Spotted Pipefish, Stigmatopora argus (Richardson 1840)

Other Names: Gulf Pipefish, Ocellated Pipe-fish, 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:
Bray, D.J. 2021, Stigmatopora argus in Fishes of Australia, accessed 20 Jun 2024,

Spotted Pipefish, Stigmatopora argus (Richardson 1840)

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Seal Rocks, New South Wales, southwards to Dongara, Western Australia, including around Tasmania. Elsewhere the species occurs in New Zealand. Commonly inhabits seagrass beds in inshore bays and estuaries to depths of at least 8 m. Individuals are occasionally found among floating Sargassum sp.


Dorsal fin 37–64; Anal fin 4; Pectoral fin 13-18; Body rings 16–23 + 78–91; Subdorsal rings 11.50–6.25 + 7.00–12.25 = 14.75–22.75.

Body very slender and elongate, trunk shallow, not conspicuously broad in adult females, body posterior to dorsal fin approx. equal to that before dorsal fin; body encased in ring like bony plates; STR and TR and STAR continuous; ITR and ITAR continuous; LTR not confluent with LTAR, LTR ending on 8th-18th tail ring; eggs brooded by males in enclosed brood pouch on underside of tail just behind anal fin; tail not prehensile but very slender and flexible.  Head aligned with body; snout very long (62-72% HL) and slender (snout depth 3-9% snout length), tubular; longitudinal opercular ridge complete in young, often incomplete or vestigial in subadults and adults. Single dorsal fin centrally on back, with relatively elongate base, origin on 9th-13th trunk ring; anal fin tiny, below middle of dorsal fin; caudal fin absent.  Pectoral fins small.


To 25 cm TL.


Highly 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.


Feeds on tiny crustaceans such as mysids.


Maximum recorded brood size 41 eggs. 


IUCN Least Concern


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).


The species is named for Argus, the hundred-eyed guardian of Io of Greek mythology, whose eyes after death where transformed into the feathers of a peacock. In the original description, Richardson (1840) refers to this species as the Ocellated Pipe-fish, and in 1844 writes: 'The hair-brown back and sides are studded in a very beautiful manner with oval black spots having white borders, about twenty on each segment...' 

Species Citation

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


Bray, D.J. 2021


Atlas of Living Australia

Spotted Pipefish, Stigmatopora argus (Richardson 1840)


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Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37282017

Biology:Males brood the eggs

Conservation:IUCN Least Concern; EPBC Marine Listed

Depth:0-10 m

Max Size:25 cm TL


Species Maps

CAAB distribution map