/// Currently lots of Ghostpipefish in Lembeh but what is a ghost pipefish?

23 Jan / 2012
Author: Two Fish Blog Tags: Comments: 4

We are seeing alot of Robust ghost pipefish in Lembeh at the moment so we thought that we would tell you what they are.

Family Solenostomidae
Ghost pipefish belong to the family Solenostomidae. They are closely related to Seahorses and Pipefish, are from the same order and share the long tube like snout. They live in tropical, subtropical and warm temperate waters from Indian to Western Pacific oceans.

Spending most of its time in a head down position, they tend to make their homes in shallow areas or close to coastal reefs that are current swept and therefore have a steady stream of food. In many regions Ghostpipefish are only seasonal visitors, settling on the reef for only a few months each year to breed.

Pairs of Ghostpipefish

They are usually seen in pairs. Female Ghostpipefish have much larger ventral fins, as they double in purpose for storing eggs. Male Ghostpipefish are generally smaller than the females.

Usually they are seen hovering next to their matching host, perfectly camouflaged. These hosts depend on the type of Ghostpipefish and include gorgonians, corals, crinoids, hydroids, algae substrata and seagrass beds. 

Feeding – They often hang upside down while feeding. They feed mainly on crustaceans and small fish, the unassuming prey is sucked up at the last minute through the specially adapted snout. 

Reproduction – It is the female Ghost Pipefish who incubates the eggs in a pouch created by hooking together their ventral fins. In both Seahorses and Pipefish, which are closely related, it is the male who performs this role. After incubation, the eggs are released into the water column and are planktonic, travelling with the currents until they find a suitable reef to inhabit.

Robust Ghostpipefish (Solenostomus cyanopterus)
Simulating rotting sea grass, Robust Ghostpipefish is a rare find due to being hard to spot.

Often seen floating upside down on a sand or rubble bottom mimicking sea grass or weeds. They are usually brown, green or dark red, with darker spots and markings.

Unlike the other types of Ghostpipefish, Robust Ghostpipefish are fairly mobile and revisiting them is not usually possible.

This is the largest type of Ghostpipe, growing to approx 15cm in size.

Ornate or Harlequin Ghostpipefish (Solenostomus paradoxus)
These are easily identified and the most elaborate type of Ghostpipefish, and are much photographed. They are found near overhangs and crevices, mimicking crinoids or soft corals. They can sometimes be spotted hanging in the current to feed. They come in a wide variety of colours including, black, white, red, yellow, brown and green.

The fins of the Ornate Ghostpipefish are well developed, large and, as the name suggests, ornately decorated.

If undisturbed they will remain in the same host fauna for many weeks.

Halimeda Ghostpipefish (Solenostomus halimeda)
This type of Ghostpipefish looks exactly like the green algae Halimeda, and it is amongst this algae where is normally found. It is green or green with white patches, just like those seen on the host algae.

There are sometimes short filaments on the snout, body and fins that look like the filaments that are also sometimes found on the Halimeda algae. All in all, this species is an outstanding mimic of its botanical namesake!

Rough or Hairy or Filamented Ghostpipefish (Solenostomus paegnius)
The colour can vary from green to reddish brown, and it is covered with many small skin filaments, giving it a hairy look.

It is often found in bay or lagoon, in sandy environments close to algae or hydrozoans.

We think thats all the types of Ghostpipefish, have you got another type? Which one is your favourite?

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  • Robert D 27 Jan 2012

    Have you sighted the hand painted ghost pipe fish?

  • Mads Bech Andersen 05 Mar 2012

    “We think thats all the types of Ghostpipefish, have you got another type?” – What about “Armored” and “Delicate” mentioned in your e-mail? They are not mentioned above.

  • Other types 26 Dec 2012

    Don’t forget the rare red setter ghost pipefish, found in Indonesia and western Papua.

    Also the Velvet ghost pipefish,, possibly a sub type of the robusts but look very different.

  • Two Fish Blog 26 Dec 2012

    Thanks, I have never heard of these other ghostpipefish, I’ll have to update this blog post to include them!

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