Halfbanded Pipefish, Mitotichthys semistriatus (Kaup 1856)

Other Names: Half-banded Pipefish

A group of male Halfbanded Pipefish, Mitotichthys semistriatus. Source: Rudie Kuiter / Aquatic Photographics. License: All rights reserved


The Halfbanded Pipefish lives in very shallow seagrass and eelgrass beds in southern Australia.

Cite this page as:
Dianne J. Bray & Vanessa Thompson, Mitotichthys semistriatus in Fishes of Australia, accessed 02 Dec 2020,

Halfbanded Pipefish, Mitotichthys semistriatus (Kaup 1856)

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Endemic to temperate southern Australian waters from Western Port, Victoria to South Australia, also recorded from Bass Strait and southeastern Tasmania; reports of this species in South Australia have not been verified.

Habitat: Halfbanded Pipefish often aggregate in small groups in shallow seagrass and eelgrass beds in less than 10 m, preferring tall seagrasses in very protected areas, usually just below the intertidal zone. In Port Phillip Bay, the species was found in shallow seagrass beds depths of less than a metre, and were present in eelgrass year round in Western Port, Victoria.


Meristics: D 36–40; P 12–14; A 2–3; C 10; trunk rings 19–20; tail rings 46–50; subdorsal rings 4.00–2.75 + 6.25–7.50 = 9.25–10.75.

Head and body: Body elongated, trunk moderately shallow, somewhat deeper in adult females than adult males, upper profile slightly convex near dorsal-fin base; head aligned with body; snout long, 52–63% HL; snout depth 9–17% snout length; median dorsal snout ridge low, entire; opercle without distinct longitudinal ridge in subadults and adults; superior trunk and tail ridges discontinuous; lateral trunk ridge straight, ends near anal ring; inferior trunk and tail ridges continuous; principle body ridges entire, low on trunk, a little elevated on distal half or more of tail; scutella not keeled; without dermal flaps; tail not prehensile.

Fins: Dorsal-fin origin on trunk, closer to tip of snout than to tip of tail, fin base of moderate length; pectoral-fin base without distinct ridges; anal fin tiny, below front half of dorsal fin; caudal fin very small.


To 275 mm SL.


Overall greenish-yellow, purplish or brownish with a dark stripe from the interorbital to dorsal-fin origin; head with a broad dark stripe laterally and a dark-margined pale stripe below. Mature males and females are sexually dimorphic: females have small ocelli in a dark stripe above the lateral trunk ring, males have a few minute ocelli high on the trunk and the lateral trunk and tail ridges are pale to near white.


Individuals in Western Port, Victoria have been reported feeding mostly on tiny crustaceans, including pelagic or epibenthic copepods and small epibenthic amphipods.


Reproduction: Ovoviviparous (gives birth to live young) with eggs brooded by males in an enclosed brood pouch under the tail just behind the anal fin; pouch plates vestigial or absent, pouch folds present with everted pouch closure; males likely to be brooding at 139.5 mm SL.

Eggs: Not described; 64 eggs have been recorded in the brood pouch of a gravid male from Western Port.

Larvae: Body rings present at an early stage, reduced anal fin.


Of no interest to fisheries or aquaculture.


CITES: not listed.

IUCN Red List Status: not evaluated.

Australian Commonwealth legislation: Marine listed under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).

State Legislation: Listed as protected under the Victorian, Tasmanian and South Australian Fisheries Management Acts.


Halfbanded Pipefish rest horizontally amongst eelgrass leaves. They have a well-developed caudal fin and are relatively strong swimmers, actively swimming towards their prey.

Similar Species

Morphologically similar to M. mollisoni with which it shares the pale lateral head stripe and number of trunk and subdorsal rings. M. semistriatus has a greater number of dorsal fin rays (36-40 vs 28) and fewer pectoral fin rays (12-14 vs 18 in M. mollisoni).


Mitotichthys is from the Greek mitis -e (soft), ous, otis (ear) and ichthys (fish). The specific name semistriatus refers to the dark stripe running halfway along the body from the interorbital region to the dorsal-fin origin.

Species Citation

Leptonotus semistriatus Kaup 1856, Cat. Lophobranchiate Fish: 48, type locality unknown.


Dianne J. Bray & Vanessa Thompson

Halfbanded Pipefish, Mitotichthys semistriatus (Kaup 1856)


Dawson, C.E. 1984. Synopsis of Australian pipefishes usually referred to the syngnathine (tail-pouch) genera Syngnathus, Leptonotus and Histiogamphelus. Mem. Mus. Vic. 45: 71-123, Pls. 1-9.

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

Edgar, G.J. & C. Shaw. 1995. The production and tropic ecology of shallow-water fish assemblages in Southern Australia. II. Diets of fishes and trophic relationships between fishes and benthos at Western Port, Victoria. J. Exp. Mar. Biol. Ecol. 194: 83-106.

Howard, R.K. & J.D. Koehn. 1985. Population dynamics and feeding ecology of pipefish (Syngnathidae) associated with eelgrass beds of Western Port, Victoria. Aust. J. Mar. Freshwat. Res. 36(3): 361-370.

Kaup, J.J. 1856. Catalogue of the Lophobranchiate Fish in the collection of the British Museum. British Museum, London. 76 pp.

Kuiter, R.H. 2009. Seahorses and their relatives. Aquatic Photographics, Seaford, Australia. Pp. 1–333.

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

Paxton, J.R., J.E. Gates, D.F. Hoese & D.J. Bray. 2006. Syngnathidae (Pp. 810–846). In  Beesley, P.L. & Wells, A. (Eds) Zoological Catalogue of Australia. Volume 35. Fishes. ABRS & CSIRO Publishing, Australia., 3 vols.

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.

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