Common Name: Seahorse
Scientific Names: Hippocampus guttulatus and Hippocampus hippocampus.
Description: These are small fish growing to 15cm. Their distinctive upright posture with bowed head and snout and curling, prehensile tail are characteristic of the group. With practise, colour, snout length and the presence, absence and shape of skin tassels enable identification of different species.
Distinctive Features: No other fish are shaped like Seahorses.
Abundance: Solitary. I have never seen one in Malta but they are often seen. This is one of those species where looking very carefully in the right habitat and knowing what to look out for is essential.
Habitat & Behaviour: These species live in seagrass beds and in rocky areas with a good cover of seaweed. They can also be found in sediment areas where they hide amongst seaweed debris or live seaweeds attached to pebbles.
Reaction to Snorkellers & Divers: Seahorses are iconic fish in marine conservation, and are one of the reasons behind moves to conserve seagrass beds where they are commonly found. Click Here to read the guidance and information to prevent stress to any seahorses you might find on your dive in Maltese waters.
Other Names: Spiny seahorse (H. guttulatus)
Other Notes: There are two species that can be found in Maltese waters, the Long-snouted seahorse (Hippocampus guttulatus) and the Short-snouted seahorse (Hippocampus hippocampus). Good photography or video is essential to enable identification but the use of flash photography and lighting when photographing Seahorses are not allowed in Malta (or the UK).
Text: Bob Earll
Photo: Russell & Gill Bennett
Video: Julia Jagoditsch