Bellybar Pipefish (Hippichthys spicifer)

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Bellybar Pipefish
Hippichthys spicifer
Bellybar Pipefish (Hippichthys spicifer)
Name Bellybar Pipefish
Name Lat. Hippichthys spicifer
Synonym Syngnathus spicifer
Family Pipefishes & Seahorses
Family lat. Syngnathidae
Order Pipefishes & Seahorses
Order lat. Syngnathiformes
Origin Asia, East Africa
Habitat Estuaries, mangrove swamps
Diet Carnivore
pH 7.5-8.5
Behavior Peaceful
Keeping Pair, group
Care Level Difficult
Reproduction ♂ brood pouch
Breeding Difficult
Life Span N/A
Protection No
Metric Units
Size 16 cm
Temperature 24-28 °C
Hardness 16-24 °dH
Aquarium ~ 200 l
US Units
Size 6"
Temperature 75-82 °F
Hardness 285-427 ppm
Aquarium ~ 50 gal

Distribution and habitat

The range of the brown pipefish extends from the coast of East Africa through India, Sri Lanka and Indonesia to the Philippines, Samoa and Tonga. There they live in the slow-flowing river bottoms and brackish estuaries, coastal lagoons and mangrove swamps among roots and dense underwater vegetation.


The aquarium should have a loose background and edge planting with tall plants (Vallisneria, etc.) and some roots (hiding places) and provide sufficient swimming space. A fine-grained substrate covered with some foliage (e.g. sea almond leaves) and medium to hard water is ideal

No ammonia, ammonium and nitrite should be detectable, the nitrate value should not exceed 100 mg/l. To ensure the water quality and oxygen content, a filter and heater adapted to the aquarium size is required, as well as lighting for the species-appropriate day-night rhythm of the animals.


In the wild they feed mainly on insect larvae and small crustaceans. The food supply consists of small live food, such as daphnia, mysis, artemia and black mosquito larvae, which is sometimes accepted in frozen form after habituation. Dry food (granules, pellets, flakes) is not accepted. They are very slow eaters and should be fed small portions several times a day. A regular and varied diet promotes health and increases resistance.

Behaviour and compatibility

It is recommended to keep them in a species tank. They are very peaceful fish that should be kept in pairs or in a group. Keeping them in a group is only recommended in a larger and richly structured tank. Socialization with calm, peaceful fish that are not food competitors is possible

Basically, only compatible fish species with similar demands on water quality and water temperature should be socialized.

Sex dimorphism

The slightly larger males have a conspicuous furrow (breeding organ) on the abdomen, which becomes a gross pocket (skin sac) during the spawning season.

Reproduction and breeding

After courtship, the female transfers the eggs into the male's brood organ. The eggs are glued and held with a special tissue (skin sac). After 36-48 hours the larvae hatch, they are released from the skin sac and the brood care ends.

Fry must be fed several times a day with special rearing food (infusoria, Artemia nauplii). In community tanks breeding is hardly possible, because the young fish are easy prey.


They can be maintained in fresh or brackish water, although 1-2 teaspoons of sea salt per 10 liters should also be added to the fresh water.

These slow feeders can only take very small food, which they suck with their thin mouth tube (suction feeding). It is recommended to turn off the filter during feeding

The well-being of the fish should be checked regularly. The temperature should be checked daily, the pH, hardness and nitrate value at least every 14 days. Regular partial water changes are recommended, even if the contaminant level has not yet reached the upper limit. Sudden changes in water quality should be avoided. Newly introduced fish must be accustomed slowly to the water in the aquarium.

Further literature can be found in your pet store.


Text: Werner Winter; Image: petdata

Source: BMELV (1998): Tierschutzgutachten - Haltung von Zierfischen (Süßwasser); BAENSCH & RIEHL (2006): Aquarien Atlas Bd. 4, Mergus Verlag; ENGELMANN (2005): Zootierhaltung - Tiere in menschlicher Obhut: Fische, Verlag Harri Deutsch

  • Gemäß § 21 Abs. 5 Tierschutzgesetz idgF