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The Pipefish of the Pacific Northwest

Pipefish, Fish, Vancouver Island, BC Coastal Region, Pacific Northwest
Pipe Fish, Photo By Bud Logan

The Pipefish is a long slender fish that tapers at both ends. The body is cross sectioned into 2 parts. the part in front of the vent is 6 sided and behind the vent is 4 sided. A series of bony plates run along each side.They are considered a sea horse, but they are not, they are indeed a fish, although they do look like a straightened out seahorse.

The head is long with a long snout that ends in a small mouth. There are no spines on its back. The tail fin is very small and fan shaped. The male has a brood pouch just behind the vent, formed by 2 folds of the body wall meeting along the mid line.

They are a light green to a dark brown on the back and this extends down the sides, the belly is paler.

The males can reach up to 30 cm in length and the female can get a bit bigger. They occur from Alaska to Southern California including all of BC Coastal Region.

Pipefish, Fish, Vancouver Island, BC Coastal Region, Pacific Northwest
Pipefish, Photo By Bud Logan

The pipefish like its cousin the seahorse is quite different from other fish, the male carries the eggs in his brood pouch, even after the eggs hatch, the young remain in the brood pouch until they are old enough to head out on their own with the male being the only one to care for them.

Pipefish are found in lagoons and along shallow shores in the eel grass, where they are very difficult to see. Not only is the body shaped like eel grass, the pipefish even rest in the vertical position looking just like eel grass. Once you have seen one in the grass though, you will be able to spot them more often.

The diet of pipefish is plankton because of its extremely small mouth.

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