Bluestripe Pipefish, Doryrhamphus excisus Kaup 1856

Other Names: Black-sided Pipefish, Fantail Pipefish, Pacific Blue-stripe Pipefish

Bluestripe Pipefish, Doryrhamphus excisus, in the Meerwasser Aquarium, Germany. Source: Andreas März / Flickr. License: CC by Attribution


Bluestripe Pipefish belong to a group of brightly-coloured flagtail pipefish. This species has a circular white-edged tail with orange fan-like markings at the base followed by a single orange spot. Bluestripe Pipefish set up cleaning stations near cave and crevice entrances and actively remove parasites from other fishes.

Cite this page as:
Dianne J. Bray & Vanessa J. Thompson, Doryrhamphus excisus in Fishes of Australia, accessed 26 Sep 2023,

Bluestripe Pipefish, Doryrhamphus excisus Kaup 1856

More Info


Widespread throughout the tropical Indo-Pacific region, from the Persian Gulf and east Africa to the west coast of the Americas in the Eastern Pacific. Recorded in Australian waters from north of Clerke Reef (Western Australia) and the entire length of the Great Barrier Reef (Queensland).

Inhabits coastal to outer reefs, in a variety of habitats including lagoons, reef flats, reef slopes and walls, channels, coral gutters, usually in or near crevices and caves into which they can retreat when threatened, in depths between 5 and about 45 m.


Meristics: D 21-29; A 4: P 19-23; Trunk rings 17-19; Tail rings 13-17.

Head and body: Body relatively short, trunk much longer than tail; snout length 2.0-2.4 in HL; blade-like ridge dorsally on snout with about 6 pointed projections; males usually with a fleshy flap on each ventrolateral ridge of snout. Superior trunk and tail ridges discontinuous; lateral trunk ridge confluent with inferior tail ridge on second tail ring; principle ridges of trunk and tail with a spine on each ring.

Fins: Caudal fin large, fan-like.


To 7 cm TL


Orange-yellow with broad dark blue dorsal stripe continuing darker and narrower onto head to front of snout; caudal fin orange with large reddish brown blotches and white upper and lower margins.


Feeds on planktonic micro-crustaceans as well as feeding by cleaning parasites off other fishes such as moray eels.


Reproduction: Reproductive mode – ovoviviparous (gives birth to live young). Males and females form monogamous pairs. Males brood the eggs on the abdomen in a semi-exposed pouch with lateral skin flaps; males begin brooding at 33 mm TL.

Eggs: Around 1.0–1.2 mm in diameter. The brood size ranges between 80–150 eggs.

Larvae: Morphologically similar to adults at birth with a short pelagic stage. Very young larvae (8–13mm) are planktonic, larger stages may settle around 17–19mm, as they have the striped coloration of adults.


Sometimes collected for the aquarium trade, and sold both as curios and for the Traditional Chinese Medicine trade.


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).


Bluestripe Pipefish often hover in pairs, advertising their presence as cleaner fishes by bobbing up and down and swimming in a waving motion above the substrate. This species has been recorded picking parasites off moray eels.

Similar Species

Three subspecies from different geographic regions are recognised: D. excisus abbreviatus Dawson 1981, D. excisus excisus Kaup 1856, D. excisus paulus Fritzsche 1980. The subspecies differ in the number of body rings, coloration and size at which males start brooding eggs.


Doryrhamphus is from the Greek, dory meaning lance and the Greek, rhamphos for bill, beak.

Species Citation

Doryrhamphus excisus Kaup 1856, Cat. Lophobranchiate Fish: 54, Pl. 3 (fig. 5), Massawa, Eritrea, Red Sea.


Dianne J. Bray & Vanessa J. Thompson

Bluestripe Pipefish, Doryrhamphus excisus Kaup 1856


Allen, G.R. 1997. Marine fishes of tropical Australia and south-east Asia. Western Australian Museum, Perth. 292 pp.

Allen, G.R. & M. Adrim. 2003. Coral reef fishes of Indonesia. Zool. Stud. 42(1): 1–72.

Allen, G.R. & R.C. Steene. 1988. Fishes of Christmas Island Indian Ocean. Christmas Island Natural History Association, Christmas Island, Indian Ocean, 6798, Australia. 197 pp.  

Bessudo, S., McCosker, J., Acero, A., Collette, B. & Rojas, P. 2010. Doryrhamphus excisus ssp. excisus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2010: e.T184055A8229242. Downloaded on 27 May 2016.

Dawson, C.E. 1981. Review of the Indo-Pacific pipefish genus Doryrhamphus Kaup (Pisces: Syngnathidae), with descriptions of a new species and a new subspecies, Ichthyol. Bull. J.L.B. Smith Inst. 44: 1–27, figs. 1–17.

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

Dawson, C.E. 1986. Family No. 145: Syngnathidae (pp. 445-458). In: Smith, M.M. & P.C. Heemstra. Smiths' Sea Fishes, Macmillan South Africa, Johannesburg. 1047 pp, 144 pls.

Kaup, J.J. 1856. Catalogue of the Lophobranchiate fish in the Collection of the British Museum. British Museum, London. 76 pp.

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Randall, J.E. & J.L. Earle. 1994. Doryrhamphus aurolineatus, a new pipefish (Syngnathidae) from Masirah Island, Oman. Fauna of Saudia Arabia 14: 282–286.

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Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37282058

Biology:Male brood pouch

Conservation:IUCN Least Concern

Depth:2-50 m

Fishing:Aquarium fish

Habitat:Reef associated

Max Size:7 cm TL

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Species Maps

CAAB distribution map