Short-keel Pipefish, Hippichthys parvicarinatus (Dawson 1978)


The Short-keel Pipefish is known only from estuarine and freshwater habitats in the Northern Territory. 

Cite this page as:
Thompson, Vanessa J. & Dianne J. Bray, Hippichthys parvicarinatus in Fishes of Australia, accessed 22 Jun 2024,

Short-keel Pipefish, Hippichthys parvicarinatus (Dawson 1978)

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An endemic species restricted to estuarine and freshwater habitats in the Northern Territory.


Meristics: D 24-27; P 14-17 (usually 15-16); Trunk rings 15; Tail rings 26-38.

Head and body: Head length in SL 8.5-9.2; snout short, length in head length 3.0-3.3; snout depth in snout length 1.5-1.9; snout angled dorsally; snout ridge entire,  median lateral snout ridge absent. Scutella keeled, without spines, serrations or dermal flaps. Lateral trunk and tail ridges discontinuous near anal ring; superior trunk and tail ridges discontinuous near rear of dorsal fin. Ventral surface of trunk distinctly V-shaped, without a keel. All trunk and most dorsal and lateral scutella of tail with longitudinal keels.

Fins: Pectoral fin base not strongly protruding laterally, crossed by two low ridges; dorsal fin origin between rear margins of last trunk ring and 1st tail ring; dorsal fin base not elevated; dorsal fin membrane closely bound to fin rays; anal fin narrow.


To 120 mm.


Light tan to dark brown, dorsal surface of body sometimes darkest on the distal half of tail, lower half of side and ventral surface of trunk with a dark bar on each ring. 


Preys on small planktonic crustaceans.


Reproduction: Ovoviviparous (gives birth to live young). Males brood the eggs in a pouch under tail. The pouch has protective plates and an everted closure. Males may begin brooding at around 78 mm SL.

Eggs: Not described.

Larvae: Not described.




Australian Government Legislation: Hippichthys parvicarinatus is a listed Marine species under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act 1999 Marine Species).

Similar Species

With the exception H. spicifer, the distinct keel separates H. parvicarinatus from other members of the genus Hippichthys.  H. parvicarinatus differs from H. spicifer in having a shorter snout (snout length in head length 3.1 versus 2.0 in spicifer), the origin of the dorsal-fin usually on 1st rather than 2nd tail ring and no deflection at the end of the lateral trunk ridge.  


Hippichthys is from the Greek ippos meaning horse and the Greek ichthys for fish. The specific name parvicarinatus is from the Latin parvus meaning small and carinatus meaning keeled, in reference to the keeled scutella.

Species Citation

Syngnathus parvicarinatus Dawson 1978, Copeia 1978(2): 288, figs. 1-2, mudflat, Dinah Beach Inlet Darwin, Northern Territory, to 5 m. 


Thompson, Vanessa J. & Dianne J. Bray

Short-keel Pipefish, Hippichthys parvicarinatus (Dawson 1978)


Dawson, C.E. 1978. Syngnathus parvicarinatus, a new Australian pipefish with notes on S. sauvagei (Whitley) and Leptonotus caretta (Klunzinger). Copeia 1978(2): 288-293.

Dawson, C.E. 1984. Synopsis of Australian pipefishes usually referred to the syngnathine (tail-pouch) genera Syngnathus, Leptonotus and Histogamphelus. 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.

 Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (2008). Hippichthys parvicarinatus in Species Profile and Threats Database, Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, Canberra. Available from: Accessed 2008-03-12@10:45:19.

Hoese, D.F., D.J. Bray, J.R. Paxton & G.R. Allen. 2006. Fishes. In Beesley, P.L. & A. Wells (eds). Zoological catalogue of Australia. Volume 35. ABRS & CSIRO Publishing: Australia. 2178 pp.

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

Paulus, T. 1999. Family Syngnathidae. pp 2264-2276, In Capenter K.E. & Niem V.H. (eds) The Living Marine Resources of the Western Central Pacific. FAO Species Identification Guide For Fisheries Purposes. FAO Vol. 4. pp 2069-2790.

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. Available online at:

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37282074

Species Maps

CAAB distribution map