Solenostomus paradoxusshortbodied pipefish

Geographic Range

Solenostomus paradoxus can be found in the tropical and subtropical waters of the Indo-Pacific region. It has been observed in and around the Red Sea, the Maldives, Indonesia, southern Japan, the Marshall Islands, New Guinea, off the east coast of Africa and also off the east coast of Australia (Orr and Fritzsche, 1993).


Solenostomus paradoxus is found in shallow tropical waters, mainly near coral reefs, rocky dropoffs or seaweed beds. S. Paradoxus is usually observed in 3-25 meters of water (;,5716,61650+1+60134,00.html).

Physical Description

Solenostomus paradoxus possesses the elongate snout and laterally compressed body that are typical of all syngnathoid fishes. More specific to the solenostomids is a dermal skeleton composed of stellate plates, a head region that represents over one third of the total body length and the presence of pelvic fins, two separate dorsal fins, an anal fin and a large ventral fin. Solenostomus paradoxus is further distinguished by the presence of abdominal spinules, additional plates at the dorsal- and anal-fin bases and the presence of nasal lamellae filling the nasal cavity of males. There is no body color representative of S. paradoxus. Typical color patterns include dark red with yellow and orange splotches and yellow with lighter spots.

The Harlequin Ghost Pipefish is sexually dimorphic. Female S. paradoxus average 130 mm; males on average are 37% smaller. The main difference between males and females is the presence of a ventral brood pouch in females. This difference is most noticeable in the margins of the pelvic fins which are apposed in females and free in males (Wetzel and Wourms, 1995; Orr and Fritzsche, 1993;


Solenostomus paradoxus is an external skin-brooding species. Embryos are enclosed in an envelope and attached to special epidermal cells called cotylephores. In S. paradoxus, these cells occur only on the inside surface of the pelvic fins of females (the brooders in this species.) The pelvic fins of females are expanded and connect to the body and to each other in order to form a brood pouch. Females carry eggs in this pouch during the incubation period. This method allows the female to move her young to a site that is favorable for survival and also decreases the risk of predation during the developmental stage. Clutch size in S. paradoxus is variable. It has been estimated that a normal brood size may be as high as 350 (Wetzel et al., 1997; Wetzel and Wourms, 1995; Orr and Fritzsche, 1993).


The species is normally solitary. It has, however, been observed in pairs or small groups. Solenostomus paradoxus is a weak swimmer, propelling itself by rapidly fanning its fins. While this technique allows for very precise control of body position, the range of individuals in this species is limited. Unfortunately, very little is known regarding the behavior of this organism (,5716,61650+1+60134,00.html; Paxton and Eschmeyer, 1998).

Communication and Perception

Food Habits

Solenostomus paradoxus is an ambush predator that feeds by sucking small aquatic organisms rapidly into the mouth (,5716,61650+1+60134,00.html).

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Underwater photographers and scuba divers are highly attracted to the unique appearance of Solenostomus paradoxus (

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

This organism does not appear to adversely affect humans.

Conservation Status

No specific conservation measures are currently in effect.

Other Comments

Paradoxus is derived from the Greek, meaning contrary to expectation (Wetzel and Wourms, 1993).


William Fink (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.

Amy Morton (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.


Pacific Ocean

body of water between the southern ocean (above 60 degrees south latitude), Australia, Asia, and the western hemisphere. This is the world's largest ocean, covering about 28% of the world's surface.

World Map

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


the nearshore aquatic habitats near a coast, or shoreline.


having the capacity to move from one place to another.


specialized for swimming

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


structure produced by the calcium carbonate skeletons of coral polyps (Class Anthozoa). Coral reefs are found in warm, shallow oceans with low nutrient availability. They form the basis for rich communities of other invertebrates, plants, fish, and protists. The polyps live only on the reef surface. Because they depend on symbiotic photosynthetic algae, zooxanthellae, they cannot live where light does not penetrate.


uses touch to communicate


"Ghost pipefish" (On-line). Accessed Oct 30, 2000 at

"Pipefish" (On-line). Accessed Oct 30, 2000 at,5716,61650+1+60134,00.html.

"Solenostomus paradoxus" (On-line). Accessed Oct 30, 2000 at

Orr, J., R. Fritzsche. 1993. Revision of the ghost pipefishes, family Solenostomidae (teleostei, syngnathoidei). Copeia,, (1): 168-182.

Paxton, D., D. Eschmeyer. 1998. Pipefish. Pp. 168-172 in Encyclopedia of Fishes. San Diego, CA: Academic Press.

Wetzel, J., J. Wourms. 1995. Adaptations for reproduction and development in the skin-brooding ghost pipefishes, Solenostomus. Environmental Biology of Fishes,, 44 (4): 363-383.

Wetzel, J., J. Wourms, J. Friel. 1997. Comparative morphology of cotylephores in Platystacus and Solenostomus: Modifications of the integument for egg attachment in skin-brooding fishes. Environmental Biology of Fishes,, 50 (1): 13-25.