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Phylum Chordata > Subphylum Vertebrata > fishes > Family Syngnathidae
Family Syngnathidae
updated Oct 2016

if you learn only 3 things about them ...
They have bones inside as well as outside.
The male looks after the eggs.
They are hard to spot and can't move fast. Watch your step or you might step on one!

Where seen? A cousin of the more famous seahorse, these extremely well camouflaged fishes are often mistaken for roots and overlooked. Particularly as they often lie motionless among the seagrasses and seaweeds. Pipefishes are seen on many of our shores. They appear to be seasonally common. They are more often seen when it is dark. During the day, they remain well hidden.

What are pipefishes? Pipefishes are true fish, although they don't appear very fish-like! Pipefishes belong to Family Syngnathidae which includes seahorses.

Features: Bodies long, cylindrical and rather stiff being enclosed in an armour of bony rings just under the skin. They also have an internal skeleton just like other fish. Most retain a dorsal fin and pectoral fins and some have a fan-like tail fin. Pipefishes lack scales. Gill openings are reduced to a pore. Some have prehensile tails.

Pipefishes are adapted for sheltered waters well vegetated with seagrass or seaweed. With reduced fins and rather inflexible bodies, pipefishes cannot swim quickly. Instead, they rely on camouflage to blend in with the vegetation. Pipefishes come in a wide variety of colours and patterns.

What do they eat? Pipefishes feed on tiny creatures. To suck these up, they use their long tube-like snouts tipped with a small toothless mouth.

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.

Human uses: Pipefishes are used in traditional Chinese medicine, often as a substitute for seahorses. Some species are also caught for the live aquarium trade.

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

Changi, Apr 05

Long tube-like toothless snout
and a pair of tiny pectoral fins.

Dorsal fins.

Carrying eggs on the underside
Pulau Semakau, Jun 05

Pipefishes on Singapore shores


Unidentified pipefishes

Photos of Unidentified pipefishes for free download from wildsingapore flickr

Distribution in Singapore on this wildsingapore flickr map

Pipefishes recorded for Singapore
from Wee Y.C. and Peter K. L. Ng. 1994. A First Look at Biodiversity in Singapore.
*from Lim, Kelvin K. P. & Jeffrey K. Y. Low, 1998. A Guide to the Common Marine Fishes of Singapore.
^from WORMS
+Other additions (Singapore Biodiversity Records, etc)

  Pipefishes seen awaiting identification
  Seagrass pipefishes

  Family Syngnathidae
  Choeroichthys brachysoma

cf. amplexus (White-faced pipefish)
^Corythoichthys flavofasciatus=Corythoichthys fasciatus
Corythoichthys haematopterus
(Reef-top pipefish)
Corythoichthys polynotatus
(Yellow-spotted pipefish)
+Corythoichthys schultzi
(Schultz's pipefish)

+Doryrhamphus janssi
(Janss’ pipefish)

+Dunckerocampus dactyliophorus
(Ringed pipefish)

*Halicampus nitidus
(Zebra or Glittering pipefish)

*Hippichthys cyanospilos
(Blue-speckled pipefish)

*Ichthyocampus carce
(Mangrove pipefish)

Micrognathus brevirostris=^Micrognathus brevirostris brevirostris

Syngnathoides biaculeatus
(Alligator pipefish)
Syngnathoides spicifer
Syngnathoides djarong
Syngnathoides fasciolatus

Trachyrhamphus bicoarctatus
Trachyrhamphus serratus


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