Animal Species:Ornate Ghostpipefish, Solenostomus paradoxus (Pallas, 1770)

The Ornate Ghostpipefish is an unually shaped species that occurs in tropical and warm termperate waters of the Indo-west Pacific.

Standard Common Name

Ornate Ghostpipefish


The Ornate Ghostpipefish can be recognised by its distinctive body form with slender appendages on the body and fins. It has deeply incised membranes in the dorsal, caudal and ventral fins.

Its colour varies from almost totally black to semi-transparent with red, yellow, and white scribbling, spots and blotches.

Size range

The species grows to 10 cm in length.

Similar Species

Ghostpipefishes are different to seahorses in several ways. A ghostpipefish’s head is held at an angle to the body, but not at such a large angle as that of the seahorse. Ghostpipefishes have two dorsal fins whereas a seahorse only has one. In addiction, ghostpipefishes do not have a pouch in which the young are reared, instead a female ghostpipefish (rather than the male seahorse) looks after the eggs in a pouch formed by her modified ventral fins. These fins are greatly expanded and united with the abdomen along the upper margin and together below for a brood pouch.


It has a widespread distribution in tropical waters of the Indian and western Pacific Oceans. The Ornate Ghostpipefish is usually solitary, but has also been observed in pairs or small groups.

In Australia this species has been recorded from Point Quobba, Western Australia, around the tropical north, and south to Shellharbour on the New South Wales coast. It is usually observed at depths between 3 m and 25 m.

The map below shows the Australian distribution of the species based on public sightings and specimens in Australian Museums. Click on the map for detailed information.  Source: Atlas of Living Australia.

Solenostomus paradoxus

Distribution by collection data

Ozcam map of Ornate Ghostpipefish specimens in the Australian Museums.

What does this mean?


The species is found in protected coastal waters, especially near coral and rocky dropoffs. It is a common species that is easily overlooked because of its cryptic body form and colouration.



What does this mean?


  1. Allen, G.R & R. Swainston. 1988. The Marine Fishes of North-Western Australia. A Field Guide for Anglers and Divers. Western Australian Museum. Pp. 201.
  2. Hutchins, B. & R. Swainston. 1986. Sea Fishes of Southern Australia. Complete Field Guide for Anglers and Divers. Swainston Publishing. Pp. 180.
  3. Kuiter, R.H. 1993. Coastal Fishes of South-Eastern Australia. Crawford House Press. Pp. 437.
  4. Kuiter, R.H. 1996. Guide to Sea Fishes of Australia. New Holland. Pp. 433.
  5. Kuiter, R.H. 2000. Seahorses, Pipefishes and their Relatives. A Comprehensive Guide to Syngnathiformes. TMC Publishing Pp. 240.

Mark McGrouther , Collection Manager, Ichthyology
Last Updated:

Tags fish, ichthyology, Ornate Ghostpipefish, Solenostomus paradoxus, weed, seaweed, kelp, ecklonia, Solenostomidae, white, red, long and skinny, 10 cm, spots, blotches, marine, pelagic, soft substrate, adult,