Pipefish 101:Care, Appearance, Diet, Breeding, Lifespan & All | 2022

By: Martin McAdam
Updated: May 30, 2022

Pipefish, together with seahorses, belong to the Syngnathidae family. They are close relatives of seahorses, and like their cousins have long snouts, a small mouth, and narrow bodies.

They are found in tropical and temperate waters around the world. They prefer shallow waters, they are often seen in coral reefs and seagrass beds.

They are relatively easy to care for, but there are a few things to consider. Here is a complete care guide to help you successfully keep as pets.

Species Summary

Scientific name:Syngnathinae
Common name:Pipefish
Family:Syngnathidae
Habitat:Coral reefs and seagrass beds in shallow waters
Size:14-15.5 inches long
Lifespan:5 to 10 years
Behavior:Solitary, but can be kept in pairs or small groups
Tank size:30 gallons or larger
Water temperature:72°-77°F
Water hardness:8-12 dGH
pH level:8.1-8.5
Water Type:Saltwater
Activity Level:Moderate
Compatibility:Can be kept with peaceful fish, invertebrates, and other pipefish
Tankmates:They should not be kept with aggressive fish or invertebrates.
Breeding:It can be challenging to breed in captivity
Care Level:Easy
Diet:Small crustaceans, insect larvae, and other small invertebrates

The scientific name for pipefish is Syngnathinae. There are many different pipefish species, but the most common in the pet trade is the dwarf pipefish. They belong to the family Syngnathidae, which includes seahorses and pipehorses. This family is of over 200 different species of fish. 

Pipefish Species Summary

They are found in tropical and temperate waters around the world. They can be purchased for a relatively low cost, and they are easy to care for, making them a popular choice as pet fish.

Pipefish Appearance

They have a long snout, smallmouth, and a narrow body. They are related to seahorses, and they share many of the same features. 

Pipefish Appearance

Their bodies are covered in small scales, and they have a long, tubular snout. They use their snout to siphon food from the water around them. They have a long, thin tail used for swimming, but they can also move by bending their body in different ways.

Like seahorses, they can change color to match their surroundings and camouflage themselves from predators. They come in various colors and patterns, depending on the species. Some standard colors include black, blue, brown, green, orange, pink, red, white, and yellow. Their long, rigid bodies look like they are made of pipes, which is how they got their name.

Although they are better swimmers than their seahorse cousins, they are still not very fast or agile. They prefer to spend their time slowly drifting through the water and feeding on small prey items. They move around slowly as they only have a small tail fin, but they can use their bodies to bend in different directions.

Some species have a prehensile tail, which means they can use it to grip objects and help them move around. They have small mouths located at the end of their long snouts.

Most people who keep pipefish in their aquariums as pets find that they are exciting and entertaining to watch.

Pipefish Size & Growth Rate

Pipefish typically reach lengths of up to 15.5 inches long, but some species may grow slightly larger. They have slow growth rates and can take several years to get the full size.

Pipefish Size & Growth Rate

However, they are relatively easy to care for, making them grow and thrive well in captivity.

The size of your fish will also depend on the species you choose. Some species, such as the dwarf pipefish, only grow to be a few inches long.

Pipefish Lifespan

Pipefish have a lifespan of 5 to 10 years, but some species may live a bit longer. Proper care and husbandry will help them, reach their whole lifespan and thrive in captivity.

But, like most animals, they are still vulnerable to health problems and may succumb at a younger age if they are not adequately cared for. So, it is essential to research the species you are interested in and learn about their specific needs.

Pipefish Breeding

Pipefish are not easy to breed in captivity, and it is often best to leave it to the professionals. If you are interested in breeding, you will need to provide them with the perfect water conditions and setup.

Pipefish Breeding

But if you are up for the challenge, here is what you need to know:

They can be either male or female, and they usually reach sexual maturity around 4 to 6 months of age. The males have a long, slender tail, while the females have a shorter, thicker tail.

To breed them, you will need to have a group of at least 6 individuals. It is best to have more females than males, as the males can be very aggressive towards each other.

You will also need to provide them with plenty of hiding places and live foods. The female will lay her eggs in a hidden spot, and the male will fertilize them.

