Given their unique appearance, unusual swimming style and the fact that the males become pregnant; seahorses are perhaps the most charmingly enigmatic group of all fishes.

Chester Zoo has a long history of successfully keeping and breeding seahorses. We currently keep two species; the beautifully coloured Longsnout Seahorse Hippocampus reidi, which are on display in the Aquarium, and the Common Seahorse Hippocampus kuda, which are housed in off-show facilities. Our aquarists are experts at breeding Common Seahorses and we distribute babies to other zoos and aquariums across the world.

All our seahorses eat tiny marine invertebrates, some of which are no bigger than a pin-head! However, even these food items are too big for planktonic baby Longsnout Seahorses, which eat microscopic zooplankton in the wild.

Our aquarists are developing techniques for rearing baby Longsnout Seahorses. In the future we hope to apply these specialist skills to breeding and rearing two species of seahorses found in UK waters; the Short-snouted and Maned Seahorses. Both of these species are part of a managed European Breeding Programme (ESB).

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Interesting facts

Where they live: Found in shallow tropical and temperate waters throughout the world

Habitat: Sheltered areas such as seagrass beds, coral reefs and mangroves.

Size: At less than 15mm tall, the Pygmy Seahorse is the smallest seahorse in the world. The largest seahorse species can reach to over 35cm.

Threats: Potentially unsustainable collection for international trade - including Traditional Chinese Medicine, private aquariums and curios (dried and sold as gifts).  Incidental by-catch in weighted bottom trawling nets. Pollution and extensive habitat loss resulting from coastal developments and destructive fishing techniques.

Species Information

Scientific name Hippocampus kuda "chesteri"
Order Syngnathiformes
Family Syngnathidae
Genus Hippocampus
IUCN status Vulnerable
Roles in the zoo

Research (ex situ): This species is part of applied research that leads to evidence-based decisions regarding in-zoo management.

Education

Interdependence: This species helps demonstrate that all living things, including humans, live in ecosystems and depend on other living things for their survival.

Human Impact: This species helps demonstrate that human activities are causing serious environmental damage.

You! This species helps demonstrate that we can all make changes to help the environment and zoos can help inspire people to do this.

Husbandry Development and/or Skills Training: This is a species for which we’re developing particular husbandry methods to address an identified issue and/or helping to build staff capacity in specific husbandry or field conservation skills.

Visitor experience

Exhibit Enhancement: This species connects visitors with the geographic areas that they originate from and helps develop further understanding of the environmental issues facing the species in those regions.