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Seahorses are known for being very calm, patient, and docile creatures, yet when the opportunity presents male seahorses are willing to put up a fight to get what they want.
It’s not uncommon for male seahorses to fight, whether it’s to protect their territory, protect their pregnancy, or win the affection of a female while outperforming any other male competitors. From what I’ve seen the most common reason for fights amongst males is to gain the attention of their desired female mate.
These fights are not intense yet their main purpose is to either protect, prevent, overcome, or eliminate. From what we’ve seen from the current research is that captive-bred seahorses are more likely to fight.
It seems like fighting among male seahorses is an artifact of being bred in small closed systems.
This opened the doors to increased competition, increased polygamous tendencies, and changed the general behavior of seahorses.
Captive-bred seahorses are bred in large quantities compared to being in the wild. Therefore there is a lot of competition when it comes to mating pairs, territory as well as the hassles of being in saturated groups.
With this competition also comes many choices of potential mating pairs. Even though seahorses are monogamous and loyal to their mating partner, captive-bred seahorses are more promiscuous and are willing to find other female mates.
With this increase in choices, males get to choose whichever female attracts them even if they are already bonding with another male.
This creates conflict and is one of the main reasons why fights break out. Seahorses have evolved and have become more domesticated through captive breeding.
This has caused them to break general stereotypes regarding the general wildlife of seahorses. As a result, you may find that fighting is just one of the ways they have changed and adapted.
There are many possible reasons for fights among males, let’s take a closer look.
1. Persuing a female.
When it comes to choosing a mate, male seahorses take this process very seriously since they are the ones to carry the pregnancy.
They have intense urges to procreate and carry offspring. Fueled by dominance they are willing to battle any competition to ensure they have established courtships with their desired female.
This means that anyone that comes in their way or tries to steal their mating partner will become their rival. This brings about increased aggression and fighting amongst mature males.
2. New Additions.
Whenever there are new additions to a closed system such as an aquarium there is bound to be some sort of tension and aggressive behavior.
New additions can flare up fights since males may see new male seahorses as competition. While females can be seen as another option to form a bonding pair.
It’s mostly the addition of new male seahorses that may potentially cause fights to break out.
After all, males are more aggressive and dominant at least towards their female mating partner. It’s all done through the idea of protecting and maintaining courtships.
3. Flirty Females.
Females have all of the power when it comes to choosing mates and she chooses whoever she wants. Her bonded partner of the previous mating cycle doesn’t mean she’s going to choose him again.
Often with the introduction of new arrivals triggers a renewed flurry of greetings and other interactions.
This kicks the general activity level up a notch as all the seahorses reassess the shifting social dynamics of the herd and check out prospective new mates
Females can become flirty and may seek to find new mates and form new bonds while their previous mates are still carrying young.
This can cause all sorts of fighting as this behavior are typical of rival males competing for the same mate.
This sort of intraspecific aggression is completely normal and is generally harmless and nothing that you need to be overly concerned about
4. More Males Than Females.
Normally when you have more mature males than females it will cause tension and fighting since you have two males ready for procreation without enough females.
This is yet another instance where male seahorses will fight for the female, disrupting courtship until a male backs off and a bonded pair is complete.
Until then they will be no sort of breeding until the correct courtship is complete.
5. Protecting Their Territory.
Males like to stick within their own domain and they will do whatever it takes to protect their territory.
Even though seahorses are not overly aggressive and territorial they will defend their territory if they have to.
This is why it’s advised that a pair of seahorses need at least a 30-gallon tank to make sure there is enough space for both to co-exist in harmony.
This will ensure both seahorses have enough room to be happy, intimate, and stress-free.
6. Competes For Nutrition.
Now that seahorses have become more domesticated and have totally adapted to smaller enclosures with larger amounts of species, they have become a lot more competitive.
Even though most captive-bred seahorses are well-fed and cared for, the need for constant nutrition is a need for these creatures.
This makes them compete for food when it’s limited, especially male seahorses who require more nutrition when keeping young.
This is yet another potential reason why fights among male seahorses are more common than for females.
7. Dominance Hierarchy.
By now we know that males are the aggressors and they are the ones who stand up and contend against others when it comes to certain threats or any competition which may arise.
However, another visible adaptation seen in domesticated seahorses is the dominance hierarchy.
Fighting always ends with a winner and a loser and most of the time the winner takes on superiority and with this win comes dominance.
This dominance of some sort seems to be an operating mechanism within enclosed aquariums the cause of many fights amongst males.
How Do Male Seahorses Fight?
When two or more mature males aggressively compete for the right to reproduce they will go all out.
They will use every defense mechanism they have to make sure they win the mate, as you know the fittest always succeeds.
They use different mechanisms and defensive ways to fight off contenders. These ways consist of
1. Tail wrestling– The use of their uniquely strong tails as a weapon to contend against other males.
2. Snapping– an aggressive maneuver in which the attacker stretches out its head and flicks its snout against its rival with a violent snap, thus delivering a nasty blow to the adversary. The snap is often aimed either at the opponent’s eye or gills, particularly a sensitive area.
Negative Aspects To Fighting.
Fighting like in the real world never brings about anything good and there are always negative repercussions that follow. Likewise, with seahorses, the downside to fighting means that mating cannot take place.
Females don’t just deposit their eggs on any male seahorse. They need to bond, come to a mutual agreement and allow the process of courtship to take place.
The depositing of eggs can only happen if the correct bonding takes place. When males are competing in fights there are no bonds formed and no mating pairs so no reproducing can occur until the pair is formed.
So if you are a seahorse breeder, fights will result in no offspring at least up until the courtships are completed.
Ways To Eliminate Fighting Amongst Males.
In order to find a solution to male seahorses fighting, you need to first understand why the fights are even occurring.
Most of the time you don’t need to intervene but there are a few steps you can implement to eliminate the aggression within an aquarium.
1. Understand that mature male seahorses have intense urges to procreate. By providing possible mates it will help in easing aggression.
2. Placing two mature males with one female is a recipe for disaster. There will always be a rivalry when competition is greater.
3. Make sure that the tank is big and spacious enough to cater to the required quantity of seahorses.
4. New additions to your seahorse aquariums may cause initial fighting but this is soon short-lived.
5. Most of the time these fighting don’t need your intervention as it’s some sort of ritualized seahorse notion.
6. Males can live peacefully together with other males but they need to bond.
Ultimately it’s important to know that some sort of rivalry and fighting is expected with all living creatures.
Life is about survival and reproducing and anything that comes in the way of this will definitely be challenged.
Likewise with seahorses, fighting amongst males are normal and temporary. Most of the time it isn’t something to be concerned about so you don’t need to stress about it.