Robust Ghostpipefish, Solenostomus cyanopterus Bleeker 1855

Other Names: Ghost Pipefish, Racek's Ghost Pipefish, Robust Ghost Pipefish, Robust Ghost-pipefish, Rough-snout Ghostpipefish, Squaretail Ghost-pipefish

A Robust Ghostpipefish, Solenostomus cyanopterus, in Nelson Bay, New South Wales. Source: Dave Harasti / License: All rights reserved


Robust Ghostpipefish are very well-camouflaged and closely mimic algae or seagrass leaves. This large species has a long tubular snout, a very short caudal peduncle, and varies in colour from red, yellow, brown to green, often with  darker mottling.

Video of a pair of Robust Ghostpipefish in the Philippines.

Fabulous footage of male Robust Ghostpipefish fighting over a female at Pante Parigi, Lembeh Straits, Sulawesi, depth 21 metres.

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. & Thompson, V.J. 2021, Solenostomus cyanopterus in Fishes of Australia, accessed 16 Apr 2024,

Robust Ghostpipefish, Solenostomus cyanopterus Bleeker 1855

More Info


Shark Bay region to NE of the Monte Bello Islands, Western Australia, and the northern Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, to Shellharbour, New South Wales; also Christmas Island in the eastern Indian Ocean. Elsewhere the species is widespread in the tropical Indo-west Pacific, from East Africa and the Red Sea, eastwards to Fiji and southern Japan, and south to Australia. 

Inhabits shallow protected coral and rocky reefs, along with deep, clear estuaries with seagrass or macro-algae at depths to 28m. Individuals or pairs are often seen head, mimicking algae or seagrass leaves.


Dorsal fin V,18-20; Anal fin 18-20; Pectoral fin 25-27; Pelvic fin 7; Caudal fin 16; bony plates between dorsal fin and interorbital 5; body rings posterior to dorsal fin 25.

Head and body encased in a series of bony stellate plates, elongate, laterally compressed, mouth long, tubular, with small recurved spines on lateral corners; some elaborate skin membranes on snout but not body; caudal peduncle very short, deepening with age.

Two widely separate dorsal fins, the first spinous and elongate, the second rounded and composed of unbranched rays; pelvic fins elongate, fan-like, united to form a brood pouch in females; dorsal fin spines delicate, membranes not incised; caudal fin fan-like, membranes not or slightly incised; caudal fin enlarged and deepened over the caudal peduncle.


To 16 cm. Adult males are smaller and more slender than females.


Robust Ghostpipefish are well-camouflaged and highly variable in colour, ranging from overall reddish, purplish, green, yellow, brownish, often with mottled patterns on fins. Individuals in seagrass beds tend to be greenish, resembling seagrass leaves; those on deeper reefs are often brownish-red or blackish.


Ghost pipefishes are ambush predators, and feed on small benthic and pelagic invertebrates, especially crustaceans such as mysid shrimps which they suck in through their long tubular snout.


The sexes are separate, and males and females are sexually dimorphic. Females grow to a larger size than males, and have larger pelvic fins which unite to form a ventral brood pouch (marsupium).

Ghostpipefish are skin-brooders, and the embryos develop inside egg envelopes attached to special skin cells called cotylephores. The well-developed larvae hatch at approximately 3 mm with pigmented eyes, a fully formed mouth and advanced body spination.


Ghostpipefishes are rarely collected for the aquarium industry as they are difficult to keep in captivity.


Marine listed under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).

Listed as "protected" under the NSW Fisheries Management Act 1994.


Robust Ghostpipefish are solitary or live in pairs.

Similar Species

Similar to Solenostomus armatus, which is more slender and has a distinct caudal peduncle.


The specific name cyanopterus is from the Greek kyanos (= blue) and pteron (= wing) in reference to the large dark bluish-black spots on the dorsal fin.

Species Citation

Solenostoma cyanopterus Bleeker, 1855, Nat. Tijdschr. Ned. Ind. 8: 434. Type locality: Wahai, Ceram, Indonesia.


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


Atlas of Living Australia

Robust Ghostpipefish, Solenostomus cyanopterus Bleeker 1855


Allen, G.R. 1997. Marine Fishes of Tropical Australia and South-east Asia. Perth : Western Australian Museum 292 pp. 106 pls. 

Allen, G.R. 2000. Fishes of Christmas Island, Indian Ocean. Records of the Western Australian Museum Supplement 59: 83-95.

Allen, G.R. & Erdmann, M.V. 2012. Reef fishes of the East Indies. Perth : Tropical Reef Research 3 vols, 1260 pp.

Allen, G.R., Steene, R.C. & Orchard, M. 2007. Fishes of Christmas Island. Christmas Island : Christmas Island Natural History Association 2 edn, 284 pp.  

