Marine life in Bali – Pygmy seahorse


Marine life in Bali – Pygmy seahorse

The pygmy seahorse is the smallest species of seahorse in the world. Hence they get their name.

Finding the first pygmy seahorse


The first pygmy seahorse was not found in the sea but in a laboratory. It happened in 1969, in Australia, completely by accident. While studying gorgonian muricella, a scientist found two tiny bargibanti seahorse.

The next year they were scientifically cataloged for the first time.

Its name comes from the combination of the two terms in classical Greek: hippos, which means “horse” and kampus “sea monster”.

Same family as seahorse, but some differences in morphology

The pygmy seahorse is morphologically different from other species of seahorse. Apart from the extremely small size (they grow at most 2 cm), they have a single gill opening at the back of the head, unlike the rest of hippocampus that have two. They also have a very thin snout compared to that of many other species.


Like the rest of seahorse, they have a prehensile tail to be able to hold onto the coral. They don’t have teeth nor stomach. Therefore, they have to eat continuously. Its diet is based almost exclusively on mollusks, although the first years of life also eat placation.

They are mostly monogamous and it is the male that carries the eggs in his sac during pregnancy. The offspring are independent from the moment of their birth. They have a higher survival rate than most species of seahorse, which is due to the great ability to hide in their natural environment.

Where do they live?


Habitat varies between species. Some reside in different sea fans, coral reefs, underwater walls and near soft corals, in seagrass and also algae.

Bargibant’s and Denise’s pygmy seahorse live exclusively in gorgonians and never leave home, except for force majeure.

On the other hand, unlike other seahorse, they stay in more or less populated communities. In truth, numerous pairs of pygmy seahorses can be grouped into a single gorgonian. Up to 28 individuals have been found sharing the same coral.

Pygmy seahorse is a master of camouflage

Like all seahorse, they are experts in the art of camouflage. In fact, they grow tubercles all over their bodies to mimic the gorgonian polyps where they live.


They are generally yellow or orange, although they can change color to camouflage themselves with their surroundings.


Since 2000, biologists have identified seven new species. All of them live in the area of Southeast Asian Coral Triangle.

The smallest pygmy seahorse was believed to be the Satomi pygmy seahorse, with a maximum length of 1.4 cm. But in 2018, a scientist discovered the Japanese pygmy seahorse, which is only t 16 mm.



Pygmy is so small in size, and, as a result, it is very difficult to study them. In fact, it is not known for sure what its natural predators are, but it is believed that among these are the long-nosed hawkfish, crabs and even turtles.

It is a very delicate species. In fact, seahorse is sensitive to environmental changes in water temperature and its chemical quality as well. For this reason, humans are one of their biggest enemies.

Pygmys are so beautiful and have such bright colours. As a consequence, they are in high demand by the aquarist.

To sum up, all seahorse are subject to different protection measures worldwide.

Where can we see pygmy seahorse in Bali?

Pygmy seahorse live in gorgonians along the entire coast of Bali.

The most common pygmies here are Bargibanti and Denise.

Their small size and perfect camouflage make them very difficult to find them. We are ready to take the chance! Truth is the best sites to see them are Seraya, Amed, Tulamben and Padangbai.

Be a responsible diver

Follow the code of conduct of a responsible diver. Control your buoyancy and avoid touching anything underwater. Only take photos and leave only bubbles!

A remark for underwater photographers. Pygmy seahorse does not have eyelids. For this reason, they are extremely sensitive to light. Bear that in mind when you go to take photos of these little creatures. Also do not use flash or external lights.

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