Smooth Pipefish, Lissocampus caudalis Waite & Hale 1921

Other Names: Australian Smooth Pipefish

A female Smooth Pipefish, Lissocampus caudalis. Source: Rudie H. Kuiter / Aquatic Photographics. License: All rights reserved


Although the Smooth pipefish is widespread along Australia’s southern coast, it is rarely seen due to its small size and cryptic coloration, often mimicing seagrass leaves and macroalgae.

Cite this page as:
Dianen J. Bray & Vanessa J. Thompson, Lissocampus caudalis in Fishes of Australia, accessed 24 Jan 2019,

Smooth Pipefish, Lissocampus caudalis Waite & Hale 1921

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Endemic to temperate waters of Victoria (from Western Port), northen Tasmania, the Bass Strait Islands, South Australia to the Perth region of southern Western Australia.

The Smooth Pipefish is widespread along the southern coast, usually in shallow inshore bays and estuaries, inhabiting low algal covered rubble reefs, macroalgal beds, seagrass beds (Amphibolus, Heterozostera, Posidonia, Zostera), tidepools, rocky outcrops, and under jettys and on artificial reefs and wrecks. The species usually lives in depths between 0.5–15m, although it has been collected down to 37m. Individuals have also been collected from floating Sargassum.


Meristics: D 13–14; A 3–4; P 5–6; C 10; Trunk rings 12–14; Tail rings 51–60

Head and body: Body very elongated, trunk shallow; head aligned with body; snout short, 29–34% head length, snout depth 71–77% snout length; dorsal margin of median dorsal snout ridge essentially straight, usually above or in line with dorsal rim of eye; opercle without longitudinal ridge; ridges on body indistinct; superiot trunk and tail ridges continuous; inferior trunk and tail ridges discontinuous near anal ring; lateral tail ridge apparently not confluent with tail ridges; tail not prehensile; dermal flaps on body and head.

Fins: Dorsal fin much closer to head than to tip of tail, with short base; anal fin tiny, generally below rear half of dorsal fin; caudal fin small, rounded.


Maximum recorded length 112 mm SL.


Variably tan to dark brown with brown or white markings, and often with diffuse dark bands and pale interspaces; dorsal fin usually with dark anterior blotch.


Not recorded – likely to feed on small crustaceans.


Reproduction: Reproductive mode – ovoviviparous (gives birth to live young), with eggs brooded by males. Adults are usually found in pairs, and males brood eggs in an enclosed pouch on the underside of the body just anterior to the anal fin. The pouch is developed in males of 70mm SL, indicating that males may be brooding eggs by this size. Pouch plates are absent and pouch folds are present.  

Eggs: Not described. Two males examined had pouches containing 49 and 54 eggs.

Larvae: Not described – Lissocampus species reportedly produce relatively large young.


Although individuals have been trawled or dredged as bycatch, the Smooth Pipefish is of no interest to fisheries or aquaculture.


CITES: not listed.

IUCN Red List Status: not evaluated.

Australian Commonwealth legislation: Marine listed under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).

State Legislation: Listed as protected under the Victorian, Tasmanian and South Australian Fisheries Management Acts.

Similar Species

Lissocampus caudalis has a straight dorsal snout profile and 51–60 tail rings, compared with L. runa which has a distinctly concave snout and 45–49 tail rings.


Lissocampus from the Greek lissos meaning smooth and kampos meaning sea animal.

Species Citation

Lissocampus caudalis Waite & Hale 1921, Rec. S. Aust. Mus. 1(4): 306, fig. 46, Kangaroo Island, South Australia.


Dianen J. Bray & Vanessa J. Thompson

Smooth Pipefish, Lissocampus caudalis Waite & Hale 1921


Baker, J.L. 2009. Marine Species of Conservation Concern in South Australia: Volume 1 - Bony and Cartilaginous Fishes. Report for the South Australian Working Group for Marine Species of Conservation Concern. Web version published by Reef Watch, South Australia.

Dawson, C.E. 1977. Review of the Indo-Pacific pipefish genus Lissocampus (Syngnathidae). Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington 89(53): 599-620.

Dawson C.E. 1985. Indo-Pacific Pipefishes (Red Sea to the Americas). Gulf Coast Research Laboratory, Ocean Springs, Mississippi. 230 pp.

Kendrick, A.J.& G.A.  Hyndes. 2003. Patterns in the abundance and size-distribution of syngnathid fishes among habitats in a seagrass-dominated marine environment. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science 57(4):631-640. 

Kuiter, R.H. 2008. Family Syngnathidae (pp. 448–479). In Gomon, M.F., D.J. Bray & R.H. Kuiter. (Eds.) Fishes of Australia's Southern Coast. New Holland Press & Museum Victoria, Melbourne, Australia, 928 pp.

Kuiter, R.H. 2009. Seahorses and their relatives. Aquatic Photographics, Seaford, Australia. Pp. 1–333.

Last, P.R., E.O.G. Scott & F.H. Talbot.(1983. Fishes of Tasmania. Tasmanian Fisheries Development Authority, Hobart. 563pp.

Paxton, J.R., J.E. Gates, D.F. Hoese & D.J. Bray. 2006. Syngnathidae (Pp. 810–846). In  Beesley, P.L. & Wells, A. (Eds) Zoological Catalogue of Australia. Volume 35. Fishes. ABRS & CSIRO Publishing, Australia., 3 vols.

Pogonoski, J.J. Pollard, D.A. and Paxton, J.R. (2002). Conservation Overview and Action Plan for Australian Threatened and Potentially Threatened Marine and Estuarine Fishes, Canberra Environment Australia 375 pp.

Scott, E.O.G. 1961. Observations on some Tasmanian fishes. Part X. Papers and Proceedings of the Royal Society of Tasmania 95: 49-65.

Waite E.R. & H.M. Hale. 1921. Review of the lophobranchiate fishes (pipe-fishes and seahorses) of South Australia. Rec. S. Aust. Mus. 1(4): 293–324.

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