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Phylum Chordata > Subphylum Vertebrata > fishes > Family Syngnathidae > pipefishes
Alligator pipefish
Syngnathoides biaculeatus

Family Syngnathidae
updated Oct 2020

Where seen? This fat pipefish is sometimes seen on our Southern shores. Many were discovered during a seine net survey of Cyrene Reef among thickets of long among Tape seagrasses. It is generally found in sheltered coastal shallows among seagrasses and seaweeds.

Features: 20cm, grows to about 29cm. Body long and angular cylindrical tapering to a thin tail. It has a pair of tentacles on a long narrow snout. It is sometimes also called the Double-ended pipefish probably because both ends look similar. The tail is prehensile and does not have a tail fin. Females often have dark spots or blotches. The males carry the eggs below the body and tail. May be green, brown or grey, to match their surroundings.

Sometimes mistaken for other fishes that resemble sticks and twigs. Here's more on how to tell apart stick-like fishes commonly seen on our shores.

Cyrene Reef, May 08

Pulau Semakau, Jun 05

Long narrow snout. Tiny pelvic fins.
Cyrene Reef, May 08

A pair of tentacles on the long snout.
Pulau Semakau, Jun 05

Prehensile tail.

Cyrene Reef, May 08
Pipefish babies: Like the seahorse, the male pipefish also carries the eggs. In some species, the male has a pouch on the underside of his tail. For those without a pouch, the eggs are glued to the underside of the male's tail or abdomen. Often the eggs are embedded in a spongy tissue. Some have a pair of flaps that fold over the eggs. Females have an ovipositor to lay eggs on the male's body, where the eggs are then fertilised. In some species, 'pregnant' males may hang out together in small groups. The eggs develop safely on dad's body. The father 'gives birth' to live young, which emerge as miniatures of the adults.

Some pipefishes may perform courtship dances before mating. Unlike seahorses, a mating pair of pipefishes may not remain faithful only to one another. A female might lay her eggs on several males, and a male might carry the eggs of several females.

Eggs on the underside.
Pulau Semakau, Jun 05

Eggs on the underside.
Cyrene, May 08

Pulau Sekudu, Feb 07
What does it eat? It feeds on tiny planktonic animals.

Human uses: This is among the pipefishes used in traditional Chinese medicine, to extract 'Hailong' considered an important drug. This species has been reared in captivity.

Status and threats: See Family Sygnathidae for threats to pipefishes and seahorses.

Alligator pipefishes on Singapore shores
On wildsingapore flickr

Other sightings on Singapore shores

Chek Jawa, Apr 07
Photo shared by Marcus Ng on flickr.


Cyrene, Feb 20
Photo shared by Loh Kok Sheng on facebook.

Cyrene, Jan 19
Photo shared by Jianlin Liu on facebook.

Pulau Semakau, May 08
Photo shared by Lin Juanhui on flickr

Pulau Hantu, Mar 10
Photo shared by James Koh on flickr.



  • Allen, Gerry, 2000. Marine Fishes of South-East Asia: A Field Guide for Anglers and Divers. Periplus Editions. 292 pp.
  • Kuiter, Rudie H. 2002. Guide to Sea Fishes of Australia: A Comprehensive Reference for Divers & Fishermen New Holland Publishers. 434pp.
  • Kuiter, Rudie H., 2000 (English edition). Seahorses, Pipefishes and their Relatives: A Comprehensive Guide to Syngnathiformes TMC Publishing, UK. 240 pp.
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