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Sea horses usually occur in the tropics or along temperate coasts. They
prefer a vegetated habitat over open water because they are poor swimmers.
Regardless of whether or not prey are present, sea horses choose to stay in a
vegetated environment. In experiments by Flynn and Ritz (1999) the sea horses
were found to prefer a habitat of a low-medium complexity, which was defined as
800-2400 blades of sea grass per square meter of sea water. In a survey of the
sea horses that occur along the coast of Great Britain, Garrick-Maidment (1998)
found that the sea horses spent the warmer summer months in the shallow water.
During the winter the sea horses preferred to move into deeper water where they
could over winter to avoid the severe winter storms.
There are 32 species of seahorses known. Pygmy or dwarf seahorses are found in a
range of colors from black, green, or dull brown to golden yellow. They are
approximately 2 to 4 1/2 centimeters (1/2 to 1 1/2 inches) long. Seahorses are
remarkable for their long, tube like snouts and for their prehensile tails,
which they use to hold onto objects.
The Pacific giant seahorse, one of the largest in the world, can grow to
about a foot in length. Like all seahorses, pipefish, and sea dragons, the giant
seahorse is a member of the family Syngnathidae.
In addition to the threat posed by declining seahorse habitats, they are heavily
exploited for use as traditional medicines, aquarium fishes, souvenirs, and
tonic foods. Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is the largest direct market for
seahorses. They are used to treat a wide range of ailments, including
incontinence, arteriosclerosis, impotence, and asthma. They also provide
remedies for skin ailments, heart disease, high cholesterol levels, goiters,
excess throat phlegm, and lymph node disorders. Over 46 countries have been
identified as being involved in trading seahorses recently, but many others are
likely active as well. The largest exporters of seahorses appear to be India,
the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam. Most dead
seahorses are probably imported to China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan; while the USA
is the primary importer of live seahorses.
Additionally, many seahorses are caught in the wild and sold to people for home
aquariums. Many people believe that buying seahorses and rearing them in
captivity will help conserve the species, but seahorses are actually extremely
difficult to maintain and only the most experienced aquarists have been able to
keep them alive. As a result, many people continue to buy new seahorses to
replace the ones that die, and thus contribute to the decline of seahorse
It is common for captive seahorses to encounter buoyancy problems due to gas
bubbles. The bubbles show up in the male’s brood pouch, under the skin, or
internally. The seahorse needs to be poked by a small, sterile syringe needle
and then massaged until the bubbles come out. This is a dangerous and difficult
procedure that most people are not qualified to perform.
Seahorses of most species form strictly monogamous pairs where the male
and female mate repeatedly and exclusively with one another in and between
reproductive seasons. The bond is reinforced by elaborate greeting dances soon
after dawn each day. Sea horse pendant