Hairy Pipefish, Urocampus carinirostris Castelnau 1872

A Hairy Pipefish, Urocampus carinirostris, in Nelson Bay, New South Wales, January 2017. Source: Tom Davis / License: CC By Attribution-NonCommercial


A small, sedentary pipefish covered in hairy appendages which provide camouflage amongst eelgrass and seagrasses. Hairy Pipefish use their prehensile tails to cling to vegetation on the substrate.

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2023, Urocampus carinirostris in Fishes of Australia, accessed 17 Jun 2024,

Hairy Pipefish, Urocampus carinirostris Castelnau 1872

More Info


Sydney region, New South Wales, to the lower Hopkins River, Warrnambool, Victoria, including northern Tasmania.

Inhabits the lower reaches of rivers, sheltered estuaries and shallow reefs in seagrass and algal beds a 0-6 m.

Hairy Pipefish are one of the most common estuarine pipefishes in Victoria, occurring year-round in seagrass beds in Western Port (Victoria). They are most abundant between January and June when young recruit to the population. 


Dorsal fin 13–16; Pectoral fin 7–9; Anal fin 2; Caudal fin 10; Trunk rings 8-9 (males, 9-10 (females); Tail rings 55–59  (males0, 53–59 (females); Total rings 64–68 (males), 62–69 (females); Subdorsal rings 2.75–4.75.

Body very elongate, trunk shallow; head aligned with body; snout length 23.5–36.7% HL; snout depth 38.7–85.8% snout length; snout length 45.5–89.3% postorbital length; pre-dorsal-fin tail length 131.7–214.7% HL in males, 83.1–180.7% HL in females; tail length 769.9–896.1% HL in males, 630.1–862.9 % HL in females; supraorbital ridge usually without a distinct dent above dorsoposterior margin of orbit.


To 11.5 cm SL.


Cryptically colored to resemble seagrass and eelgrass leaves. Overall pale green to brown; dorsal and lateral surfaces plain or mottled, dorsal sometimes with narrow pale bars about 1–2 rings wide, often with a dark brown longitudinal stripe on underside of head and body.


This cryptic ambush predator feeds on tiny crustaceans such as calanoid, cyclopoid and harpacticoid copepods. Individuals wrap their prehensile tail around a blade of seagrass, orienting themselves vertically when feeding.


Reproductive mode – ovoviviparous (gives birth to live young); eggs are brooded by males in a well-defined pouch on the underside of tail just behind anal fin. The pouch has fleshy bilateral pouch folds that meet on the ventral midline and partially or fully enclose the eggs. Males may be brooding at 48 mmSL, and brooding males have been collected from September to May.

Eggs: The smallest examined brooding male (48.8 cm standard length) contained only two eggs, a 5.7 cm fish had two rows of 19 eggs and there were four rows of 17 eggs in a 7.6 cm male. Males on average carry about 50 eggs per brood.

Pelagic larval stage; newly emerged larvae (10–14 mm) are very elongate and slender, with a small head, an elongate, tubular snout and a small flap-like mouth; pelvic fins absent, anal fin not developed; body ridges not apparent at birth; spines weakly developed dorsally; lightly pigmented.

Hairy Pipefish mature within one year in Western Port (Victoria) and the population may be annual, as adult seem to disappear after the breeding season. Most abundant between January and June, when young are recruiting to the population.



Australian Commonwealth legislation: Marine listed under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).



The specific name carinirostris is from the Latin carina (= keel) and rostrum (= snout, beak, bill) in reference to the ridge on the snout.

Species Citation

Urocampus carinirostris Castelnau 1872, Proc. Zool. Acclim. Soc. Vic. 1: 200. Type locality: Melbourne markets & Yarra River, Victoria.


Bray, D.J. 2023


Atlas of Living Australia

Hairy Pipefish, Urocampus carinirostris Castelnau 1872


Araki, M.A. & Motomura, H. 2023. Review of the Indo‑West Pacific pipefish genus Urocampus (Syngnathidae), with descriptions of two new species. Ichthyological Research 70: 1-20

Austin, D. & Pollom, R. 2016. Urocampus carinirostris (errata version published in 2017). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T65375397A115432400. Downloaded on 04 September 2019.

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, See ref at BHL

Chenoweth, S.F., Hughes, J.M. & Connolly, R.C. 2002. Phylogeography of the pipefish, Urocampus carinirostris, suggests secondary intergradation of ancient lineages. Marine Biology 141(3): 541-547

Dawson, C.E. 1980. The Indo-Pacific pipefish genus Urocampus (Syngnathidae). Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington 93(3): 830-844 figs 1-4 (in part as Urocampus carinirostris)

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. (in part as Urocampus carinirostris)

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. (in part as Urocampus carinirostris)

Edgar, G.J. & Shaw, C. 1995. The production and tropic ecology of shallow-water fish assemblages in Southern Australia. II. Diets of fishes and tropic relationships between fishes and benthos at Western Port, Victoria. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 194: 83-106.

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,

Kuiter, R.H. 2008. Syngnathidae. pp. 448-479 in Gomon, M.F., Bray, D.J. & Kuiter, R.H. (eds). Fishes of Australia's Southern Coast. Sydney : Reed New Holland 928 pp. (in part as Urocampus carinirostris)

Kuiter, R.H. 2009. Seahorses and their relatives. Seaford, Australia : Aquatic Photographics pp. 331. 

Last, P.R., Scott, E.O.G. & Talbot, F.H. 1983. Fishes of Tasmania. Hobart : Tasmanian Fisheries Development Authority 563 pp. figs. 

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

Scott, E.O.G. 1965. Observations on some Tasmanian fishes. Part 13. Papers and Proceedings of the Royal Society of Tasmania 99: 53-65 fig. 1 

Scott, E.O.G. 1971. Observations on some Tasmanian fishes. Part 18. Papers and Proceedings of the Royal Society of Tasmania 105: 119-143 fig. 1 

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37282008

Behaviour:10 cm SL

Conservation:IUCN Least Concern

Depth:0-6 m

Habitat:Seagrass beds


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