Many-banded pipefish (Doryrhamphus multiannulatus)

Also known as: banded pipefish, multibar pipefish
Synonyms: Doryichthys multiannulatus, Dunckerocampus bentuviae, Dunckerocampus dactyliophorus multiannulatus, Dunckerocampus multiannulatus
GenusDoryrhamphus (1)
SizeLength: up to 19 cm (2)
Top facts

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

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).

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).

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).

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).

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).

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 about the many-banded pipefish and other pipefish species:

More information on marine conservation in Australia:

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:

  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: