Pipefishes are gorgeous rainbows of the sea, which with the Seahorses and Seadragons form the distinct family Syngnathinae. A long time of evolution has created this numerous and highly diverse family. Pipefishes can resemble the close families of trumpet fishes and cornet fishes. The general shape, the position of fins and the smaller size are the main differences. Pipefishes look like straight-bodied seahorses with a long, thin, rather rigid body encased in rings of bony casing, a reduced number of fins, a very small tail and an unmistakably equine, long, tube-like toothless mouth. The name is derived from the peculiar form of their snout, which is like a long tube, ending in narrow and small mouth which opens upwards and is toothless.
Several species look quite similar underwater to the uninitiated, and are not easily identified: the most common liveries are made of light bands – usually white or yellow - on a darker, usually brownish background.
Pipefishes are abundant on coasts of the tropical and temperate zones. Most pipefishes can be easily observed on sandy or silty bottoms, usually in shallow water and in quiet coastal areas and close to coral reefs, while a few specially adapted small species are exclusively found among hard coral colonies.
Most species of pipefish are less than 20cm in length and generally inhabit sheltered areas in coral reefs and sandy lagoons. A few species live in seagrass beds, and these are a bit more mobile, often adopting an oblique stance among posidonia stalks and leaves.
Pipefishes feeding on small crustaceans, that are sucked through the tubular snout and swallowed. Snout muscles create a depression into the tube, and when the mouth is opened the prey is literally sucked.
Pipefish, like their seahorse relatives, leave most of the parenting duties to the males. Pair bonding varies wildly between different species of pipefish. While some are seasonally monogamous, others are quite gregarious. Several species are in fact monogamous and will spend together their whole life.