Reeftop Pipefish, Corythoichthys haematopterus (Bleeker 1851)

Other Names: Reef-top Pipefish, Yellowstreaked Pipefish

A Reeftop Pipefish, Corythoichthys haematopterus, at Raja Ampat, West Papua, Indonesia. Source: Paddy Ryan / License: All rights reserved


Reeftop Pipefish are pale with dark wavy lines forming a network-like pattern, about 15 dusky pale-centred bands encircling the body and a reddish tail edged in white. Males develop three to five speckles alternated by lateral stripes of brilliant light blue and orange on the underside of the thorax. Adults are usually seen in pairs or in small groups, and breeding pairs form strong life-long attachments.

Cite this page as:
Vanessa J. Thompson & Dianne J. Bray, Corythoichthys haematopterus in Fishes of Australia, accessed 20 Jul 2024,

Reeftop Pipefish, Corythoichthys haematopterus (Bleeker 1851)

More Info


Tropical Indo-west Pacific, from East Africa to Vanuatu and Fiji, southern Japan and northern Australia; inhabits protected rubble and sandy areas in shallow reef lagoons, reef flats and fore-reef slopes at 1-21 m, mostly above 5 metres.


Meristics: D 23-33; P 13-18; Trunk rings 16-18; Tail rings 32-37.

Head and body: Head length in SL 6.3-9.4, snout length in HL 1.9-2.4, snout depth in snout length 3.8-8.0; prenuchal and nuchal ridges smooth; median snout ridge usually with slight dorsal emargination; eye prominent; ridges smooth to finely granular in subadults and adults

Fins: Dorsal fin origin at or before the anterior margin of the first tail ring; dorsal fin base in HL 1.1-1.7.


Reaches 180 mm TL


Colour pattern is variable; body pale with dark blotches consisting of reticulate black lines/bars crossing the dorsal surface and side of body; bars diminishing or lacking on distal third of the tail; snout with dark spots; head with a dark stripes; caudal fin mainly pink.


Feeds mainly on swarming planktonic copepods, but also on cumaceans, amphipods, isopods, tanaids, barnacle larvae and ostracods.


Reproduction: Ovoviviparous (gives birth to live young). Pairs maintain strong bonds and mate monogamously while both partners are alive. Mating partners greet each other each morning and this ritual is thought to maintain the monogamous bond.

The eggs are brooded by the males in a pouch under the tail. The pouch protects the dorsal surface and side of the egg mass, leaving the ventral surface exposed. Males begin brooding at 94 mm TL and carry eggs for 9-19 days until the eggs hatch. Several broods are reared each season with non-brooding intervals of only 1 or 2 days.

Eggs: Eggs are deposited in 2-17 transverse rows within a gelatinous matrix; females give one male their entire clutch as a single sheet of eggs.

Larvae: Pelagic; morphologically similar to the adults; ridges spiny in planktonic juveniles.


Sometimes collected for the aquarium trade.


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

Similar Species

Corythoichthys haematopterus is similar to C. intestinalis but modally has 17 trunk rings vs. 16 in the latter. Most C. haematopterus specimens lack the prominent dark markings on the posterior tail rings that are present in C. intestinalis, while markings on the underside of the anterior trunk rings are usually darker and most prominent in C. haematopterus.


Corythoichthys is from the Greek, korys, korythos for helmet and ichtys meaning fish.

Species Citation

Syngnathus haematopterus Bleeker 1851, Nat. Tijds. Ned. Indië 2: 258, Banda Neira, Banda Islands, Indonesia.


Vanessa J. Thompson & Dianne J. Bray

Reeftop Pipefish, Corythoichthys haematopterus (Bleeker 1851)


Bleeker, P. 1851. Bijdrage tot de kennis der ichthyologische fauna van de Banda-eilanden. Nat. Tijds. Ned. Indië 2: 225-261.

Dawson, C.E. 1977. Review of the Pipefish genus Corythoichthys with description of three new species. Copeia 1977(2): 295-338

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

Kimura, S., K. Matsuura (eds.) 2003. Fishes of Bitung, northern tip of Sulawesi, Indonesia. 2003: 244 pp.

Kuiter, R.H. 2000. Seahorses, Pipefishes and their Relatives. Chorleywood, UK: TMC Publishing. 240 pp.

Kuiter, R.H. & T. Tonozuka. 2001. Pictorial guide to Indonesian reef fishes. Part 1. Eels- Snappers, Muraenidae - Lutjanidae. Zoonetics, Australia. 302 pp.

Matsumoto, K., Sogabe, A. & Yanagisawa, Y. 2010. Male Ornamentation in a Sex-Role Reversed Pipefish Corythoichthys haematopterus. Ethology 116: 226–232. doi: 10.1111/j.1439-0310.2009.01730.x Abstract

Matsumoto, K. & Y. Yanagisawa. 2001. Monogamy and sex role reversal in the pipefish Corythoichthys haematopterus. Animal Behaviour 61(1): 163-170.

Myers, R.F. 1999. Micronesian reef fishes: a comprehensive guide to the coral reef fishes of Micronesia, 3rd revised and expanded edition. Coral Graphics, Barrigada, Guam. 330 pp.

Michael, S.W. 1998. Reef Fishes Volume 1. A Guide to Their Identification, Behaviour and Captive Care. Microcosm Ltd. Shellbourne, Vermont 624 pp.

Paulus, T. 1999. Family Syngnathidae pp 2264-2276 In: Capenter 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: 2069-2790.

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.

Sogabe, A. & Y.Yanagisawa. 2007. The function of daily greetings in a monogamous pipefish Corythoichthys haematopterus. J. Fish Biol. 71(2): 585-595.

Whiteman, E.A. & I.M. Côté. 2004. Monogamy in marine fishes. Biol. Rev. 79: 351-375.

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37282048

Biology:Males brood the eggs

Depth:1-21 m

Habitat:Reef associated

Max Size:18 cm

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