Deepbody Pipefish, Kaupus costatus (Waite & Hale 1921)

Other Names: Deep-bodied Pipefish, Deep-body Pipefish

A female Deepbody Pipefish, Kaupus costatus, at Port Broughton, Yorke Peninsula, South Australia. Source: David Muirhead / Marine Life Society of South Australia (MLSSA) via ALA. License: CC BY Attribution-Noncommercial-ShareAlike


A reddish to reddish-brown pipefish with tiny blue, yellow and white dots on the back, and  fine wavy lines on the head and tail. The deep-bodied females have bluish streaks, bars and small ocelli above the lateral trunk ridge, and prominent blue markings on each trunk ring below the lateral ridge.

Cite this page as:
Thompson, V.J. & Bray, D.J., 2021, Kaupus costatus in Fishes of Australia, accessed 24 May 2024,

Deepbody Pipefish, Kaupus costatus (Waite & Hale 1921)

More Info


Southern Australia from Bruthen Creek to Corner Inlet, Victoria, Flinders Island, Tasmania, and Kangaroo Island to the northern Gulf St Vincent, and west to Davenport Creek, Great Australian Bight, South Australia.

Inhabits sheltered intertidal and shallow areas with algal and seagrass beds, and mangroves, at depths to 10 m. The species is most common among the seagrass Zostera.


Dorsal fin 30-36; Anal fin 3-4; Pectoral fin 9-11; Caudal fin 7-10; Trunk rings 16-18; Tail rings 35-38; Subdorsal rings 5.75-4.25 + 2.50-4.50 = 8.00-9.25.

Body very elongate, trunk expanded strongly dorso-ventrally in adult females, depth much greater than in males; head aligned with body; snout of moderate length, 32-40% HL, depth 32-56% snout length; median dorsal snout ridge confluent with supraorbital ridges; opercular ridge straight, crossing half or more of opercles in subadults and adults; superior trunk ridge and superior tail ridge discontinuous near rear of dorsal-fin base; inferior trunk ridge and inferior tail ridge continuous; lateral trunk ridge not confluent with tail ridges; tail not prehensile.

Dorsal fin much closer to head than to tip of tail, base moderately long; anal fin tiny, below rear half of dorsal fin; caudal fin small, rounded; pectoral fin present.


Reaches 135 mm TL.


Red or reddish brown with tiny blue, yellow and white dots dorsally; head and tail with fine wavy marks of similar colours. Subadults and adult males sometimes have narrow, near-black, mid-lateral stripe on anterior half of tail. Adult females have bluish streaks, bars and small ocelli above lateral trunk ridge, and with prominent blue on each trunk ring below lateral ridge.


Presumably feeds on small benthic and panktonic crustaceans.


Breeds in during late Spring and Summer. The eggs are brooded by the males in an enclosed pouch on the underside of the tail just behind anal fin. The pouch has thick skin and folds along the ventral midline with overlapping and interlocking pouch flaps which completely cover the developing eggs; males likely to be brooding at 86.5 mm SL.

Eggs undescribed; brood size small, from 3- 25 eggs. Newly hatched larvae measure 15 mm TL.


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

All species of the Syngnathidae are protected under the Victorian, Tasmanian and South Australian Fisheries Management Acts.

K. costatus is habitat specific, and is only found in quiet seagrass beds in silty yet clear-water environments. The decline of Zostera seagrass habitats has contributed to the rarity of this species.


Similar Species

The strongly expanded trunk in adult females is unique.


The specific name is from the Latin costatus (= ribbed), possibly in reference to the bars along the side of females.

Species Citation

Leptonotus costatus Waite & Hale  1921, Rec. S. Aust. Mus. 1(4): 301, fig. 43. Type locality: Spencer Gulf, South Australia.


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


Atlas of Living Australia

Deepbody Pipefish, Kaupus costatus (Waite & Hale 1921)


Coleman, N. 1980. Australian Sea Fishes - South of 30°S. Doubleday Australia, Lane Cove, NSW.

Dawson, C.E. 1984. Synopsis of Australian pipefishes usually referred to the syngnathine (tail-pouch) genera Syngnathus, Leptonotus and Histiogamphelus. Memoirs of the Museum of Victoria 45: 71-123, Pls. 1-9. See ref at BHL

Dawson, C.E. 1985. Indo-Pacific Pipefishes (Red Sea to the Americas). Ocean Springs (Mississippi) : Gulf Coast Research Laboratory 230 pp. 293 figs pl. 1. 

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., et al. 2016. Molecular phylogeny and patterns of diversification in syngnathid fishes. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 107: 388-403 + supplement 1-4 + 5

Jenkins, G.P., May, H.M.A., Wheatley, M.J. & Holloway, M.G. 1997. Comparison of fish assemblages associated with seagrass and adjacent unvegetated habitats of Port Phillip Bay and Corner Inlet, Victoria, Australia, with Emphasis on Commercial Species. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science 44: 569–588

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

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

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

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

Pollom, R. 2016. Kaupus costatus (errata version published in 2017). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T65369161A115425031. Accessed on 21 December 2021.

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

Whitley, G.P. 1951. Studies in Ichthyology No. 15. Records of the Australian Museum 22(4): 389-408 figs 1-14 [as Acentronotus (Kaupus) costatus]

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37282014

Biology:Males brood the eggs

Conservation:IUCN Least Concern

Depth:1-10 m

Habitat:Seagrass, algal beds

Max Size:13.5 cm TL

Species Image Gallery

Species Maps

CAAB distribution map