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Dwarf Seahorse
(Hippocampus zosterae)

Dwarf, Seahorse, Hippocampus, zosterae

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Hippocampus zosterae are members of the family Syngnathidae. The dwarf seahorse is among the smallest of the 32 cataloged species of seahorses. They only grow to an adult length of 1.2-2 inches. This seahorse’s native habitat ranges from Bermuda to Florida and throughout the Gulf of Mexico. They frequent the brackish water of bays and estuaries as well as the open ocean.  

Seahorses are inarguably one of the most elegant of all the diverse creatures found in the ocean. There is something about the slow graceful movements of a seahorse that can hold an onlooker spellbound.

Dwarf seahorses are most typically found in varying shades of white, yellow, or brown. Of course color is nothing more than a state of mind to a seahorse. Both color and darkness will morph depending on mood, stress and levels of excitement. They will also adapt their coloration to their surroundings or even their favorite plant. Some dwarves are striped. Still others have lighter or darker spot patterns on their bodies. Because they are such tiny little creatures, dwarves are often referred to as seaponies.

Seahorses are very slow moving, timid animals. As such they make an easy target for bullying even by species that are generally considered peace loving. They are slow eaters and are apt to loose out on dinner to faster species. They do not have the temperament necessary to compete for their food and will often go hungry if forced to do so. Bottom dwellers such as smaller hermit crabs, ornamental crustaceans and snails make suitable tank mates. They will also fend well with more docile species of fish such as gobies and blennies. Many aquarium owners devote an aquarium specifically to the raising of seahorses. Having a herd of seahorses roaming around a tank will provide plenty of visual interest without the addition of faster moving species. 

These are one of the few saltwater fishes small enough to be kept in aquariums of 10 gallons or less. They make wonderful choices for the new nano-reefs that have become so popular in recent years. You can keep a small herd of seapoines in an aquarium as little as 5 gallons provided you have experience in maintaining smaller marine environments. Dwarves actually do better in smaller aquariums than they do in larger ones. A few notes of caution: The smaller the aquarium, the more quickly the water parameters will change. Never keep a nano-aquarium near a widow, or heating vent. Temperature fluctuations will occur quickly in small volumes of water.  Due diligence must be practiced in maintaining the water quality in nano bio-spheres. Partial water changes should be performed regularly to prevent nitrates from rising to harmful levels.  

Seahorses will require plenty of hitching posts to anchor themselves to. They will spend the vast majority of their day hitched to stationary objects. If you are apprehensive about the thought of maintaining coral or other live animals and plants in your aquarium plastic plants will work provided there are no sharp edges.

Sea horses are recommended for expert aquarists only. This is due to the combination of their overall fragility and their dietary habits. Seahorses require a diet of freshly-hatched baby brine shrimp, copepods, and other shrimp larvae. They may not even recognize non-living food offerings as a source of nutrition when they are first introduced to your aquarium. Many seahorse owners raise their own brine shrimp rather than attempting to alter their charges dietary habits. 

Dwarf seahorses are prolific breeders in captivity. They have smaller broods than most other species of seahorse which is highly conducive to captive breeding . The dwarf male’s gestation period is typically 10-14 days. Broods will range anywhere between 3-30 newborn. Fry survival rate can be as high as 60% with properly maintained water parameters. Fry will double in size within the first two weeks. They will need to be fed newly hatched brine shrimp several times daily to keep pace with their development. Sexual maturation occurs in 3-4 months.

Environmental Parameters


pH Level Specific Gravity
72-78  °F 8.1-8.4 1.007-1.025

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