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Order: Syngnathiformes

Family: Solenostomidae – Ghostpipefish

The Ghostpipefish's head is less angled than their cousin the Seahorse
Ghostpipefish head is less angled
than their cousin the Seahorse.

Ghostpipefish are closely related to the family Syngnathida. Seahorses and Pipefish are from the same order and they share the long tube-like snout.

The Ghostpipefish’s head is at less of an angle than that of their seahorse cousin and unlike Syngnathidae, the female becomes pregnant and cares for the eggs in her pelvic fins, which are modified to form a brood pouch.

All Ghostpipefish have 2 dorsal fins whereas Syngnathisae have only 1.

Egg mass safely inside the female's pouch
Egg mass safely inside the Females pouch

Feeding mainly on crustaceans and small fish, they live in tropical, subtropical and warm temperate waters from Indian to Western Pacific oceans.

They can be found in shallow areas or close to coastal reefs and are usually seen in pairs near gorgonians, corals, crinoids, hydroids, algae substrata and seagrass beds.

Their cryptic behaviour makes finding them a challenge even if you know where to look.

Solenostomus paradoxus – Ornate or Harlequin Ghostpipefish

Ornate Ghostpipefish
Ornate Ghostpipefish

Ornate or Harlequin Ghostpipefish are easily identified and arguably the most elaborate of Syngnathiformes.

Ornate Ghostpipefish are a highly prized discovery among divers and underwater photographers.

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

Spending most of its time in a head down position, drifting or slowly swimming in gentle surge and currents.

Ornate GhostpipefishThe colouration of the Harlequin Ghostpipefish is variable.

Female Harlequin Ghostpipefish have much larger ventral fins, as they double in purpose for storing eggs.

Male Ornate Ghostpipefish are generally smaller than the females we can to approximately 10cm in length.

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

Solenostomus cyanopterus – Robust Ghostpipefish

Robust Ghostpipefish
Robust Ghostpipefish

Simulating rotting sea grass, Robust Ghostpipefish is a rare find due to its cryptic appearance.

Robust Ghostpipefish generally inhabit the substrate of sheltered bays or lagoons, although we saw 1 lonely individual on Barracuda Point at Sipadan!

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

They grow to approx 15cm in size and in this case displays variations of green and brown in colour.