Knysna Seahorse

(Hippocampus capensis)


Knysna Seahorse IUCN ENDANGERED (EN)


Facts about this animal

The Knysna seahorse has the characteristic seahorse shape, which may reach a total length of 12 cm. Males are longer and heavier than females. The snout is toothless and rather short, and adults do not have a coronet on the neck. The body is encased in a series of bony rings: 11 covering the trunk and 32-37 the tail. The tail, which is proportionally longer in males, is muscular, has short and blunt spines, and is used to grasp a mate during courtship, or as an anchor to the substrate. The dorsal fin, which is used to propel the animal forward, has 16-18 fin rays and is supported by 2 trunk rings and 1 tail ring. The colour is a mottled greenish brown colour, sometimes with scattered dark spots.

The Knysna seahorse is found in bays and estuaries, at depths of between 50 cm and 20 metres; associated with submerged vegetation. Like all seahorses, it has a remarkable method of reproduction: the female transfers her eggs into the male's pouch during mating. The eggs are fertilised within the pouch and embryos develop, embedded in the tissue lining the pouch wall of the 'pregnant' male The gestation period is around 2-3 weeks after which time the male ejects his offspring who are then extremely vulnerable, receiving no further parental care.

Did you know?
that reproduction in seahorses is quite different from other fish? In seahorses the brood size is very small, the males are brooding, and most species that have been studied are monogamous, meaning that widowed animals don't reproduce until they find a new partner.


Name (Scientific) Hippocampus capensis
Name (English) Knysna Seahorse
Name (French) Hippocampe de Knysna
Name (German) Knysna-Seepferdchen
Name (Spanish) Caballito de mar de Knysna
Local names Afrikaans: Knysna-seeperdjie
CITES Status Appendix II
CMS Status Not listed



Photo Copyright by
Peter Smallwood



Range Occurs in about 4 estuaries, situated along the south coast of South Africa
Habitat In bays and estuaries at depths of between 50 cm and 20 metres
Wild population Unknown, but declining doe to habitat damage
Zoo population 122 reported to ISIS by 4 institutions (2007). Considering that most publc aquaria are not part of the WAZA system and do not register their collections with ISIS, available ISIS data are not significant.

In the Zoo

Knysna Seahorse


How this animal should be transported

During transportation seahorses are enclosed in a restrictive container that does not allow for ideal water quality parameters and is subject to unpredictable movement orientation and noise levels. The following points, therefore, should be taken into consideration: Transit time must be minimized wherever possible. Only healthy individuals should be selected for transportation. Packaging must be adequate. Strong containers with good thermal retention qualities should be used (i.e. polystyrene) to allow for external temperature fluctuations. Heat/coolpacks can be used should the transit conditions dictate. Packs must not be placed directly next to the water.

For air transport, Container Note 51 of the IATA Live Animals Regulations should be followed.

Fish must be unpacked carefully and under low illumination.


Find this animal on ZooLex


Photo Copyright by
Peter Smallwood

Why do zoos keep this animal

Knysna seahorses are an endangered species. They are presented by zoos and aquariums as an ambassador species for the protection of their restricted estuary habitats along the south coast of South Africa , and they are of educational intrerest because of their mode of reproduction.