Crowned seahorse (Hippocampus coronatus)

Crowned seahorse
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Crowned seahorse fact file

Crowned seahorse description

GenusHippocampus (1)

This Japanese seahorse earns its common name for the tall, backward-curving crown on top of its head, which is coupled with rather unusual, irregular spines projecting out of the body (4). The skin is yellowish, marbled with dark brown, and black along the back. Like other seahorses, the head is held at right angles to the body, the eyes can move independently of each other, and the tail is prehensile. Instead of having scales, as most other fish do, seahorses have a layer of skin stretched over bony plates that are visible as rings passing around the trunk. Swimming is powered by the rapidly oscillating dorsal fin, and they steer using the fins on either side of the body (the pectoral fins) (2).

Maximum height: 12.7 cm (2)

Crowned seahorse biology

Unusually, it is the male, and not the female, that becomes pregnant in seahorses (6). The breeding season of this species is June to July and there are reports that broods contain ‘several hundred’ young, although this may refer to H. sindonis, a similar species that has only recently been distinguished as a separate species (1) (2). Young look like miniature adult seahorses, are independent from birth, and receive no further parental care (6).


Crowned seahorse range


Crowned seahorse habitat


Crowned seahorse status

Classified as Data Deficient (DD) on the IUCN Red List 2006 (1), and listed on Appendix II of CITES (3).

IUCN Red List species status – Data Deficient


Crowned seahorse threats

Very little is known about the total number of crowned seahorses, its population trends, or major threats. It has therefore been classified as Data Deficient on the IUCN Red List 2006. Trade surveys conducted by Project Seahorse between 2000 and 2001 indicate that trade in this species is relatively small. Furthermore, the crowned seahorse is not targeted by any fishery in Japanese waters, although it may be caught incidentally as bycatch (1).


Crowned seahorse conservation

All seahorses (Hippocampus spp.) are listed on Appendix II of CITES, effective as of May 2004, limiting and regulating their international trade (2). With such limited data available on this fascinating animal, there is an urgent need for further research to be conducted on its biology, ecology, habitat, abundance and distribution, before its status can be properly assessed and conservation measures implemented accordingly (1).

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.

Find out more

For more information on the crowned seahorse and other seahorses see:

Project Seahorse:



Authenticated (19/12/2006) by Sara Lourie, Project Seahorse/Redpath Museum, McGill University.



In the fishing industry, the part of the catch made up of non-target species.
Dorsal fin
The unpaired fin found on the back of the body of fish.
A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
Capable of grasping.
Any of the brown algae that make up the genus Sargassum.


  1. IUCN Red List (October, 2006)
  2. Lourie, S.A., Foster, S.J., Cooper, E.W.T. and Vincent, A.C.J. (2004) A Guide to the Identification of Seahorses - Project Seahorse and TRAFFIC North America. University of British Columbia and World Wildlife Fund, Washington D.C..
  3. CITES (December, 2006)
  4. Fish to the Nth (December, 2006)
  5. FishBase (December, 2006)
  6. Project Seahorse (December, 2006)

Image credit

Crowned seahorse  
Crowned seahorse

© Taketomo Shiratori /

NHPA/Photoshot Holdings Ltd
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United Kingdom
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Fax: +44 (0) 20 7421 6006


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