Types of Seahorses - List of Seahorse Species

While seahorses look very unique, they are related to other bony fish like cod, tuna and ocean sunfish. Identifying seahorses can sometimes be confusing, because many can be a variety of colors and they are also camouflage artists, capable of changing their color to blend in with their surroundings. 

Currently, there are 47 recognized species of seahorses. This article gives a sampling of some of these species, including some most common in the United States. There is basic identification and range information in each description, but if you click on the seahorse name, you'll find a more detailed species profile.  What's your favorite seahorse species?

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Big-Bellied Seahorse (Hippocampus abdominalis)

Big-Bellied Seahorse / Auscape / UIG / Getty Images
Big-bellied Seahorse. Auscape / UIG / Getty Images

 The big-bellied, big-belly or pot-bellied seahorse is a species that lives off Australia and New Zealand. This is the largest seahorse species - it is capable of growing to a length of 14 inches (this length includes its long, prehensile tail). Characteristics used to identify this species are a big belly on the front of their body which is more pronounced in males, a large number of rings (12-13) on their trunk and tail (at least 45 rings), and coloration that includes dark spots on their head, body, tail and dorsal fin and bands of light and dark on their tail. 

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Longsnout Seahorse (Hippocampus reidi)

The longsnout seahorse is also known as the slender or Brazilian seahorse.  They can grow up to about 7 inches long. Identifying features include a long snout and slender body, a coronet on their head that is low and convoluted, skin that may have brown and white dots or a pale saddle on their back. They have 11 bony rings around their trunk and 31-39 rings on their tail. These seahorses are found in the western North Atlantic Ocean from North Carolina to Brazil and in the Caribbean Sea and Bermuda. 

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Pacific Seahorse (Hippocampus ingens)

Pacific Seahorse / James R.D. Scott/Getty Images
Pacific Seahorse. James R.D. Scott / Getty Images

Although it's not quite the biggest seahorse, the Pacific seahorse is also known as the giant seahorse. This is a West Coast species - it is found in the Eastern Pacific Ocean from California south to Peru and around the Galapagos Islands. Identifying features of this seahorse are a coronet with five points or sharp edges at its top, a spine above their eye, 11 trunk rings and 38-40 tail rings. Their coloration varies from reddish to yellow, gray or brown, and they may have light and dark markings on their bodies. 

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Lined Seahorse (Hippocampus erectus)

Lined Seahorse / SEFSC Pascagoula Laboratory; Collection of Brandi Noble, NOAA/NMFS/SEFSC
Lined Seahorse (Hippocampus erectus). SEFSC Pascagoula Laboratory; Collection of Brandi Noble, NOAA/NMFS/SEFSC

Like many other species, the lined seahorse has a couple other names. It is also called the northern seahorse or the spotted seahorse.  They may be found in cooler waters and live in the Atlantic Ocean from Nova Scotia, Canada to Venezuela.  Notable features of this species are a coronet that is ridge- or wedge-shaped that has spines or sharp edges. This short-snouted seahorse has 11 rings around its trunk and 34-39 rings around their tail. They may have fronds projecting from their skin. Their name came from the white lines that sometimes occur along their head and neck. They also may have white dots on their tail and a lighter saddle coloration on their dorsal surface. 

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Dwarf Seahorse (Hippocampus zosterae)

Dwarf Seahorse / NOAA
Dwarf Seahorse. NOAA

As you could likely guess, dwarf seahorses are small. The maximum length of the dwarf seahorse, also known as the little or pygmy seahorse, is just under 2 inches.  These seahorses live in shallow waters in the western Atlantic Ocean in southern Florida, Bermuda, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Bahamas.  Identifying characteristics of dwarf seahorses include a high, knob- or column-like coronet, mottled skin that is covered in tiny warts, and sometimes filaments extending from their head and body.  They have 9-10 rings around their trunk and 31-32 around their tail.

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Common Pygmy Seahorse (Bargibant's Seahorse, Hippocampus bargibanti)

Bargibant's Seahorse / Allerina and Glen MacLarty, Flickr
Bargibant's Seahorse, or Common Pygmy Seahorse (Hippocampus bargibanti). Allerina and Glen MacLarty, Flickr

The tiny common pygmy seahorse or Bargibant's seahorse is even smaller than the dwarf seahose. Common pygmy seahorses grow to less than an inch in length.  They blend in well with their favorite surroundings - soft gorgonian corals.  These seahorses live off Australia, New Caledonia, Indonesia, Japan, Papua New Guinea and the Philippines. Identifying features include an extremely short, almost pug-like snout, a rounded, knob-like coronet, the presence of large tubercles on their body, and a very short dorsal fin. They have 11-12 trunk rings and 31-33 tail rings, but the rings are not very noticeable.

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Seadragons

Seadragon / David Hall / age fotostock / Getty Images
Leafy Seadragon. David Hall / age fotostock / Getty Images

Seadragons are Australian natives. These animals are in the same family as seahorses (Syngnathidae) and share some characteristics, including a fused jaw and tubelike snout, slow swimming speed and ability to change color to camouflage. There are two types of seadragons - weedy or common seadragons and leafy seadragons.