Once the eggs have been fertilized, you will need to protect them until they hatch. Depending on the species and water temperature, this can take a few days to several weeks.

Your pipefish will quickly grow up and start breeding themselves if all goes well. But be prepared for some trial and error initially, breeding can be a challenging task.

Pipefish Behavior & Temperament

You can expect to see a wide variety of behaviors from your pipefish. Some of them are shy and reclusive, while others are bold and outgoing. The best way to get to know your fish is to observe them closely and give them time to adjust to their new environment.

Pipefish Behavior & Temperament

They are generally peaceful fish, but they can be aggressive towards each other if they feel threatened. If you have multiple pipefish, give them plenty of hiding places and keep an eye on their interactions.

They are not known for being great swimmers, so don't be surprised if you see them floating near the surface or resting on the bottom of the tank. They are often found in pairs or small groups in the wild, so it is natural for them to want some degree of social interaction in captivity.

Overall, the temperament of your pipefish will depend on their personality and environment, so be sure to monitor their behavior closely and work with your vet or pet store employee to find the best care plan for your fish.

Pipefish Care

Pipefish are a problematic bread to keep in captivity and require a lot of work. They have specific water requirements and need to be fed a varied diet consisting of small crustaceans, insect larvae, and other small invertebrates.

The ideal tank setup will include live rock that can host microorganisms for the pipefish to eat. You should also add plants or artificial decorations for them to hide in. Use a tight-fitting lid as they are known to jump out of tanks.

They should only be kept with other pipefish or peaceful tank mates that will not bother them. They are timid and easily stressed, so it is essential to provide them with many hiding places.

They are susceptible to poor water quality, so maintaining your regular water changes and tank maintenance is extremely important.

If you can provide the proper care and setup they need, then pipefish makes interesting, low-maintenance pets. They may take some time to get used to their surroundings, but they will be fascinating to watch once they become comfortable.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when caring for pipefish:

Tank Size

The size of your tank will depend on the species you choose. Some pipefish only grow a few inches long, while others can reach up to a foot in length.

The minimum tank size for one pipefish should be 30 gallons, so plan accordingly. Be sure to provide plenty of room for them to swim and search for food.

Water Parameters

Pipefish are very sensitive to water quality and will not do well in an aquarium with poor water conditions. It is essential to test your water regularly and perform regular water changes to maintain high water quality. Ammonia and nitrite levels should be kept at 0 ppm, and nitrate levels should be below 20 ppm.

The water temperature should be kept between 72°F and 77°F, with a pH of 8.1 to 8.5. Salinity levels should be between 1.020 and 1.025 specific gravity.

The water hardness should be kept between 8 and 12 dKH. You can use a freshwater aquarium with a reverse osmosis unit to create water that meets these parameters. If you can maintain these water parameters, your pipefish will be healthy and happy.

Filtration 

Pipefish are very sensitive to water quality, so it is essential to use a sound filtration system. A good power filter with a large media capacity will be ideal for maintaining your water changes and maintenance.

When choosing a filter, make sure it is rated for at least twice the size of your tank. This will ensure that your filter can keep up with the water quality and provide adequate filtration for your fish.

Some recommended filtration options include:

  • Canister filters: These filters are very efficient and have a large media capacity, perfect for keeping up with your water changes.
  • Power filters: Power filters are a good option for smaller tanks. They are less expensive than canister filters and provide adequate filtration for your fish.
  • Hang-on-back filters: Hang-on-back filters are a good option for smaller tanks. They are less expensive than canister filters and provide adequate filtration for your fish.

Heating

Pipefish are tropical fish and require a water heater to maintain the proper water temperature. The water temperature should be kept between 72°-77°F.

You can use an aquarium heater to maintain the proper water temperature for your fish. Be sure to choose a heater rated for at least twice the size of your tank. This will ensure that your heater can keep up with the tank temperature and provide adequate heating for your fish.

Some recommended heating options include:

  • Submersible heaters: These heaters are submerged in the water and provide even heating for your tank.
  • Hang-on-tank heaters: These heaters attach to the side of your tank and provide even heating for your fish.

