Rhino Pipefish, Histiogamphelus cristatus (Macleay 1881)

Other Names: Aldinga Pipefish, Cocks-comb Pipefish, Macleays Crested Pipefish, Macleay's Crested Pipefish, Spotted Crested Pipefish

Head of a Rhino Pipefish, Histiogamphelus cristatus - at Normanville, Gulf St Vincent, South Australia. Source: Graham Short. License: CC BY Attribution-Noncommercial-ShareAlike


A distinctive pipefish with a deep square snout and a very high ridge extending along the top to beyond the eyes. Rhino Pipefish are a dark mottled colour pattern, and closely resemble straps of the decaying and encrusted seagrass leaves they live amongst. 

Females have a prominent blue to pearly blotch on most trunk rings above and below the lateral ridge. Males are plain brownish or with diffuse irregular shading, mottling and blotches. The snout tip is often pale in adults of both sexes.

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. & Thompson, V.J. 2020, Histiogamphelus cristatus in Fishes of Australia, accessed 17 Apr 2024, https://fishesofaustralia.net.au/home/species/3108

Rhino Pipefish, Histiogamphelus cristatus (Macleay 1881)

More Info


Endemic to southern Australia, from Off Victor Harbour, South Australia, to Green Head, Jurien Bay, Western Australia. 

Inhabits seagrass beds and adjacent open sandy and rubble areas with patches of seagrass and detritus in estuaries and shallow protected waters, at depths of 1-17 m.


Dorsal fin 23–26; Anal fin 3–4; Pectoral fin 11–13; Caudal fin 10; Trunk rings 18–20; Tail rings 28–31; Subdorsal rings 6.00–5.00 + 1.25–3.00 = 6.50–7.50.

Body slender, elongate, trunk shallow; head aligned with body, snout moderately long, 35-42% of head length, and deep, 53–100% snout length; median dorsal snout ridge high and plate-like, straight to somewhat rounded in adult females, higher and usually strongly angular in adult males; superior trunk and tail ridges discontinuous near rear of dorsal-fin base; lateral trunk ridge not confluent with tail ridges; tail not prehensile.

Dorsal fin single, closer to head than to tail tip, fin base of moderate length; anal fin tiny, below rear half of dorsal fin; caudal fin very small, rounded; pectoral fins small; pelvic fins absent.


Rhino Pipefish grow to about 28 cm in length.


Females are reddish brown with a prominent blue to pearly blotch on most trunk rings above and below the lateral ridge. Males are plain brownish or with diffuse irregular shading, mottling and blotches. The snout tip is often pale in adults of both sexes.


Likely to feed on small crustaceans.


Male Rhino Pipefish brood their dveloping young in a specialised brood pouch under the tail just behind the anal fin. Pouch folds are present and the pouch closure is everted. Males may begin brooding at 136 mm SL. Eggs and larvae have not been described.


Of no interest to fisheries.


IUCN Red List Status: Not evaluated.

EPBC Act1999: Marine Listed

South Australia: Protected


Juveniles, which are often seen amongst broken seagrass in shallow channels, have a distinctive rhino-like hump on the snout.

Similar Species

H. cristatus is most similar to the only other member of the genus, Histiogamphelus briggsii, sharing the characteristic high snout ridge, but has lower ring and fin ray counts. Adult females also have prominent blue to pearly blotches above and below the lateral ridge on most trunk rings and the snout is deeper and more angular in adult males.


The specific name cristatus is from the Latin crista (= crested, ridge), presumably in reference to the “very sharp high ridge” on the upper surface of the snout

Species Citation

Leptoichthys cristatus Macleay 1881, Proc. Linn. Soc. N.S.W. (1)6(2): 296. Type locality: Western Australia.


Bray, D.J. & Thompson, V.J. 2020


Atlas of Living Australia

Rhino Pipefish, Histiogamphelus cristatus (Macleay 1881)


Dawson, C.E. 1984. Synopsis of Australian pipefishes usually referred to the syngnathine (tail-pouch) genera Syngnathus, Leptonotus and Histogamphelus. Memoirs of Museum Victoria 45: 71-123

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. 440–474) In Gomon M.F., C.J.M. Glover & R.H. Kuiter (eds.) The fishes of Australia’s south coast. State Print, Adelaide. 992 pp.

Fujii, I. & Pollom, R. 2016. Histiogamphelus cristatus . The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T65368242A67622410. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-1.RLTS.T65368242A67622410.en. Downloaded on 31 January 2020.

Hale, H.M. 1939. Some fishes hitherto unknown from South Australian waters. South Australian Naturalist 19(4): 1–5, 5 figs. 1 pl. (described as Histiogamphelus maculatus)

Hale, H.M. 1941. A new South Australian pipe fish. South Australian Naturalist 22(2): 10 1 fig. (described as Histiogamphelus gallinaceus)

Hamilton, H., Saarman, N., Short, G., Sellas, A.B., Moore, B., Hoang, T., Grace, 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.

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 56: 1–10.  

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

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

Kuiter, R.H. 2009. Seahorses and Their Relatives. Aquatic Photographics, Seaford, Australia.

Macleay, W.J. 1881. Descriptive catalogue of the fishes of Australia. Part 4. Proceedings of the Linnean Society of New South Wales 1 6(2): 202–387. See ref at BHL

McCulloch, A.R. 1914. Notes on some Australian pipefishes. The Australian Zoologist 1(1): 29-31 figs 1-4

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. (as Histiogamphelus gallinaceus and H. maculatus maculatus)

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37282081

Biology:Males brood the eggs

Conservation:EPBC Act Marine Listed

Conservation:IUCN Least Concern

Depth:1-17 m

Habitat:Sand, seagrass

Max Size:28 cm


Species Maps

CAAB distribution map