Hairy Pipefish, Urocampus carinirostris Castelnau 1872

A female Hairy Pipefish, Urocampus carinirostris, from Mallacoota Inlet, Victoria, November 2016. Source: David Paul / Museum Victoria. License: CC by Attribution-NonCommercial


A small, sedentary pipefish covered in hairy appendages which provide camouflage amongst eelgrass and seagrasses. Hairy Pipefish use their prehensile tails to cling to vegetation on the substrate.

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2017, Urocampus carinirostris in Fishes of Australia, accessed 19 Jul 2019,

Hairy Pipefish, Urocampus carinirostris Castelnau 1872

More Info


Tropical and temperate South Pacific, Australia and Trobriand Is, Papua New Guinea. In Australia, known from the Shoalwater Bay region (Queensland) to northern Tasmania, Victoria, and to the Ceduna region of South Australia, and in southwestern Australia where it reaches the Perth region. Rare in South Australia.

Inhabits the lower reaches of rivers, sheltered estuaries and shallow reefs in seagrass and algal beds a 0-6 m.

Hairy Pipefish are one of the most common estuarine pipefishes in eastern Australia, occurring year-round in seagrass beds in Western Port (Victoria), and abundant in seagrass beds in Moreton Bay (Queensland). In Western Port, Hairy Pipefish are most abundant between January and June, when young recruit to the population. 


Dorsal fin 13–15; Pectoral fin 7–10; Anal fin 2; Caudal fin 10; trunk rings 7–10; tail rings 49–59; subdorsal rings 0.0 + 2.5–4.0 = 2.5–4.0.

Head and body: Body very elongate, trunk shallow; head aligned with body; snout short, length 27–36% HL; snout depth 55–77% snout length; median dorsal snout ridge more or less straight in adult females, not elevated to or above dorsal rim of eye, ridge convex and usually elevated to or above horizontal through dorsal rim of eye in adult males; longitudinal ridge crossing half or more of opercle in subadults and adults; superior trunk and tail ridges continuous; inferior trunk and tail ridges discontinuous near anal ring; lateral trunk ridge not continuous with tail ridges; tail not prehensile, very slender and flexible; branched dermal flaps usually abundant on body and head.


To 11.5 cm SL.


Cryptically colored to resemble seagrass and eelgrass leaves. Overall pale green to brown; dorsal and lateral surfaces plain or mottled, dorsal sometimes with narrow pale bars about 1–2 rings wide, often with a dark brown longitudinal stripe on underside of head and body.


Feeds on tiny copepod crustaceans during the day.


Reproduction: Reproductive mode – ovoviviparous (gives birth to live young); eggs are brooded by males in a well-defined pouch on the underside of tail just behind anal fin. The pouch has fleshy bilateral pouch folds that meet on the ventral midline and partially or fully enclose the eggs. Males may be brooding at 48 mmSL, and brooding males have been collected from September to May.

Eggs: The smallest examined brooding male (48.8 cm standard length) contained only two eggs, a 5.7 cm fish had two rows of 19 eggs and there were four rows of 17 eggs in a 7.6 cm male. Males on average carry about 50 eggs per brood.

Larvae: Pelagic larval stage; newly emerged larvae (10–14 mm) are very elongate and slender, with a small head, an elongate, tubular snout and a small flap-like mouth; pelvic fins absent, anal fin not developed; body ridges not apparent at birth; spines weakly developed dorsally; lightly pigmented.

Hairy Pipefish mature within one year in Western Port (Victoria) and the population may be annual, as adult seem to disappear after the breeding season. Most abundant between January and June, when young are recruiting to the population.


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

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


Hairy Pipefish are variable across their distribution range and different populations may represent different species. Numbers of body rings vary both sexually and geographically; adult females usually have one more trunk ring than adult males (modally 9 versus 8); numbers of tail rings are highest (63–68) in Vic and Tas and lowest (58–62) in Qld and WA.


Urocampus is from the Greek oura (tail) and kampos (sea animal). The specific name carinirostris is from the Latin carina (keel) and rostrum (snout, beak, bill) in reference to the ridge on the snout.

Species Citation

Urocampus carinirostris Castelnau 1872, Proc. Zool. Acclim. Soc. Vic. 1: 200, Melbourne markets (Yarra River), Victoria.


Bray, D.J. 2017

Hairy Pipefish, Urocampus carinirostris Castelnau 1872


Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37282008

Depth:0-6 m

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