Plants

Adding plants to your tank can help create a natural habitat for your pipefish. They serve as a hiding place, but they also provide food sources and places for the fish to explore.

Some good plant options to include in your tank are:

  • Anacharis: Anacharis is an excellent plant choice for aquariums since it grows very quickly and is easy to care for. It provides hiding places, food sources, and a natural environment for your pipefish.
  • Water sprite: Water sprite is another good plant choice for aquariums because it grows quickly and provides plenty of hiding places for your fish. It also produces many fine, root-like structures that help filter the water.
  • Java moss: Java moss is a good plant choice because it grows quickly and provides many hiding places for your fish. In addition, it can be used as food when dried out or used in feeding tubes.
Pipefish in aquarium

Before choosing which ones to include in your tank, research the different plant options available. Some plants require more care than others, and not all plants are suitable for all aquariums.

Lighting

Pipefish do not require special lighting, but you may want to consider adding a light to your tank to help show off the natural colors of your fish.

Some recommended lighting options include:

  • Fluorescent lights: Fluorescent lights are a good option for aquariums because they provide bright, even lighting. They are also inexpensive and easy to install.
  • LED lights: LED lights are an excellent option for aquariums because they provide bright, even lighting without electricity. They are also more durable than other types of lighting and can last for years with proper care.
  • Halide lights: Halide lights are another excellent option for aquariums because they provide bright, even lighting. They are more expensive than other types of lighting, but they can last for years with proper care.

Co2 Systems

Adding a Co2 system to your aquarium can help the plants with the nutrients they need to grow. Co2 systems are not required, but they can benefit plant growth.

Some recommended Co2 systems include:

  • Pressurized Co2 Systems: These systems use compressed gas tanks to provide the plants with the Co2 they need. They are more expensive than other Co2 systems, but they are also more efficient and easier to use.
  • DIY Co2 Systems: These systems use yeast to produce the Co2 needed for plants. They are less expensive than pressurized Co2 systems, but they require more maintenance and care.

Water Conditioners

Water conditioners are not required, but they can benefit your fish. Water conditioners help remove harmful chemicals from the water, making it safer for your fish to live in.

Some recommended water conditioners include:

  • AquaSafe: AquaSafe is a water conditioner that removes chlorine and other harmful chemicals from the water to make it safer for your fish. It is easy to use and affordable, making it a great option for most aquariums.
  • API Stress Coat: This water conditioner uses aloe vera extract to help soothe the skin of your fish and reduce stress. It also removes chlorine and other harmful chemicals from the water to make it safer for your fish.

Substrate

Pipefish do not require a special substrate, but you may want to consider adding one to your tank. Substrates can help to create a natural environment for your fish and provide them with places to hide.

Some recommended substrates include:

  • Gravel: Gravel is a good choice for most aquariums because it is affordable and easy to find. It comes in various colors and can be used to create a natural-looking environment for your fish.
  • Sand: Sand is another good choice for aquariums because it is easy to find and affordable. It can be used to create a natural-looking environment for your fish, and it is less likely to get into the filter or cause other problems in your tank.
  • Coconut fiber: Coconut fiber is a good option for some aquariums because it can be custom-shaped to suit the needs of your fish. While it is more expensive than other substrates, it is also an excellent choice for creating natural habitats for your pipefish.

Decorations

They do not require unique decorations, but you may want to consider adding some to your tank. Decorations can help to create a natural environment for your fish and provide them with places to hide.

Some recommended decorations include:

  • Rocks and driftwood: Rocks and driftwood are other good options for decorations in your tank. They can be used to create hiding places for your fish and provide a natural-looking environment for your tank.
  • Stones and shells: Stones and shells are other popular choices for aquarium decor. They can be used to create hiding places for your fish while also providing a unique look in your tank.

Other Tank Accessories

Pipefish do not require unique tank accessories, but there are a few things you may want to consider adding to your aquarium.

