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Meet the Pipefish: Everything You Need to Know

Oceans are home to one of the widest range of creatures on the planet, with huge variation even within species. Each species is uniquely adapted to its specific environment, whether that be diet, temperature or vegetation.

The pipefish is no different in this regard. An instantly recognisable fish, the pipefish stands out for its odd-looking shape that wouldn’t look out of place in an arts and crafts set. There is plenty that makes this fish interesting – let’s explore it together.

What is a pipefish?

A pipefish is a type of fish that belongs to the Syngnathidae family of animals along with seahorses and seadragons.

Characterised by their slender bodies and snout that they use to quickly suck food up, their jaw is specifically designed to suck their prey in rather than swallowing around them. For this reason, pipefish can be accurately described as looking like pipe cleaners with eyes and fins. Despite having vaguely the same shape, pipefish can be found in a variety of colours with a multitude of patterns.

Where do pipefish live?

Pipefish can be found across the globe, typically in coastal regions in tropical and subtropical regions, with small numbers being found in temperate waters. Small numbers can also be found in freshwater such as rivers and lakes.

There aren’t many animals that prey upon the pipefish because of their fantastic ability to camouflage themselves within sea grasses, but opportunistic bass gars, perch, drums and weakfish may chow down on pipefish if they get the chance.

As well as their brilliant camouflage, pipefish are also covered in bony plates rather than scales, making them remarkably rigid and strong for such a slender fish.

What do pipefish eat?

You may be wondering, what does such a slender fish eat without bursting? The answer is quite simple, tiny crustaceans mainly but also the small baby fish (fry) that are significantly smaller than the pipefish that prey upon them.

Is a pipefish and a seahorse the same thing?

In the animal kingdom, there are plenty of related animals that are frequently mistaken for being another fish. Seahorses, seadragons and pipefish are sometimes mistaken for each other because of their remarkable similarities.

The primary difference between the animals that make up the Syngnathidae family is the location of the male brood pouch. The brood pouch is where eggs are stored until they are ready to be hatched.

Unlike most other animals, it is male Syngnathidae that hold the eggs until they hatch.

There are two locations where this pouch can be found: on the tail (Urophori) and on the abdomen (Gastrophori).

Other differences include the inclusion of absence of a caudal fin and the general appearance of the fish.

Learn more about the Greater Pipefish

At Hastings Aquarium, you can see the Greater Pipefish with your own eyes, the largest pipefish in UK waters. Even though it’s the largest, it’s still only 35cm on average, showing you just how small pipefish are on the whole.

The Greater Pipefish (Syngnathus acus) is made up of several segmented body armour that is described as being rigid when handled. As well as its size compared to other pipefish, the Greater Pipefish sets itself apart with sandy brown rings surrounding the length of its body, easily allowing it to blend in with the seagrasses that it shares waters with.

Pipefish really are an incredibly interesting and unique fish that can be found right here at Hastings Aquarium. As well as pipefish, there are an array of fascinating sea creatures that you can see up close and personal on your next trip to Hastings. Be sure to book your tickets in advance to beat the queues and spend as much time as possible admiring and learning all about our creatures.

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