Allen, G.R. & Swainston, R. 1988. The Marine Fishes of North-Western Australia. A field guide for anglers and divers. Perth, WA : Western Australian Museum vi 201 pp., 70 pls. 

Bleeker, P. 1854. Vijfde bijdrage tot de kennis der ichthyologische fauna van Amboina. Natuurkundig Tijdschrift voor Nederlandsch Indië 6: 455-508 See ref at BHL

Dick, K. & Pollom, R. 2016. Solenostomus cyanopterus (errata version published in 2017). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T65363316A115407689. Downloaded on 01 March 2021.

Fritzsche, R.A. & Thiesfeld, K.G. 1999. Family Solenostomidae. 2263 in Carpenter, K.E. & Niem, T.H. (eds). The Living Marine Resources of the Western Central Pacific. FAO Species Identification Guide for Fisheries Purposes. Rome : FAO Vol. 4 pp. 2069-2790.

Gerlach, O. 2009. Colour change in the ghost pipefish Solenostomus cyanopterus. Phelsuma 17: 59-60.

Hobbs, J-P.A., Newman, S.J., Mitsopoulos, G.E.A., Travers, M.J., Skepper, C.L., Gilligan, J.J., Allen, G.R., Choat, H.J. & Ayling, A.M. 2014. Checklist and new records of Christmas Island fishes: the influence of isolation, biogeography and habitat availability on species abundance and community composition. Raffles Bulletin of Zoology Supplement 30: 184–202

Johnson, J.W. 2010. Fishes of the Moreton Bay Marine Park and adjacent continental shelf waters, Queensland, Australia. pp. 299-353 in Davie, P.J.F. & Phillips, J.A. Proceedings of the Thirteenth International Marine Biological Workshop, The Marine Fauna and Flora of Moreton Bay. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum 54(3) 

Kuiter, R.H. 1992. Tropical Reef-Fishes of the Western Pacific, Indonesia and Adjacent Waters. Jakarta : PT Gramedia Pustaka Utama 314 pp. pls. 

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. (misidentified as Solenostomus armatus)

Kuiter, R.H. 2000. Seahorses, Pipefishes and Their Relatives. Chorleywood, UK : TMC Publishing 240 pp. (considered specimens from Sydney as Solenostomus paegnius)

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

Orr, J.W., Fritzsche, R.A. & Randall, J.E. 2002. Solenostomus halimeda, a new species of ghost pipefish (Teleostei: Gasterosteiformes) from the Indo-Pacific, with a revised key to the known species of the family Solenostomidae. Aqua, Journal of Ichthyology and Aquatic Biology 5(3): 99-108 

Orr, J.W. & Fritzsche, R.A. 1993. Revision of the ghost pipefishes, family Solenostomidae (Teleostei: Syngnathoidei). Copeia 1993(1): 168-182 

Orr, J.W. & Pietsch, T.W. 1994. Pipefishes and their allies. pp. 168-172 in Paxton, J.R. & Eschmeyer, W.N. Encyclopedia of Fishes. Sydney : University of New South Wales Press 240 pp. 

Padmanabhan, K.G. 1961. Early development of Solenostomus cyanopterus. Bulletin of the Research Institute, University of Kerala 8: 1-13

Randall, J.E. 2005. Reef and shore fishes of the South Pacific. New Caledonia to Tahiti and the Pitcairn Islands. Honolulu : University of Hawaii Press 707 pp. 

Randall, J.E., Allen, G.R. & Steene, R. 1990. Fishes of the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea. Bathurst : Crawford House Press 507 pp. figs. 

Randall, J.E., Allen, G.R. & Steene, R. 1997. Fishes of the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea. Bathurst : Crawford House Press 557 pp. figs. 

Trnski, T. & Leis, J.M. 2000. Solenostomidae (Ghost Pipefish). pp. 213-216 in Leis, J.M. & Carson-Ewart, B.M. The larvae of Indo-Pacific coastal fishes. An identification guide to marine fish larvae. Fauna Malesiana Handbooks Leiden : Brill Vol. 2 870 pp. 

Wetzel, J. & Wourms, J.P. 1995. Adaptations for reproduction and development in the skin-brooding ghost pipefishes, Solenostomus. Environmental Biology of Fishes 44: 363-384.

Whitley, G.P. 1955. Opus CCC. The Australian Zoologist 12(2): 154-159 figs 1-7 (described as Solenichthys raceki)

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37281001

Conservation:IUCN Least Concern

Depth:0-28 m

Habitat:Reef associated

Max Size:15 cm TL

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Species Maps

CAAB distribution map