Why Male Seahorses Seem More Shy

Over the years, I’ve discovered that my male seahorses tend to be more shy, and more likely to hide, than the females.

16D16 Moya and Magellan 2


This isn’t a unique observation, incidentally. Seahorse keepers and scientists have recognized that male seahorses are often more retiring and more likely to hide than their female counterparts, most likely because, in seahorses, the male broods and gives birth to the young. (Seahorses are one of the few species in which the male experiences a true pregnancy.)

For this reason, male seahorses often feel the need to hide, to protect their current or future broods.

My current male seahorse, Moya, is a great example of male seahorse shyness. Where my other seahorses spend time “out and about,” swimming around the reef and hitching to various corals (particularly sea fans), Moya spends almost all of his time in one of two places:

Hiding in a cave near the bottom of the reef,

16G05 Moya

Or hiding under a kenya tree coral in the upper left corner of the reef, near the back of the tank:

16G05 Moya and kenya tree

Both of these spots are “hidden” enough that Moya believes he can’t be seen by me or anyone else who approaches the tank. From a seahorse perspective, they’re “safe,” and although he’s glad to have the other seahorses join him there, he rarely joins them elsewhere on the reef while the lights are on.

Late at night, when the lights go out, he often joins the rest of the herd on a gorgonian (sea fan) cluster with room for all three seahorses to sleep together–but the moment the lights come on in the morning–and often even before that–he returns to the safety of his favorite cave.

16G05 Moya 2

Have you ever noticed seahorses hiding, either in an aquarium or in the wild?