Pipefish of South Australia

Brushtail pipefish

At least 28 species of pipefish have been recorded in South Australian waters. Due largely to these bony fishes’ cryptic nature, reported sightings for many species are few. Much remains to be learned about their range, distribution, abundance, biology and ecology. If you see a pipefish in South Australian waters, we encourage you to log your sighting on the Atlas of Living Australia. Pages for each species are linked via the common names listed below.

The list below was compiled by MLSSA member Dan Monceaux, based on records from the ALA (as at April 2015) with additional information (depth ranges and sizes) from Seahorses and their relatives by Rudie H. Kuiter (Aquatic Photographics, 2009).

Genus Species Common name Described Max length (mm)  Min depth (m)  Max depth (m)
Campichthys galei Gale’s pipefish 1909, Duncker 60 18
Campichthys tyroni Tyron’s pipefish 1890, Ogilby 75
Filicampus tigris Tiger pipefish 1879, Castelnau 300 30
Heraldia nocturna Upside down pipefish 1975, Paxton 80 20
Histiogamphelus briggsi Brigg’s crested pipefish 1914, McCulloch 250
Histiogamphelus cristatus Rhino pipefish 1882, Macleay 250
Hypselognathus horridus Prickly pipefish 1982, Dawson & Glover 280 40 55
Hypselognathus rostratus Knife-snout pipefish 1921, Waite & Hale 400
Kaupus costatus Deep-bodied pipefish 1921, Waite & Hale 140
Kimblaeus bassensis Trawl pipefish 1980, Dawson 200 10 75
Leptoichthys fistularis Brushtail pipefish 1853, Kaup 650
Lissocampus caudalis Australian smooth pipefish 1921, Waite & Hale 100
Lissocampus runa Javelin pipefish 1931, Whitley 100 6 10
Maroubra perserrata Saw-tooth pipefish 1948, Whitley 85
Mitotichthys semistriatus Half-banded pipefish 1856, Kaup 250 3
Mitotichthys tuckeri Tucker’s pipefish 1942, Scott 170 9 20
Notiocampus ruber Red pipefish 1886, Ramsay & Ogilby 170 5 20
Pugnaso curtirostris Pugnose pipefish 1872, Castelnau 150 10
Stigmatopora argus Spotted pipefish 1840, Richardson 280
Stigmatopora narinosa Southern gulf pipefish 2007, Browne & Smith 220
Stigmatopora nigra Wide-bodied pipefish 1856, Kaup 280 Over 20
Stipecampus cristatus Ring-back pipefish 1918, McCulloch & Waite 250
Syngnathoides biaculeatus Alligator pipefish 1785, Bloch 280
Urocampus carinirostris Hairy pipefish 1872, Castelnau 100 5
Vanacampus margaritifer Mother-of-pearl pipefish 1869, Peters 200 10
Vanacampus phillippi Port Phillip pipefish 1891, Lucas 200 25
Vanacampus poecilolaemus Australian long-snout pipefish 1869, Peters 280
Vanacampus vercoi Verco’s pipefish 1921, Waite & Hale 110
7 thought on “Pipefish of South Australia”
  1. Hi
    We were at Pt Hughes a couple of days ago and wonder if you can help us to identify which pipe fish we have seen? Approx 30cm long and 2cm diameter with regularly spaced luminescent green ovals and long stripes of a turquoise blue down the length of its body. The head and snout were a darker luminescent purple- blue.

    1. Hi Meredith, Sorry that I’m a year late now. My attention has just been drawn back to your enquiry from last year. I was away when I responded last year and it seems that your enquiry got overlooked on my return. Only a Knife-snout pipefish, Hypselognathus rostratus seems to fit your description.

      1. I sort of agree with your Knifesnout suggestion. But based upon the stated length (which is an estimate) and perhaps more importantly the great variation of colours and patterns that many local species can display depending on the habitat and ambient light, time of day and year, depth etc, I think several other species are also possibles. Only a photo would allow a reasonable confidence level as to what it really was.
        Some possible options (if we allow some leeway wrt estimated length) are:-
        Vanacampus species such as Longsnout and Mother of Pearl
        Filicampus tigris (Tiger Pipefish)
        Even Crested Pipies can have surprisingly colourful patterns similar to those described above.
        Perhaps even Brushtail Pipefish can sometimes adopt similar patterns and colours although I may be stretching it a bit too much saying that (?!)

        1. Finally I am reluctant to fully exclude a more colourful than average Gulf Pipefish Stigmatopora narinosa, because they are very common at Port Hughes, and can get quite big. The type/voucher specimens from which this species was described came from Port Hughes, as I recall.

          1. Having said that, I should add another distinct possibility: Spotted Pipefish Stigmatopora argus.
            I’ve seen large adults that come close to your description.

  2. If readers are interested to learn more about the pipefishes in South Australia, the 2015 publication by Conservation Council of SA contains some relevant information. . Here is the link to the PDF: https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/conservationsa/pages/710/attachments/original/1469602028/Seadragons___their_Friends_compressed_online_FINAL.pdf?1469602028 The booklet includes distribution, habitat and biological information for most of the pipefishes in SA, except two rarely recorded species from the SE which are not likely to be seen by divers, and one which is a probable misidentification and cannot be verified.

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