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 very distinctive pipefish with a deep square snout and a very high ridge extending along the top of the snout 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.

Cite this page as:
Vanessa J. Thompson & Dianne J. Bray, Histiogamphelus cristatus in Fishes of Australia, accessed 19 Jan 2020,

Rhino Pipefish, Histiogamphelus cristatus (Macleay 1881)

More Info


Endemic to temperate waters of southern Australia, from a specimen washed ashore at a beach near the mouth of the Glenelg River, South Australia to Fremantle, Western Australia. Rhino Pipefishes inhabit inshore seagrass beds that border open sandy and rubble substrates, at depths of 1-17 m.


Meristic features: 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.


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


Carnivores - 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.


Histiogamphelus is from the Greek istion or istos meaning 'sail', and gamphela meaning 'jaw'. The specific name cristatus is from the Latin crista (ridge). Both names refer to the well-developed snout ridge.

Species Citation

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


Vanessa J. Thompson & Dianne J. Bray

Rhino Pipefish, Histiogamphelus cristatus (Macleay 1881)


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.

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

Hoese, D.F., D.J. Bray, J.R. Paxton & G.R. Allen. 2006. Fishes. In Beesley, P.L. & A. Wells (eds). Zoological Catalogue of Australia. Volume 35. ABRS & CSIRO Publishing: Australia. 2178 pp.

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

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.

Pogonoski, J.J., D.A. Pollard & J.R. Paxton. 2002. Conservation Overview and Action Plan for Australian Threatened and Potentially Threatened Marine and Estuarine Fishes. Environment Australia, Canberra. 375 pp.

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37282081

Biology:Males brood the eggs

Conservation:EPBC Act: Marine listed

Depth:1-17 m

Habitat:Sand, seagrass

Max Size:28 cm


Species Maps

CAAB distribution map