Tidepool Pipefish, Micrognathus micronotopterus (Fowler 1938)

Other Names: White-saddled Pipefish

The small Tidepool Pipefish is often found in coral reef tidepool habitats on the north coast of Australia.

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Dianne J. Bray & Vanessa Thompson, Micrognathus micronotopterus in Fishes of Australia, accessed 15 Jul 2024, https://fishesofaustralia.net.au/Home/species/3115

Tidepool Pipefish, Micrognathus micronotopterus (Fowler 1938)

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Tropical East-Indo-west Pacific, known from Singapore, Indonesia, northern Australia and the Philippines; recorded in Australian waters from Exmouth Gulf, WA, to the Gulf of Carpentaria near Yirrkala, Northern Territory. Usually inhabits shallow inshore reefs and tidepools, amongst sparse seagrasses and algae-rubble, in depths from 1-5m, although individuals have been collected from depths to 10m.


Meristics: D 17–19; P 10–13; trunk rings 15; tail rings 28–31; subdorsal rings 1.5–0.25 + 2.25–3.75 = 3.25–4.5.

Head and body: Body slender and elongate; head length 7.2–8.9 in SL; snout length 2.3–3.0 in head length; superior trunk and tail ridges discontinuous; inferior trunk ridge ends on anal ring; lateral trunk ridge continuous with inferior tail ridge; median dorsal snout ridge low, entire, somewhat concave in lateral profile; longitudinal opercular ridge complete in young, incomplete to obsolete in subadults-adults; head and body rings without spines, denticules or serrations; scutella not keeled.

Fins: Dorsal fin origin between anterior margin of second last trunk ring and posterior margin of 1st tail ring, the fin base not clearly elevated in subadults-adults.


Maximum length 70 mm.


Tan to dark brown, usually mottled and with indications of 10–12 narrow pale bars crossing dorsum of body. Sometimes with dark bars crossing lower part of side and ventral surface of trunk.


Likely to feed on tiny crustaceans.


Reproduction: Ovoviviparous (gives birth to live young) with eggs brooded by males in brood pouch under tail; pouch plates and folds present with everted pouch closure; males likely to be brooding at 32 mm TL.

Eggs: Deposited in one layer of 2–4 transverse rows. The brood pouch of one male coantined 92 eggs.

Larvae: Body rings present at an early stage, anal fin reduced.


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).

Similar Species

Micrognathus micronotopterus differs from other species in the genus in usually having 15 trunk rings, a relatively long snout and mainly straight tail ridges. The dermal flaps on the head are usually long and simple compared with the shorter frilled or branched dermal flaps of adults of other Micrognathus species.


Micrognathus is from the Greek micro (small) and gnathos (jaw), in reference to the short snout of this species. The specific name micronotopterus is from Greek, meaning small fin on the back.

Species Citation

Syngnathus micronotopterus Fowler 1938, Proc. U.S. Natl. Mus. 85(3032): 42, fig. 14, Canimo Island near Daet Point, Luzon, Philippine Islands.


Dianne J. Bray & Vanessa Thompson

Tidepool Pipefish, Micrognathus micronotopterus (Fowler 1938)


Allen, GR. 1997. Marine Fishes of Tropical Australia and South-east Asia. Western Australian Museum, Perth. 292 pp.

Allen, G.R. & R. Swainston. 1988. The marine fishes of north-western Australia. A field guide for anglers and divers. Western Australian Museum, Perth. 201 pp.

Dawson, C.E. 1982. Review of the genus Micrognathus Duncker (Pisces: Syngnathidae) with description of M. natans, n. sp. Proc. Biol. Soc. Wash. 94(3): 657–687.

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

Fowler, H.W. 1938. Descriptions of new fishes obtained by the United States Bureau of Fisheries Steamer Albatross, chiefly in Philippine seas and adjacent waters. Proc. U.S. Natl. Mus. 85(3032): 31–135.

Fricke, R. 2004. Review of the pipefishes and seahorses (Teleostei: Syngnathidae) of New Caledonia, with descriptions of five new species. Stuttgarter Beiträge zur Naturkunde. Serie A (Biologie). 66S: 1–66.

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

Larson, H.K. & R.S. Williams. 1997. Darwin Harbour fishes: a survey and annotated checklist. In Hanley, J.R., Caswell, G., Megirian, D. & Larson, H.K. (eds.), Proceedings of the Sixth International Marine Biological Workshop. The Marine Flora and Fauna of Darwin Harbour, Northern Territory, Australia. Mus. Art. Galler. N. Terr. and Aust. Sci. Assoc. 1997: 339–380.

Paulus, T. 1999. Family Syngnathidae. pp 2264-2276, In Carpenter K.E. & V.H. Niem (eds.) The Living Marine Resources of the Western Central Pacific. FAO Species Identification Guide For Fisheries Purposes. FAO Vol. 4. pp 2069-2790.

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

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

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37282088

Species Maps

CAAB distribution map