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:
Dianne J Bray & Vanessa J Thompson, Solenostomus cyanopterus in Fishes of Australia, accessed 05 Dec 2020,

Robust Ghostpipefish, Solenostomus cyanopterus Bleeker 1855

More Info


Widespread in the tropical Indo-west Pacific, from East Africa and the Red Sea, eastwards to Fiji and southern Japan, and south to Australia. Known in Australian waters from the Shark Bay region, Western Australia, around the tropical north and southwards to at least Sydney Harbour, New South Wales. Robust Ghostpipefish live in protected coastal and lagoon reefs, deeper coastal reefs and deep, clear estuaries with seagrass or macro-algae in 15-25m.


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 crustaceans such as mysid shrimps which they suck in through their tubular snouts.


The sexes are separate, and males and females are sexually dimorphic. Females grow to a large size than males, and have larger pelvic fins which unite to form a ventral brood pouch (marsupium). Ghostpipefishes 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. See the Ghostpipefish family page (family Solenostomidae) for more information on reproduction.


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.


Solenostomus is from the Greek soleno, meaning tubelike, and stoma, meaning mouth. The specific name cyanopterus is from the Greek kyan and pteron, meaning blue spot, in reference to the large dark blue-black spots on the dorsal fin.

Species Citation

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


Dianne J Bray & Vanessa J Thompson

Robust Ghostpipefish, Solenostomus cyanopterus Bleeker 1855


Allen, G.R., R.C. Steene & M. Orchard. 2007. Fishes of Christmas Island. 2nd Ed. Christmas Island Natural History Association, 284 p.

Fritzsche R.A. & Thiesfeld K.G. (1999) Family Solenostomidae. p. 2263. In Carpenter K.E. & Niem V.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.

Hoese DF, Bray DJ, Paxton JR & Allen GR (2006) Fishes. In Beesley PL & Wells A (eds) Zoological catalogue of Australia. Volume 35 ABRS & CSIRO Publishing: Australia Part 1, pp xxiv 1-670; Part 2, pp xxi 671-1472; Part 3 pp xxi 1473-2178

Kuiter R.H. (1993) Coastal Fishes of South-eastern Australia. Crawford House Press, Bathurst. 437 p.

Kuiter R.H. (1996) Guide to Sea Fishes of Australia. New Holland Ltd Sydney 433 p.

Kuiter, R. H. 2009. Seahorses and their relatives. Aquatic Photographics, Seaford, Australia. 333 p.

Orr, J.W., R.A. Fritzsche & J.E. Randall. 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. & Pietsch T.W. (1994) Pipefishes and their allies. In Paxton J.R. & Eschmeyer W.N. (eds.) Encyclopedia of Fishes. University of New South Wales Press, Sydney.

Padmanabhan KG (1961) Early development of Solenostomus cyanopterus Blkr. Bull Central Res Inst Kerala Trivandrum Ser C 8:1–13, pls 1–3.

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37281001

Conservation:EPBC Act Marine Listed

Depth:4-21 m

Habitat:Reef associated

Max Size:15 cm TL

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Species Maps

CAAB distribution map