Some recommended tank accessories include:

  • Aquarium Thermometer: An aquarium thermometer is a good choice for most aquariums because it helps keep the water at the correct temperature for your fish.
  • pH Meter: A PH meter is a good choice for most aquariums because it helps keep the water at the correct pH level for your fish.
  • Test kits: If you are concerned about the water quality in your tank, you may want to consider investing in a test kit. Test kits allow you to easily monitor and maintain the water quality in your tank.
  • Air Pump: An air pump can be a great addition to your tank, as it helps to oxygenate the water and provide necessary ventilation for your fish. It is an essential part of any aquarium, so you may consider investing in one if you do not have one already.

Water Changes

Pipefish do not require special water changes, but you may want to consider changing the water in your tank regularly. Water changes help to remove harmful chemicals and debris from the water, keeping it clean and safe for your fish.

Some recommended water change schedules include:

  • Weekly Water Change: A weekly water change is good for most aquariums. This schedule involves changing about 20% of the water in your tank every week, removing any debris or waste products from the water, and helping to keep it clean and safe for your fish.
  • Monthly Water Change: A monthly water change is another good option if you are looking for a more relaxed water change schedule. This schedule involves changing about 30% of the water in your tank every month, removing any debris or waste products from the water, and helping to keep it clean and safe for your fish.

Cleaning The Tank

Cleaning the tank is essential for maintaining a healthy environment for your fish. You should clean the tank regularly to remove any algae, waste products, or other debris from the water.

Some recommended cleaning schedules include:

  • Weekly Cleaning: Weekly cleaning is a good choice for most aquariums. This schedule involves scrubbing the sides of the tank and vacuuming the gravel to remove any debris from the water.
  • Monthly Cleaning: Monthly cleaning is another good option if you want a more relaxed cleaning schedule. This schedule involves scrubbing the sides of the tank and vacuuming the gravel to remove any debris from the water. You should also perform a partial water change at this time.

Cleaning The Filter

Cleaning the filter is also an important part of maintaining a healthy environment for your fish. You should clean the filter regularly to ensure that it is functioning correctly and remove any debris or waste products from the water.

Simply remove it from the tank and rinse it off with clean water to clean the filter. You should then replace it in the tank and continue to monitor the water quality in your aquarium.

Testing The Water

In addition to cleaning the tank and filter, you may also want to consider testing the water in your tank regularly. Testing the water helps you to monitor and maintain the water quality in your aquarium, which is essential for keeping your fish healthy and thriving.

To test the water in your tank, simply purchase a test kit from your local pet store or online. Test kits usually come with everything you need to test the water, including a test tube and a chart to help you interpret the results.

Common Possible Diseases

Unfortunately, they are susceptible to many diseases and illnesses.

Some of the most common diseases that affect pipefish include:

  • Ich: Ich is a common disease that affects fish. It is caused by a parasite that attacks the fish's skin, causing it to become covered in white spots. Ich can be treated with antibiotics, but frequent water changes and good tank maintenance are also essential for helping to prevent the disease.
  • Fin Rot: Fin rot is another common disease that affects pipefish. It occurs when bacteria start to attack the fins and tails of fish, causing them to become frayed or damaged. Fin rot can be treated with antibiotics, but good tank maintenance is also essential for helping to prevent the disease.
  • Swim Bladder Disease: Swim bladder disease is a condition that affects the swim bladder, a sac-like organ in fish that helps them to stay afloat. The disease can be caused by several factors, including bacteria, parasites, or even genetics. There is no cure for swim bladder disease, but it can be managed and treated with antibiotics or special diets.

With proper tank maintenance, regular water changes, and sound monitoring of your pipefish's health, you can help to keep them healthy and thriving in their aquarium environment. So start cleaning the tank today to ensure that your fish are happy and healthy!

Treatment And Medications Of Diseases

If you think your fish may be sick, it is essential to take them to the vet for a check-up. The vet will be able to diagnose the problem and prescribe the appropriate medication.

Some common medications that are used to treat fish diseases include:

  • Antibiotics: Antibiotics are commonly used to treat bacterial infections in fish. They are typically administered through the water, and it is essential to follow the directions on the package carefully to avoid harming your fish.
  • Fungicides: Fungicides are used to treat fungal infections in fish. They are typically applied directly to the affected area, and it is essential to follow the directions on the package carefully to avoid harming your fish.
  • Vitamins: Many fish diseases can cause severe deficiencies in vitamins and minerals, which can be detrimental to the overall health of your fish. To prevent this, you may want to consider administering oral or injectable vitamins to your fish to treat the disease. Talk to your vet about the best way to help vitamins to your fish.

