Pacific Seahorse Facts & Underwater Photos

First published underwater photos of a Seahorse in California
By Scott Gietler

Pacific Seahorse, Hippocampus Ingens


Last year, while researching juvenile fish, I started to looking into seahorse facts and habitat, after finding out that the Pacific Seahorse range recently extended into California. I started doing more research and making phone calls.


I knew someone who had actually seen a couple seahorses underwater, and was even told a photo was snapped of one, so I knew I had at least a small chance of success, even though I didn't know exactly what a seahorse in San Diego would look like (the only photos available to me was of a Pacific seahorse in a sea fan from Baja or the Galapagos), or where exactly one would be.


It took many hours and many trips to San Diego to actually find a Pacific Seahorse. I found two individuals, on different days. One of them was even giving birth when I found it.


Seeing the seahorse was one of the most wonderful moments underwater that I've ever had. Another great moment was swimming with Dolphins underwater near Catalina, which I'll write about at another time. They are beautiful, elegant fish - yet quite shy in the presence of a large diver.


These seahorse are not small, they are quite large, almost 12 inches long.


Below, in the first two photos, you'll see the first seahorse I found, the one that gave birth. Notice the anemone growing on it's head. That's right, it's an anemone, attached to it's head.


Photos are copyrighted and no form of reproduction is authorized, all rights reserved.


Pacific Seahorse Facts


Where does the Pacific Seahorse live?


The Pacific seahorse enjoys calm water where it can hide in algae. Your not likely to see them in the rough parts of the ocean. Unfortunately, these Seahorses would command a pretty penny in certain markets so it's best that I not give their exact location or they would be scooped up. The Pacific seahorse range is Peru and the Galapagos islands to Southern California.


Pacific Seahorse Habitat


The Pacific seahorse lives in a wide variety of habitats at very different depths. They can be found deep living on sea fans where they attach their tails, or shallow in eelgrass or thick algae. In both cases, the three-dimensional structure of their habitat acts as a biological facilitator, allowing the seahorse to blend and wait until mysid or juvenile fish come by.


Pacific Seahorse predators and diet


Seahorses in California seem to have few predators, and lots to eat. On my dives I noticed plenty of Mysid shrimp and tiny juvenile fish that the seahorse enjoys eating. Seahorse have no teeth, instead food gets quickly sucked into their mouth, with a quick jerk of their head.


pacific seahorse


Pacific seahorse, Hippocampus ingens

Pacific seahorse, with it's belly full of hundreds of  babies. The male seahorse gives birth to the babies. Underwater photo taken with my Nikon D300, 60mm macro lens, in low visibility water.



Pacific seahorse, Hippocampus ingens

Second individual seahorse that I found, trying to hide in the Eelgrass



See more Hippocampus ingens (Pacific Seahorse) Photos

See photos of the second individual that I found, plus older photos of other seahorses in San Diego


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Further Reading


California Marine life

Underwater Photography Dive Destinations

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Scott Gietler is the owner of Bluewater Photo, Bluewater Travel, and the Underwater Photography Guide. Bluewater Photo, based in Santa Monica, CA is one of the world’s largest and most prestigious underwater camera stores, serving many thousands of customers each year, where nothing is more important than customer service. The Underwater Photography Guide is the world’s first website to feature free tutorials on underwater photography, and has become the most trafficked resource on underwater photography worldwide. Bluewater Travel is a full-service dive travel wholesaler sending groups and individuals on the world’s best dive vacations. 

Scott is also an avid diver, underwater photographer, and budding marine biologist, having created the online guide to the underwater flora and fauna of Southern California. He is the past vice-president of the Los Angeles Underwater Photographic Society, has volunteered extensively at the Santa Monica aquarium, and is the creator of the Ocean Art underwater photo competition, one of the largest underwater international photo competitions ever held in terms of value of prizes. He lives in California with his wife, newborn girl and scuba-diving, photo taking 4 year old son.


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This shot has it all; rare

This shot has it all; rare subject, unique interaction with other marine life and the fulfillment of a personal quest! Thanks for sharing.

hey Craig, your very welcome.

hey Craig, your very welcome. It was a very unique experience to intereract with them. Funny, I was almost out of air when I found the first one, I was about the end the dive. I hope you have some great moments underwater too. 

Scott Gietler Owner/Editor, Underwater Photography Guide & Bluewater Photo

Beautiful. As always, thanks

Beautiful. As always, thanks for sharing.

Thanks jamie! 

Thanks jamie! 

Scott Gietler Owner/Editor, Underwater Photography Guide & Bluewater Photo

Gotta love that head

Gotta love that head ornament. Your article in CDN and front cover shot are nice. Great job Sko-T.

thanks Kevlar. I'm really

thanks Kevlar. I'm really glad you liked the article - I'll see you in a couple days at Santa Cruz. - Scott 

Scott Gietler Owner/Editor, Underwater Photography Guide & Bluewater Photo

Great job Scott--nice photos!

Great job Scott--nice photos! I didn't even know we had sea horses around here.

thanks Mel. I didn't know we

thanks Mel. I didn't know we had seahorses for sure either, until I actually saw one underwater! The year before I had spent a day looking for one a couple hours south of the border in Mexico where they are supposed to be, but I didn't find one.

Scott Gietler Owner/Editor, Underwater Photography Guide & Bluewater Photo

Nice shot. I have shot

Nice shot. I have shot Pacific Sea Horses in the Galapagos, but I have never seen one off Calif. coast.

Thanks Tim. People have also

Thanks Tim. People have also seen the Pacific Seahorse near La Paz, Baja. 

Scott Gietler Owner/Editor, Underwater Photography Guide & Bluewater Photo