Many-banded pipefish (Doryrhamphus multiannulatus)

Many-banded pipefish

Top facts

  • A long, slender fish, the many-banded pipefish is named for the multiple dark bands running across its head and body.
  • Like other pipefish, the many-banded pipefish has an unusual body form, being encased in bony rings and having a tiny mouth at the end of a long, tubular snout.
  • The many-banded pipefish feeds on small crustaceans and fish larvae by sucking them into its tubular, toothless mouth.
  • Like the seahorses to which they are related, pipefish have a remarkable breeding strategy in which the male becomes pregnant, rather than the female.
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Many-banded pipefish fact file

Many-banded pipefish description

GenusDoryrhamphus (1)

The many-banded pipefish (Doryrhamphus multiannulatus) is a slender, elongate fish, named for the multiple dark bands running across its head and body. This species may have up to 113 of these bands in total, and usually has 4 to 5 dark bands across its gill cover, or operculum (2) (3).

Like other members of the Syngnathidae family (pipefish and seahorses), the many-banded pipefish is unusual among fish in having its body encased in armoured, bony rings, and in having a tiny, toothless mouth at the end of a long, tubular snout (2) (3) (4) (5). Its gill opening is very small, consisting of a hole in a membrane above the operculum. The many-banded pipefish has a single, relatively long dorsal fin, but does not have any spines in its fins and lacks pelvic fins altogether (2) (3) (4) (5).

The many-banded pipefish can be distinguished from the closely related banded pipefish (Doryrhamphus dactyliophorus) by its much greater number of dark bands (3). Pipefish are closely related to seahorses, but unlike seahorses they do not have a prehensile tail and their head is not at a 90 degree angle to the body (4).

Also known as
banded pipefish, multibar pipefish.
Doryichthys multiannulatus, Dunckerocampus bentuviae, Dunckerocampus dactyliophorus multiannulatus, Dunckerocampus multiannulatus.
Length: up to 19 cm (2)

Many-banded pipefish biology

The many-banded pipefish is usually seen in pairs, and is almost always found swimming upside down against the ceilings of underwater caves (2). Like other pipefish, it uses rapid waving of its dorsal and pectoral fins to swim (5). The diet of the many-banded pipefish consists of fish larvae and small crustaceans (2), which it sucks into its tubular snout with a pipette-like action (2) (4) (5).

Members of the Syngnathidae family have an unusual breeding strategy in which the male rather than the female becomes pregnant. The female many-banded pipefish lays its eggs into a specialised ‘brood pouch’ beneath the male’s tail, where the eggs are fertilised and are incubated by the male until they hatch (2) (3) (4) (5).

Little other information is available on the breeding behaviour of this species, but like most other syngnathids the many-banded pipefish is likely to have spherical eggs, and the larvae resemble miniature versions of the adults. Many syngnathid species form monogamous pair bonds, and some pairs even perform daily greeting rituals during the breeding season (4).

The many-banded pipefish is likely to be vulnerable to a range of predators, including fish, sharks, turtles and marine mammals (4).


Many-banded pipefish range

The many-banded pipefish is found in the western Indian Ocean, from the Red Sea south to Sodwana Bay, South Africa, and east to the Chagos Islands and the Maldives (2) (3). This unusual fish has also been recorded on the west coast of Australia (6).


Many-banded pipefish habitat

A marine species, the many-banded pipefish inhabits coral reefs, where it is commonly found among the coral, or in crevices or caves. It has been recorded at depths of 3 to 45 metres (2).


Many-banded pipefish status

The many-banded pipefish has yet to be classified by the IUCN.


Many-banded pipefish threats

Very little is currently known about the potential threats to the many-banded pipefish. However, like many pipefish species it may be taken accidentally as bycatch in fisheries, and may also be vulnerable to being collected for use in traditional Chinese medicine or as an aquarium fish (2) (4) (5).


Many-banded pipefish conservation

In Australia, the many-banded pipefish is listed on the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, which provides a legal framework for the protection and management of threatened species and ecological communities (6). There is also legislation in place in Australia to protect pipefish and seahorses, and all exports of these species from the country require permits (4).

There are not known to be any other specific conservation measures currently in place to protect the many-banded pipefish in other parts of its range.


Find out more

Find out more about the many-banded pipefish and other pipefish species:

More information on marine conservation in Australia:



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In the fishing industry, the part of the catch made up of non-target species.
Diverse group of animals with jointed limbs and a hard chitinous exoskeleton, characterised by the possession of two pairs of antennae, one pair of mandibles (mouthparts used for handling and processing food) and two pairs of maxillae (appendages used in eating, which are located behind the mandibles). Includes crabs, lobsters, shrimps, woodlice and barnacles.
Dorsal fin
The unpaired fin found on the back of the body of fish, or the raised structure on the back of most cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises).
The fusion of gametes (male and female reproductive cells) to produce an embryo, which grows into a new individual.
To keep eggs warm so that development is possible.
Stage in an animal’s lifecycle after it hatches from the egg. Larvae are typically very different in appearance to adults; they are able to feed and move around but usually are unable to reproduce.
Having only one mate during a breeding season, or throughout the breeding life of a pair.
In fish, a hard, bony flap that covers and protects the gills.
Pectoral fins
In fish, the pair of fins that are found one on each side of the body just behind the gills. They are generally used for balancing and braking.
Pelvic fins
In fish, the pair of fins found on the underside of the body.
Capable of grasping.


  1. Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS) (November, 2012)
  2. FishBase (November, 2012)
  3. Smith, M.M. and Heemstra, P.C. (2003) Smiths’ Sea Fishes. Struik Publishers, Cape Town.
  4. Fishes of Australia - Family Syngnathidae (November, 2012)
  5. Carpenter, K.E. (2002) Syngnathidae. In: The Living Marine Resources of the Western Central Atlantic. Volume 2: Bony Fishes Part 1 (Acipenseridae to Grammatidae). Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome. Available at:
  6. Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (2012) Doryrhamphus multiannulatus. In: Species Profile and Threats Database. Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, Canberra. Available at:

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Many-banded pipefish  
Many-banded pipefish

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