Pipefish Food & Diet

They are carnivores that feed on small invertebrates in the wild, so they try to replicate their natural diet as closely as possible in captivity. Crustaceans and insect larvae can make great food items, but you can also supplement their diet with prepared frozen foods like Mysis shrimp or brine shrimp.

Pipefish Food & Diet

Some of them can be picky eaters, so it may take some time to find the right food items that they will accept. Always make sure to offer a variety of foods and not feed them too much at one time.

If your pipefish has trouble eating, you can try feeding them live foods like brine shrimp or blackworms. These can be hard to find, but they are a great way to get your pipefish to start eating.

Larger pipefish will sometimes eat small fish, and smaller pipefish may need to be fed more frequently. Experiment with different feeding schedules to find the one that works for your fish.

In general, they are great at getting into their food, and if you provide them with a healthy and varied diet, they should be happy and healthy for years to come. So head to your local pet store today to pick up some quality foods for your pipefish!

Diet Foods To Avoid

There are some foods that you should avoid feeding your pipefish, including:

  • Processed foods like a commercial flake or pellet fish food. These are often full of fillers and may not be nutritionally balanced for your fish.
  • Uncooked foods, such as raw meats or vegetables, can cause digestive issues in your fish.
  • High-fat foods, such as oily fish or fatty meats, can lead to health problems like obesity and swim bladder disease.
  • Shellfish should be avoided due to their potential for parasites and toxins. Always consult a vet before feeding your pipefish any new food items.

Overall, the best diet for your pipefish is one that is high in protein and low in fat. A variety of fresh, frozen, and live foods should be offered to ensure that your fish get all the nutrients they need. So start stocking up on quality foods today!

Pipefish Feeding Schedule

Pipefish should be fed 2-3 times per day. Larger fish may need to be fed more frequently, while smaller fish can be fed less often. It is essential to experiment with different feeding schedules to find the one that works best for your fish.

Also, be sure to offer a variety of food items and not overfeed your fish. A general rule of thumb is to feed your fish as much as they can eat in 2 minutes. If you are unsure how much to feed your fish, ask your vet or local pet store employee for advice.

Pipefish Tank Mates

Pipefish can be kept with other peaceful fish, but they should not be kept with aggressive or boisterous fish. Tankmates that are too large or active may stress out your pipefish and make them more susceptible to disease.

Some good tank mates for pipefish include:

It is best to consult your vet or local pet store employee before adding any new fish to your tank.

Fish To Avoid

  • Aggressive or boisterous fish like barracudas, eels, and sharks
  • Large fish that may outcompete your pipefish for food
  • Fast-moving fish that may startle or stress your pipefish

Advantages Of Having Pipefish In Your Tank

The first advantage is that they are very peaceful fish and get along well with other tank mates. They are also very hardy fish and can tolerate a wide range of water conditions.

Another advantage is that they are effortless to care for and do not require maintenance. They are also not known for being messy eaters, so you won't need to clean your tank often.

Disadvantages Of Having Pipefish In Your Tank

One disadvantage is that they are not great swimmers and may often be seen floating near the surface or resting on the bottom of the tank.

Another disadvantage is that they are not easy to breed in captivity, and it can be challenging to find the perfect water conditions and setup.

Finally, pipefish are not as common as other fish, so they can be more expensive to buy and care for.

Wrapping Up

Pipefish are a unique and exciting addition to any aquarium. They are peaceful, hardy, and easy to care for, but they can be challenging to breed in captivity. If you are up for the challenge, pipefish make a great addition to any home aquarium.

I hope you found this guide helpful, and good luck with your pipefish! Thanks for reading!

Disclaimer

AquaMarinePower.com does not intend to provide veterinary advice. We go to great lengths to help users better understand their aquatic friends. However, the content on this blog is not a substitute for veterinary guidance. For more information, please read our disclaimer.

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