The All-Star Ghost Pipefish Guide - Tropical Coral Reef Dragons of the Pacific and Indian Oceans

Updated: May 7


If the words “Ghost Pipefish” don’t call to you…..then you're not much of a nature buff. I mean, just think of that for a second, a ghost…….pipe…...fish.....!


“A ghost fish that is a pipe….what kinda pipe have you been smoking!?”


None....that's the best part.

No pipe puffing of the magical dragon is required in order to see these ghostly creatures. Ancient mythology can try all it wants, ghost pipefish are apart of this

reality you and I share….. They are as real as Trumps chances of coming back in 2024….Haha!

This All-Star team of 6 are some of the most sought after Kings and Queens of camouflage. Each one has its own unique way odd adapting and blending in to its coral reef surroundings, flexing its ghost like qualities to the max.

The Family of ghost pipefish – The genus Solenostomus – Can be broken down into 6 unique species.

Ornate Ghost Pipefish

Slender Ghost Pipefish

Robust Ghost Pipefish

Hairy – Rough Snout Ghost Pipefish

Halimeda Ghost Pipefish

Velvet Ghost Pipefish


Where to find them all?

In the water duhhhh! More specifically the Pacific ocean for all 6 species and a few of them live in the Indian ocean. From what I can tell, they don't keep as easily as seahorses in aquariums so they are quite rare to find in someones aquariums.


Some of these species can be found outside of the coral triangle, but it’s only the area of the coral triangle that can claim to have them all.


Malaysia, Philippines, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Thailand are the best places to go for seeing ghost pipefish.

Fun Facts about Ghost Pipefish

They can often be found in pairs, so if you find one keep an eye out for its mate.

They eat tinny little minute crustaceans and other plankton with their straw like snout

Neville Coleman nor any Rothschild got to soil the naming of any ghost pipefish species by affiliating their names to any of the species during scientific description.

*Mike Workmans Ghost pipefish - Kinda has a pretentious ring to it don't ya think!

Photographing Ghost pipefish


Just like a sports illustrated bikini photographer, getting photos of ass is nice, but usually you're looking to photograph a little bit more.


Ghost pipefish are notorious for showing their asses to the camera. They probably know the photos have a good chance of going on Instagram so they often opt for a slimming effect.


No worries, if you wait long enough they will often tire of showing off their butts and give ya a nice cheeky grin. If you want to speed the process along, without touching them, they will often turn away from objects approaching them. Just don't be a dick about it!

They can tricky yet fun to capture while they're busy camouflaging. Nevertheless they are like the Eiffel tower of fish, there has been so many photos taken that you're gonna have to go into Einstein mode if you want to photograph them in a way that has never been done before!


Let's look at the Starting Lineup


Ornate Ghost Pipefish

Let's kick things off here with the Michael Jackson of the species. These guys aren’t only the biggest celebrities among their All Star cousins, they also come in both white and black. These guys have some of the most flamboyant display of design and color and sure know how to work the camera. By far the most sought after ghost pipefish for scuba divers, these ghost pipefish have the ability to turn a lack luster dive into a fantastic one.


Their appearance doesn’t vary too much in terms of shape, just color. Depending on where you are diving in the world, I have noticed they tend to behave slightly differently. For example in Thailand in the Andaman Sea and in Papua New Guinea they are usually found around soft corals, in Borneo they are most often found around feather stars.


Slender Ghost Pipefish

Don't worry, this species doesn't have an eating disorder, as my soon to be friend Lady Gaga would say " Oh there ain't no other way, baby they were born this way." Ok I may have tweaked that a little bit. This species is often found around debris on coral reefs. They can sometimes be seen swimming in the position of the one in the photo above, but are most often seen in an upright position with their tail pointed towards the surface.


In my experience, I usually find them in the shallows around sticks. Since they are skinny little dudes and dudettes they fit in perfectly. They do look similar to robust ghost pipefish but their shape is a bit rounder and fin positioning slightly different.

Robust Ghost Pipefish

These are the guys with that all organic non-gmo eco-friendly camouflage. Grass, sticks, palm branches and more these guys can camouflage with a large host of objects. Unlike the slender ghost pipefish, the species has a much wider range of variations in colour, from greens to browns and even red.


Definitely the second most common among the bunch, these wispy leafy fish are a staple to the South East Asian muck diving experience. Most great muck diving sites in the coral triangle provide perfect habitats for these guys to call home.


Hairy – Rough Snout Ghost pipefish

Imagine your genetics allowed you to grow not only a beard on your face, but also all over your body, just so you could blend in with your surroundings. It's like having a furry organic Sephora built into your DNA. Another marine gene super machine, their genetics allow them to adapt perfectly with different types of shaggy environment.


Usually blending in super well with different kinds of Algae, these palm sized dragons are one of my favorites to photograph. The hairs allow for many different shots and add an extra dimension of personality to these crazy ocean critters. The full pink variations has to be the craziest version I've ever come across.


Halimeda Ghost pipefish

Another ghost pipefish evolutionary marvel, these guys have evolved to look like a specific macro algae. Unlike their kin that can often adapt to plenty of different plants, corals and sponges, these guys don’t have much of a choice in terms of neighborhoods.


Just like the Halimeda crab, these guys are at home among Halimeda algae found either on coral reefs or in shallow sandy patches. Definitely up there with the Velvet ghost pipefish as one of the rare species in this Genus, personally I have only ever seen one of these dudes. On a shore dive with my wife in Lembeh, we found it and the local dive guides didn’t believe us, as none of them had seen one in the area for over a year!

Velvet Ghost pipefish

This sponge pop-cycle with eyes is definitely one of the rarest and least known species. Officially it hasn’t even been described by science and is missing a proper scientific description.

These pale purple dudes and ladies are magnetized by similarly colored sponges. In my experience I have only ever seen them on a small handful of occasions in Borneo and Papua New Guinea. I’ve seen loads of people make falls claims of finding them, mistaking female robust ghost pipefish as velvets. These ghost pipefish will always be high on the bucket lists of the savvy underwater photographer, and rightfully so. This is one where luck is certainly gonna be a factor in finding it.


That's a lineup that could of competed against the U.S.A. 1992 Men's basketball team!


Ghost pipe fish.....I coulda probably saved myself a whole lot of time and just wrote those 3 words and slapped some photos on this ........and that woulda been enough! This band of camouflage masters kinda say it all just by looking at them. Their wardrobe of disguises and their seahorse-esque physique will keep divers coming back year after year, as long as anything can still live in the ocean.


For more marine articles check out our Sea Section and our Animal section.


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