Spotted Pipefish, Stigmatopora argus (Richardson 1840)

Other Names: Gulf Pipefish, Peacock Pipefish

A Spotted Pipefish, Stigmatopora argus, at St Leonards, Port Phillip, Victoria. Source: Julian K. Finn / Museum Victoria. License: CC by Attribution

A slender greenish-brown pipefish, usually with evenly scattered small dark or pale spots, sometimes ocellated spots, often covering all but the underside, and an almost prehensile tail that lacks a caudal fin.

Cite this page as:
Dianne J. Bray, Stigmatopora argus in Fishes of Australia, accessed 22 Jan 2020,

Spotted Pipefish, Stigmatopora argus (Richardson 1840)

More Info


Hawkesbury River, NSW (33º30´S) to Shark Bay, WA (25º25´S); temperate.



To 25 cm TL.


Variable in colour - mostly greenish-brown, usually with evenly scattered small dark or pale spots, sometimes ocellated spots, often covering all but the underside; unspotted individuals not uncommon; brood pouch folds of adult males often with longitudinal pale stripes. A fine orange band on the dorsal surface of females becomes more obvious during the breeding season.


Carnivore - feeds on tiny crustaceans such as mysids.


Maximum recorded brood size 41 eggs. 



Although the tail is not prehensile, individuals may curl it loosely around seagrasses and algae. Numbers of trunk rings, dorsal-fin rays and other features are geographically variable; fishes in Tasmania and Western Australia have higher counts and reach a greater length than elsewhere.

Similar Species

Although female Stigmatopora argus lack the exceptionally broad trunk of adult female S. nigra, some individuals have a marginal fleshy fold on the lateral trunk ridge. S. narinosa and S. argus both have elongated narrow, shallow snouts however the snout of S. narinosa is shorter, wider and more elevated. The brood pouch of S. narinosa extends 15–18 rings from the anal ring compared to 14–24 in S. argus, and 12-16 in S. nigra. S. narinosa is distinguished from S. nigra in having 9 rather than 6 sub-dorsal tail rings, a greater average number of dorsal rays (40.8 versus 36), subdorsal tail rings (9.08 versus 6.23) and subdorsal rings (19.8 versus 16.8).


Species Citation

Syngnathus argus Richardson, 1840, Proc. Zool. Soc. London 8: 29. Type locality: Australia, probably TAS.


Dianne J. Bray

Spotted Pipefish, Stigmatopora argus (Richardson 1840)


Castelnau, F.L. de 1872. Contribution to the ichthyology of Australia. 2. Note on some South Australian fishes. Proceedings of the Zoological and Acclimatisation Society of Victoria 1: 243-248.

Dawson, C.E. 1982. Review of the Indo-Pacific pipefish genus Stigmatopora (Syngnathidae). Records of the Australian Museum 34(13): 575-605 figs 1-11

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.

Edgar, G.J. & C. Shaw. 1995. The production and trophic 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.

Klunzinger, C.B. 1872. Zur Fische-fauna von Süd Australien. Archiv für Naturgeschichte 38(1): 17-47 pl. 2

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.

Lucas, A.H.S. 1891. On the occurrence of certain fish in Victorian seas, with descriptions of some new species. Proceedings of the Royal Society of Victoria ns 3(2): 8-14 pl. 3

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 [sometimes cited as 1882]

Parkinson, K.L., D.J. Booth & J.E. Lee. 2012. Validation of otolith daily increment formationfor two temperate syngnathid fishes: the pipefishes Stigmatopora argus and Stigmatopora nigraJournal of Fish Biology 80: 698–704 doi:10.1111/j.1095-8649.2011.03194.x

Richardson, J. 1840. On some new species of fishes from Australia. Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London 8: 25-30.

Steffe, A.S., Westoby, M. & Bell, J.D. 1989. Habitat selection and diet in two species of pipefish from seagrass: sex differences. Marine Ecology Progress Series 55: 23–30.

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37282017

Biology:Males brood the eggs

Conservation:EPBC Act Marine Listed

Depth:0-10 m

Max Size:25 cm TL


Species Maps

CAAB distribution map