Widebody Pipefish, Stigmatopora nigra Kaup 1856

Other Names: Wide-bodied Pipefish

A Widebody Pipefish, Stigmatopora nigra, at Clifton Gardens, Sydney Harbour, New South Wales. Source: John Turnbull / Flickr. License: CC BY Attribution-Noncommercial-ShareAlike


A slender pipefish with a variable colour pattern ranging from overall greenish to brownish and even bright red depending on the habitat. Females have a series of bark bands across the underside of the wide part of the body, and often an orange line along the side. Wide-body Pipefish lack a caudal fin, and cling to seagrass fronds and algae with their almost prehensile tails.

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2018, Stigmatopora nigra in Fishes of Australia, accessed 19 Jan 2020,

Widebody Pipefish, Stigmatopora nigra Kaup 1856

More Info


Mooloolaba, Queensland, to Shark Bay, Western Australia, and around Tasmania. Elsewhere the species occurs in New Zealand. Commonly inhabits sheltered seagrass and algal beds from the intertidal to depths of 35 m.


Dorsal fin 35-47; Anal fin 4; Pectoral fin 11-1; Body rings 16-19 + 67-79; Subdorsal rings 13.50-10.50 + 4.25-8.75 = 15.75-20.75.


To 16 cm.


The species varies in colour from overall greenish to brownish depending on the habitat, and females often have an orange line along the side. 


Carnivore - feeds mostly on tiny crustaceans, especially planktonic copepods, sucking them in through the long snout.


During the breeding season, females develop a swollen wide trunk (hence the common name). Males have a small pouch on the underside of the tail immediately behind the tiny anal fin where they brood the developing eggs. Up to 41 eggs are incubated by the male in a brood pouch formed from laterally expanded flaps of skin on the underside of the tail.


EPBC Act 1999: A Marine Listed species in Australian waters.

Similar Species

Most similar to the Spotted Pipefish, Stigmatopora argus. The two species can be easily distinguished by the placement of the dorsal fin. In the Wide-body Pipefish, the dorsal fin is positioned on the 5th-7th body rings, vs on the 11th-13th body rings of the Spotted Pipefish. The Spotted Pipefish is usually greenish and peppered with tiny black spots on the dorsal surface of the body.

Species Citation

Stigmatophora nigra Kaup, 1856, Cat. Lophobranch. Fish Brit. Mus.: 53. Type locality: Tasmania.


Bray, D.J. 2018


Australian Faunal Directory

Widebody Pipefish, Stigmatopora nigra Kaup 1856


Castelnau, F.L. de 1872. Contribution to the ichthyology of Australia. 1. The Melbourne fish market. Proceedings of the Zoological and Acclimatisation Society of Victoria 1: 29-242 1 pl.

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. & Shaw, C. 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. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 194: 83–106.

Gomon, M.F. & Neira, F.J. 1998. Syngnathidae: pipefishes and seahorses. pp. 122-131, in F.J. Neira, A.G. Miskiewicz & T. Trnski (eds) Larvae of temperate Australian fishes: laboratory guide for larval fish identification. University of Western Australia Press. 474 pp.

Howard, R.K. & Koehn, J.D. 1985. Population-dynamics and feeding ecology of pipefish (Syngnathidae) associated with eelgrass beds of Western-Port, Victoria. Australian Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research 36: 361–370.

Jenkins, G.P. & Sutherland, C.R. 1997. The influence of habitat structure on nearshore fish assemblages in a southern Australian embayment: colonisation and turnover rate of fishes associated with artificial macrophyte beds of varying physical structure. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 218: 103–125.

Kaup, J.J. 1856. Catalogue of the Lophobranchiate Fish in the Collection of the British Museum. London : British Museum 76 pp. 4 pls.

Kendrick, A.J. & Hyndes, G.A. 2005. Variations in the dietary compositions of morphologically diverse syngnathid fishes. Environmental Biology of Fishes 72: 415–427.

Kuiter, R.H. 2008. Family Syngnathidae. In Gomon, M.F., Bray, D.J. & Kuiter, R.H. Fishes of Australia’s Southern Coast. Sydney: Reed New Holland.

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.

Mobley, K.B., Morrongiello, J.R., Warr, M., Bray, D.J.& Wong, B.B.M. 2018. Female ornamentation and the fecundity trade‐off in a sex‐role reversed pipefish. Ecology and Evolution 8: 8516–9525. https://doi.org/10.1002/ece3.4459 Open access

Neira, FJ, Miskiewicz, AG, Trnski, T. 1998. Larvae of Temperate Australian Fishes: Laboratory Guide for Larval Fish Identification, 1st Ed. University of Western Australia Press, Melbourne. 474 pp.

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 nigra. Journal of Fish Biology 80: 698–704 doi:10.1111/j.1095-8649.2011.03194.x

Smith, T.M., J.S. Hindell, G.P. Jenkins, R.M. Connolly & M.J. Keough. 2011. Fine-scale spatial and temporal variations in diets of the pipefish Stigmatopora nigra within seagrass patches. Journal of Fish Biology 78: 1824–1832.

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:37282018

Biology:Males brood eggs

Conservation:EPBC Act Marine Listed

Depth:0-35 m

Max Size:16 cm TL

Species Image Gallery

Species Maps

CAAB distribution map