Smooth Pipefish, Lissocampus caudalis Waite & Hale 1921

Other Names: Australian Smooth Pipefish

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


A tan to dark brown pipefish with mottled brown or white markings, often diffuse dark bands and pale interspaces, and usually a dark basal blotch on the front of the dorsal fin. Although the Smooth pipefish is widespread along Australia’s southern coast, it is rarely seen due to its small size and cryptic coloration.

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. & Thompson, V.J. 2021, Lissocampus caudalis in Fishes of Australia, accessed 19 May 2024,

Smooth Pipefish, Lissocampus caudalis Waite & Hale 1921

More Info


Endemic to southern Australia, from Corner Inlet, Victoria, northern Tasmania and the Bass Strait Islands, across southern Australia, to Cervantes, north of Perth, Western Australia.

Inhabits shallow bays and estuaries, in low algal-covered rubble reefs, macroalgal beds, seagrass beds (Amphibolus, Heterozostera, Posidonia, Zostera), tidepools, rocky outcrops, beneath 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 found in floating Sargassum.


Dorsal fin 13–14; Anal fin 3–4; Pectoral fin 5–6; Caudal fin 10; Trunk rings 12–14; Tail rings 51–60

Body very elongate, 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; superior 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.

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.


Feeds on small crustaceans - harpacticoid copepods and gammarid amphipods. 


Adults are usually found in pairs, and males brood the 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.  

Two males examined had pouches containing 49 and 54 eggs.


Occasionally taken as bycatch in trawls and dredges.


IUCN Red List Status: Least Concern.

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

The Smooth Pipefish differs from the Javelin Pipefish, Lissocampus runa, in having a straight dorsal snout profile (vs a concave snout) and 51–60 tail rings (vs. 45-49 rings), distinguishing it from all other species in the genus.


The specific name is from the Latin caudalis (= of the tail) in reference to the “almost round and very long” tail of this species.

Species Citation

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


Bray, D.J. & Thompson, V.J. 2021


Atlas of Living Australia

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 See ref at BHL

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

Dawson, C.E. 1994. Family Syngnathidae. pp. 440-475 figs 391-426 in Gomon, M.F., Glover, C.J.M. & Kuiter, R.H. (eds). The Fishes of Australia's South Coast. Adelaide : State Printer 992 pp. 810 figs.

Hamilton, H., Saarman, N., Short, G., Sellas, A.B., Moore, B., Hoang, T., Grace, T.C.L., Gomon, M., Crow, K. & Simison, W.B. 2016. Molecular phylogeny and patterns of diversification in syngnathid fishes. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 107: 388-403 + supplement 1-4 + 5.

Hoschke, A., Whisson, G. & Moore, G.I. 2019. Complete list of fishes from Rottnest Island. pp. 150-161 in Whisson, G. & Hoschke, A. (eds) The Rottnest Island fish book. 2nd ed. Perth : Aqua Research and Monitoring Services.

Hutchins, J.B. 1994. A survey of the nearshore reef fish fauna of Western Australia's west and south coasts — The Leeuwin Province. Records of the Western Australian Museum, Supplement 46: 1-66 figs 1-6

Kendrick, A.J.& Hyndes, G.A. 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. 

Kendrick, A.J. & Hyndes, G.A. 2005. Variations in the dietary compositions of morphologically diverse syngnathid fishes. Environmental Biology of Fishes 72: 415-427.

Kuiter, R.H. 1993. Coastal Fishes of South-eastern Australia. Bathurst : Crawford House Press 437 pp. 

Kuiter, R.H. 1996. Guide to Sea Fishes of Australia. A comprehensive reference for divers and fishermen. Sydney, NSW, Australia : New Holland Publishers xvii, 434 pp. 

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

Kuiter, R.H. 2008. Syngnathidae. pp. 448-479 in Gomon, M.F., Bray, D.J. & Kuiter, R.H. (eds). Fishes of Australia's Southern Coast. Sydney : Reed New Holland 928 pp. 

Kuiter, R.H. 2009. Seahorses and their relatives. Seaford, Australia : Aquatic Photographics pp. 331. 

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

Pollom, R. & Qian, Y. 2016. Lissocampus caudalis. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T65370051A67624150. Downloaded on 30 January 2019.

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

Scott, T.D., Glover, C.J.M. & Southcott, R.V. 1974. The Marine and Freshwater Fishes of South Australia. Adelaide : Government Printer 392 pp. figs.

Waite, E.R. & Hale, H.M. 1921. Review of the lophobranchiate fishes (pipe-fishes and sea-horses) of South Australia. Records of the South Australian Museum (Adelaide) 1(4): 293-324 figs 39-56 See ref at BHL

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37282016

Biology:Males brood the eggs

Conservation:IUCN Least Concern; EPBC Act Marine Listed

Depth:0-37 (usually above 15 m)

Habitat:Reef associated, sand/rubble, seagrass/algae

Max Size:11 cm

Species Image Gallery

Species Maps

CAAB distribution map