Marine Species: Pygmy Seahorse

One of the hardest critters to spot, the pygmy seahorse is a fascinating creature. Let’s look at a few attributes of this tiny yet spectacular animal.

What is a pygmy seahorse?

Scientists have officially identified and described seven species of pygmy seahorses, varying from .5 to 1 inch (14 to 27 mm) — very small indeed.

The most common in Indonesia include the following:

  • The Bargibanti pygmy seahorse was the first species ever discovered by random luck in the 60s, when a scientist working on a sample of sea fan found a pygmy seahorse on it. The largest pygmy seahorses — up to 1 inch long (2.7 cm), they always live on gorgonian fans.
  • Denise’s pygmy seahorse was described only a few years ago and also lives on gorgonian sea fans. It has a smoother skin texture and is often orange or yellow.
  • The Pontohi pygmy seahorse has been found so far only in Indonesia and Papua New Guinea, but in various habitats such as hydroids or plants. Its body color varies from white to yellow to pink.

Unlike other seahorses, the pygmy seahorse has only one gill opening on the back of the head instead of two. But just like other seahorses species, the male carries the eggs and gives birth to the young (and very, very small) offspring.

Habitat and habits

Depending on the species, pygmies have different habitats. But they all share one common skill: they excel at camouflage. Whether it is on soft coral, sea fans or sea grass, spotting a pygmy seahorse is very difficult. They usually exhibit a color similar to their favorite habitat (pink, orange, yellow, etc.) as well as a similar texture, which makes them look like the polyps of the coral they live on. They use their prehensile tail to attach themselves to the coral.

Because of their tiny size and their lack of digestive system like other seahorse species, they spend a lot of their time feeding on small particles of food. 

Where can you find pygmy seahorses?

Your best bet for spotting a pygmy seahorse is to dive with a guide who knows the site well. Once they’ve located pygmies on a particular fan, for example, it’s relatively easy for guides to spot them again. Pygmy seahorses live in the Coral Triangle region of Southeast Asia.