Both Sea dragons and Sea horses are the most incredible creatures of the ocean. Both have visual similarities but are very distinctive from each other.
Both Sea dragons and Sea horses belong to the family of Syngnathidae, but the sea dragon belongs to the genus phyllopterys, and sea horses belong to the hippocampus.

leafy sea dragon swimmingSea Horse in an aquarium with other members of its species
Sea dragon (left) vs. Sea horse (right)

Left image credit: James Rosindell

Key differences between Sea dragon and Sea horse

  • Appearance: Both have a head and necks that look like horses, but Sea dragons have leaf-like appendages on their body and are more colorful than Sea horses. Both have tails, but sea horse has curly tail used to grab things.
  • Size: Sea dragons are between 35 cm to 46 cm long, whereas sea horses are 1 cm to 30 cm long.
  • Species: There are three known species of sea dragons, while there are 50 species of sea horses.
  • Habitat: All three species of sea dragon live among coral reefs and kelp in rocky reefs in the coastal area of Australia, while sea horse is found in tropical waters worldwide.
  • Diet: Seahorses eat plankton, minute fish, and brine shrimp for food. Seahorses eat whole food and have no teeth, while sea dragons eat small crustaceans, fish larvae, mysid shrimps, and zooplankton.
  • Reproduction: Females lay eggs on the spongy part of the tail of male sea dragons, while male sea horses have a pouch on their belly where the female lays eggs.

We’ll explore these differences and exciting facts about these ocean creatures below.

Sea Dragon

A leafy sea dragon
A leafy sea dragon


Sea dragons can blend in with the thick kelp forests and seaweed thanks to the tiny, leaf-like appendages that sprout from their body. Because of the vivid yellows, purples, blues, and reds on their bodies and appendages, seadragons are frequently more colorful than seahorses.


Sea dragons are found in shallow coastal waters of Australia, where they tend to live in seagrasses, rocky kelp forests, and seaweed beds. From Perth in Western Australia to New South Wales, sea dragons seem to be widespread. Some species have also been discovered off Tasmania’s shore.


Small crustaceans, fish larvae, mysid shrimp, and zooplankton are the main foods consumed by sea dragons. They consume minute plankton by sucking it into their jaws, and rather than letting their meal drift out, they actively search for it.


Male sea dragons bear young, much like sea horses do. On the underside of their tails, male sea dragons have a spongy brood patch, where females lay their bright pink eggs during mating. Eggs are fertilized during the transfer from the female to the male sea dragons. The eggs are incubated and carried to by the males, who then release the baby sea dragons into the ocean after four to six weeks.


Unknown predators, if any, pose a threat to the sea dragon. The disappearance of their environment, especially seaweed and seagrass beds poses a grave danger to sea dragons’ continued existence. Pollution and illegal capture for display as a pet in an aquarium is a threat to leafy sea dragons.

Sea Horse

Seahorse in aquarium
A bright yellow color Seahorse


With a horse-like head, a monkey-like tail, and a kangaroo-like pouch, seahorses have an unusual look that makes it seem like many other species have combined. Seahorses are masters of camouflage, just like chameleons. They can alter their color and sprout skin filaments to fit in their surroundings. Also, they have been seen to change their color during courting rituals and as a means of communication. Only male seahorses have a pouch. Their eyes can move independently of one another and in any direction, much like a chameleon.


Sea horses are found in shallow temperate and tropical seas, coral reefs, mangrove roots, and seagrass beds around the earth. Because certain species can endure a wide variety of salinities, they can also be found in estuaries. Several seahorse species migrate to deeper waters in the winter to avoid bad weather.


Despite various species-specific variations, plankton and microscopic crustaceans, including; amphipods, decapods, mysids, and algae, are the main sources of food for seahorses. Seahorses have no teeth and swallow live food. Seahorses need to feed frequently—between 30 and 50 times per day—because they lack stomachs, which causes food to flow through their bodies very fast.


Just like sea dragons, male sea horses take care of the eggs. Seahorses have a complex courting display that usually involves a color shift to strengthen the relationship between the two members of the partnership. The male and female meet in the male’s area, and as they get closer, their colors shift. The duo frequently spirals around an item as the male surrounds the female.

A pouch can be seen on the male seahorse’s belly. Up to 2,000 eggs are deposited into his pouch during mating by the female. Within the male pouch, the eggs are fertilized, and supporting veins emerge around them to supply the eggs with sustenance as the juveniles develop. The eggs hatch, and the baby seahorses emerge from the pouch around 2–6 weeks later.

Mating of sea horses


Natural predators of sea horses include crabs, rays, and tuna. The survival of seahorses is in danger from people. Water pollution and fishing are hazardous but also sought for food, medicine, or souvenirs. Habitat loss, overfishing, and climate change are the threats faced by Sea horses.


Which one is bigger in size, Sea dragon or sea horse?

Although both species are similar in size, leafy sea dragons are slightly larger than sea horses and are up to 36 cm long.

Which one is more beautiful, the sea dragon or the sea horse?

Both sea dragons and sea horses are unique in appearance, but sea dragons are often more colorful than sea horses, with bright yellow, purple, blue, and red on their body.

Is sea dragon dangerous?

No, they are not dangerous. They are shy creatures and don’t have teeth or claws.

What is the lifespan of a sea dragon and sea horse?

The lifespan of a sea dragon is typically 5 or 6 years. However, it can vary from 3 to 10 years, depending on environmental factors or potential dangers. Sea horses can live up to 3 to 5 years in captivity. However, it is unknown how long they may survive in the wild.

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