Syngnathus abaster

Syngnathus abaster

name = "Syngnathus abaster"

status = DD | status_system = IUCN2.3
regnum = Animalia
phylum = Chordata
classis = Actinopterygii
ordo = Gasterosteiformes
familia = Syngnathidae
genus = "Syngnathus"
species = "S. abaster"
binomial = "Syngnathus abaster"
binomial_authority = Risso, 1826
synonyms = "Syngnathus nigrolineatus" Eichwald, 1831

"Syngnathus abaster" is a species of fish in the Syngnathidae family. It is found in Albania, Algeria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Egypt, France, Greece, Israel, Italy, Lebanon, Libya, Malta, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Serbia and Montenegro, Slovenia, Spain, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey, and Turkmenistan.

General Information

Syngnathus abaster, common name the black-striped pipefish, is a close relative of the seahorse. It is usually found in the Mediterranean Sea, living in relativley shallow waters around seaweed and sea grass. It can also live in brackish waters (an area where fresh and salt water mix). Pipefish are classified as true fish, and their long, narrow bodies have an external skeleton made of bony plates, and their mouths are very small and skinny like a pipe. They swim using a side to side wiggling motion that is similar to the movement of a snake. The pipefish's diet is mainly brine shrimp, newborn guppies, and plankton. The roles males and females take on in reproduction are similar to those of male and female seahorses. The males carry the fertilized eggs in specialized pouches on their bodies. The eggs mature in this pouch, and the young are expelled through a longitudinal slit in the front of the pouch.

Environment and Habitat

Pipefish can live in freshwater and marine ecosystems, and are found in all parts of the world. "Syngnathus abaster" is a marine species living in the Mediterranean Sea and prefers to live in shallow-water sea grass that is near its prey. Observers often spot it probing the grass for brine shrimp and infant guppies. They are also found in the British Isles, where they are a staple food source for many fishing villages. Many hobbyists consider them a great addition to their home or office aquariums because they peacefully coexist with most other fishes.

Appearance and Body Type

Another reason that they are favored in the aquarium setting is their unique appearance. They have long bodies that are surrounded by bony plates much like scales. These plates are a protective armor and serve as camouflage. Even though pipefish have these bony plates, their bodies are very flexible and have the ability to move much like snakes do. Their elongated head looks like a horse head. That is one of the reasons why they are placed in the same genus as seahorses. They also have the ability to wrap their tails around sea grasses to anchor themselves, just as sea horses do. Unlike sea horses, pipefish swim horizontally due to their lack of vertical and caudal fins. There are some species of pipefish that still have caudal fins. Another unique feature is their long snout, which is where the pipefish gets its name.


As stated above, a pipefish's diet consists mostly of newborn fish and small crustaceans. The pipefish does not chew its food, so the prey needs to be small enough to fit into the opening in the mouth and be swallowed. The long pipe-like mouth of the pipefish is used as a sucking tool when it eats. The pipefish wraps its tail around sea grass, using it as an anchor. It patiently waits until its prey swims close, and then sucks it up, puffing out its cheeks in the process. The tube is dilated which creates a small, strong current in the water near the fish's mouth. According to Guenther Sterba, author of "Freshwater Fishes of the World", the current is accompanied by a sucking noise, much like a small vacuum cleaner. The pipefish create a current that is strong enough to suck in prey that are larger than the opening in the mouth. Pipefish have a number of predators to look out for. Many species of large fish eat pipefish, as do otters and blue crabs. This particular species of pipefish has no real defense against predators aside from camouflage and swimming away, making it an easy target.


Pipefish reproduction is one of the most interesting features of the species. The sexes can generally be differentiated by the number of bands on the body. Males have a larger number of colored bands than females do. During mating, the fish intertwine as part of a courtship dance. The female transfers the eggs to the male's brooding pouch through her long ovipositor. The brooding pouch is located near the anus of the pipefish. The eggs stay in the male's brooding pouch until the young are developed enough to be independent. At this point, the young exit the pouch with the help of muscular contractions of the male's body. If the young sense danger or feel threatened, they are able to re-enter the brooding pouch.


* Burgess, Warren, and Dr. Hebert R. Axelrod. Pacific Marine Fishes Book One. T.F.H Publications, 1973.
* Perlmutter, Alfred. Guide to Marine Fishes. New York:Branhall House 1961.
* Sterba, Guenther. Freshwater Fishes of the World. New York: Viking Press.
* Wells, Lawrence A. The Observer's Book of Sea Fishes. New York: Frederick Wayne and Co, Ltd, 1959.

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