Can You Keep a Seahorse as a Pet?

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Seahorses are, by no means, common aquarium pets, which is a shame given this animal’s unique factor. Seahorses are unlike any other aquatic animal you’ve seen, and they are adorable in their own right. But are they easy to care for, and are they a good fit for a beginner?

Let’s look into that!

Before Getting a Pet Seahorse

If you’ve never had a seahorse before, you need to learn some basic facts about the small creature to accommodate it properly. So, keep the following in mind before getting your seahorse pet:

– Seahorse Requirements

Seahorses are rather picky when it comes to environmental parameters and overall care. The primary requirements for seahorses include:

  • Salinity – Aim for values around 30-35ppt, aiming for a specific gravity of 1.020-1.025. These will mimic the seahorse’s natural living conditions, keeping the animal healthy and comfy.
  • Temperature – The ideal temperature sits between 71 and 77 F, although some variation is acceptable. If you plan to mix seahorses with saltwater fish, you may need to slightly tweak the temperatures to accommodate all species.
  • pH and alkalinity – The best pH values sit between 8.1 and 8.4, depending on normal, everyday fluctuations. The water alkalinity should stay between 8 and 12 DKH.

Make sure that the tank is fully cycled and the ecosystem stable before adding your seahorse. These animals are notoriously sensitive to poor water conditions and ammonia. This also means that frequent water changes are necessary to preserve water quality and prevent dangerous ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate buildups.

Pro tip: keep water currents low, as seahorses are fragile and delicate animals. They are particularly sensitive to the more aggressive water currents associated with powerful filtration systems. Keep the water movement low and place the filter’s output far from the seahorses’ main dwelling area.

seahors pet in aquarium

– Setting Up the Tank

When it comes to setting up the tank, consider the following points:

  • Tank size – Aim for 30 gallons for one pair of seahorses. This is sufficient space for the two seahorses to stay comfortable and safe in their habitat, but you should consider a larger tank if you’re building a community setup. You need 10 extra gallons for each additional pair of seahorses and a matching space boost, depending on the fish you plan on adding. Although, the latter is tricky, given that most fish hunt and kill seahorses due to their small size and appealing look.
  • Tank shape – Seahorses are vertical swimmers, so the tank should match their tendencies. Go for rectangular tanks with more vertical than horizontal space, especially if you plan on creating a seahorse-only ecosystem.
  • Tank setup – Seahorses are timid animals that feel calmer and safer in rich ecosystems with plenty of hiding areas. Invest in a handful of live plants and add various hiding spots for your seahorses to use when necessary. PVC pipes are a good option in this sense.

When housing seahorses, the goal is to provide them with a healthy, stable, and comfortable tank layout that would mimic their natural habitat.

– Buying Your Seahorse

To get this out of the way immediately, stay away from wild-caught seahorses. These are feral animals that are not accustomed to life in captivity. This means that they most likely won’t eat and experience high stress that will eventually kill them. Not to mention, they may also carry dangerous parasites that could infect the rest of the seahorses.

I suggest taking your time and researching the topic for a minute. Go onto various forums and connect with people with more experience in the business. You want to get your first seahorse pair from a reputed breeder who can guarantee for the animals’ genetic prowess and health. Always invest in captive-bred seahorses, as these are already semi-tamed and accustomed to life and diet in captivity.

– Feeding Seahorses

You are about to find out why seahorses aren’t your typical beginner-friendly saltwater pet. These small and cute animals are also dangerous carnivorous predators that ambush their prey and can eat quite a lot. In the wild, seahorses consume a variety of foods, including fish larvae, copepods, Mysis shrimp, etc.

There are 2 challenges when it comes to feeding seahorses:

  • They eat at least 3-4 times per day
  • They only consume tiny live food, which drop in nutritional value as time passes

So, you need to have a constant supply of fresh live food for your seahorses to provide them with adequate nutrition. It’s also worth mentioning that these animals are notoriously messy, producing a lot of food leftovers and feces. Combine this with their increased sensitivity to ammonia, and you can see why seahorses are so difficult to keep.

seahorse swimming in aquairum

– Caring for Seahorses

You should become accustomed to your seahorse’s general requirements in terms of general care. This includes feeding pattern, food type and quality (since they won’t eat everything), overall maintenance, finding viable tankmates, setting up the right ecosystem, etc.

Seahorses have unique requirements that may make them unfit for community tanks. They also need specific environmental conditions, from the water parameters themselves to the tank’s size and shape. So, it’s safe to say that that seahorses aren’t your typical easy-going tank pet.

Are Seahorses Good for Beginners?

No, they are not. It doesn’t matter how much research you do beforehand; I recommend only taking on seahorses once you’ve become more experienced as a fishkeeper. I recommend gaining some experience by first caring for cheaper and widespread tank fish.

Then you can consider adding a pair of seahorses into the mix, provided you can guarantee their safety. Smaller seahorse species only grow up to 1 inch, which makes them easy prey for most fish species, especially since they are slow swimmers.

You can opt for larger species, as is the case with the big-belly seahorse, which can reach 12 inches, of course. But, in that case, it’s the seahorse that becomes a threat to its tankmates.

I recommend keeping your seahorse pair alone at first and then looking for viable tankmates, so long as you know they’re compatible.


Seahorses are fascinating creatures that require specialized care to thrive. They can live up to 3-5 years in captivity and require special living conditions to thrive. You need to accumulate more fish-keeping experience before qualifying as a competent seahorse keeper. But, once you do, these slow swimmers make for perfect aquarium pets.

Author Image Fabian
I’m Fabian, aquarium fish breeder and founder of this website. I’ve been keeping fish, since I was a kid. On this blog, I share a lot of information about the aquarium hobby and various fish species that I like. Please leave a comment if you have any question.

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