Ornate Ghostpipefish, Solenostomus paradoxus (Pallas 1770)

Other Names: Ghost Pipefish, Harlequin Ghost Pipefish, Ornate Ghost-pipefish

An Ornate Ghostpipefish, Solenostomus paradoxus, at Dauin, Central Visayas, Philippines. Source: Klaus Stiefel / Flickr. License: CC BY Attribution-Noncommercial


A very 'spikey' well-camouflaged ghost pipefish with many filaments on the body and jagged, deeply incised fins.

The species is highly variable in colour depending on the habitat. Some individuals are semi-transparent with red, yellow and white spots, blotches and scribbly markings. Others are reddish, with orange and white markings, or blackish with red and white markings.

Ornate Ghost Pipefish mating in Dumaguete, Philippines.

Video of an Ornate Ghost Pipefish at Cebu, Philippines.

Cite this page as:
Dianne J Bray & Vanessa J Thompson, Solenostomus paradoxus in Fishes of Australia, accessed 03 Dec 2023, https://fishesofaustralia.net.au/home/species/3165

Ornate Ghostpipefish, Solenostomus paradoxus (Pallas 1770)

More Info


Widespread in tropical and warm-temperate regions of the Indo-west Pacific, from East Africa, eastwards to Fiji and Tonga, north to southern Japan, south to Australia and New Caledonia. 

Ornate Ghostpipefish inhabit protected coastal, lagoon and outer reef areas with drop-offs or rock faces, in depths of 3-35 m. They often associate with crinoids (featherstars), gorgonians and black corals. Although usually solitary, they may be seen in pairs, or even in small groups.


Dorsal fin V,19-20; Anal fin 19-20; Pectoral fin 25-28; Pelvic fin 7; Caudal fin 15-16.

Body elongate, laterally compressed, encased in a series of bony plates; head elongate; long tubular mouth; plates between dorsal fin and interorbital: 5; rings posterior to dorsal fin: 27, with small recurving spines on lateral corners; caudal peduncle always long and slender; slender appendages over body and fins, particularly head and snout, can be very long.

Two widely separated dorsal fins, the first spinous and elongate with delicate fin spines, the second rounded and composed of unbranched rays; pelvic fins expanded and elongate, united to form a brood pouch in females; all fin membranes are deeply incised, and often tipped with small filaments.


To 11 cm. Mature females grow to a much larger size than mature males.


Highly variable in colour, usually to match their surroundings. Some individuals are semi-transparent with red, yellow and white spots, blotches and scribbled markings. Others are reddish, with orange and white markings, or blackish with red and white markings.


These well-camouflaged ambush predators feed mostly on tiny crustaceans such as mysid shrimps which they suck in through their long snouts.


The sexes are separate, and males and females are sexually dimorphic. Females grow to a larger size than males, and have larger pelvic fins which unite to form a ventral brood pouch (marsupium).

Ghostpipefishes are skin-brooders, and the embryos develop inside egg envelopes attached to special skin cells called cotylephores. The well-developed larvae hatch at approximately 3 mm, and have pigmented eyes, a fully formed mouth and advanced body spination. See the Ghostpipefish family page for more information on reproduction.


Ghostpipefishes are of no interest to fisheries, and are rarely collected for the aquarium industry because they are very difficult to raise in captivity.


Australian Government Legislation: Marine Listed under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).

State Legislation: Protected under the NSW Fisheries Management Act 1994.

Similar Species

Other ghostpipefishes lack the deeply incised fins and do not appear very 'spikey'.


Solenostomus is from the Greek soleno, meaning tubelike, and stoma, meaning mouth. The species name paradoxus is from the Greek paradoxos meaning 'contrary to expectation', presumably a reference to the unusual appearance of this species.

Species Citation

Fistularia paradoxa Pallas 1770, Spicilegia Zoologica 1(8): 32, pl.4(6), Ambon, Indonesia.


Dianne J Bray & Vanessa J Thompson

Ornate Ghostpipefish, Solenostomus paradoxus (Pallas 1770)


Allen, G.R & R. Swainston. 1988. The Marine Fishes of North-Western Australia. A Field Guide for Anglers and Divers. Western Australian Museum.

Dick, K. & Pollom, R. 2016. Solenostomus paradoxus. (errata version published in 2017) The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T65363417A115409075. http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-3.RLTS.T65363417A67621198.en. Downloaded on 27 June 2017.

Fritzsche R.A. & Thiesfeld K.G. 1999. Family Solenostomidae. p. 2263 In Carpenter K.E. & Niem V.H. (eds) The Living Marine Resources of the Western Central pacific. FAO Species Identification Guide for Fisheries Purposes. Rome: FAO Vol. 4 pp. 2069-2790. 

Hutchins, B. & R. Swainston. 1986. Sea Fishes of Southern Australia. Complete Field Guide for Anglers and Divers. Swainston Publishing.

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

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Kuiter, R.H. 2009. Seahorses and their relatives. Aquatic Photographics, Seaford, Australia. 333 pp.

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Randall J.E. 2005. A Review of Mimicry in Marine Fishes. Zoological Studies 44(3): 299-328

Sado, T. & S Kimura. 2006. Descriptive morphology of yolk sac larval Solenostomus paradoxus collected from Libong Island, Trang, southern Thailand. Ichthyological Research 53(2): 189-191.

Trnski T. & Leis J.M. 2000. Solenostomidae (Ghost Pipefishes) In Leis J.M. & Carson-Ewart B.M. (eds.) The Larvae of Indo-Pacific Coastal Fishes: An identification guide to marine fish larvae. Brill, The Netherlands.

Wetzel, J. & J.P. Wourms. 1995. Adaptations for reproduction and development in the skin-brooding ghost pipefishes, Solenostomus. Environmental Biology of Fishes 44(2): 363-384.

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37281002

Biology:Female brood pouch

Conservation:IUCN Least Concern; EPBC Act Marine Listed

Depth:3-35 m

Habitat:Reef associated

Max Size:11 cm TL

Species Maps

CAAB distribution map