankton. They lack teeth and the jaw is fused. Prey is consumed by sucking it through their straw-like bony snout with a rapid snap of the head. During reproduction, the female seahorse transfers about 3,000 eggs into the male’s brood pouch where they are fertilized and stored until hatching. He will incubate the developing embryos for about 12 days. The young are less than ˝ inch long when born and emerge from the male’s brood pouch as miniature adults.

Pacific seahorses are usually found at the Aquarium in tank number 36 and in the Aquatic Nursery.