Ghost pipefishes are bony fishes and are related through several evolutionary stages to the spiny finfishes, which include the well-known species of lionfishes.
The ghost pipefish family (Solenostomidae) consists of a single genus (Solenostomus), which is scientifically known and described to include only 5 to 6 species.
The ghost pipefish live pelagically. Pelagic means in open water and not near the bottom. This is only visited for reproduction. There they usually live upside down, very well camouflaged among gorgonians, algae or sea grass.
Their food is zooplankton and the smallest bottom-dwelling invertebrates. Ghost pipefish live monogamously. For reproduction, females form a pectoral pouch with their pelvic fins and carry the eggs until the young hatch.
Ghost pipefish grow to 5 to 15 cm and have slender bodies.
The colouration and skin outgrowths vary between the sexes, as well as among adults and juveniles. This is also one reason why it is so difficult to clearly identify the species based only on their appearance, size, colours and shape. To make matters worse, the well-camouflaged ghost pipefish are difficult to spot. So it is a highlight for every diver to see ghost pipefish and even more to be able to photograph them. Below is a selection of them.
SEAGRASS GHOST PIPEFISH
Based on the name, one might think that this species lives in seagrass meadows.
I have never seen it there, but always near the bottom over sandy or rocky ground at depths from 5 to 12 metres. It is also known as the Robust Ghost Pipefish.
SLENDER GHOST PIPEFISH
Also known as the slender ghost pipefish. Discovered in the seagrass meadow in Sahl Hasheesh Bay at a depth of 4 metres. This in spring over a period of 2 months.
HARLEQUIN GHOST PIPEFISH
Also known as the ornamental ghost pipefish. Rightly so, if one may consider the beauty of this species. I found the ghost pipefish pictured here at a depth of 43 metres in a field of white whip coral. This several times in the same spot over a period of 6 months.
OUT SNOUT GHOST PIPEFISH
Discovered in the seagrass meadow in the bay of Sahl Hasheesh at a depth of 5 metres. This was in autumn and reproduced faithfully over a period of 3 months. The large one, marked with the white ring, is an adult and the small one, marked with the yellow ring, is a juvenile.
Fotos Johann Vifian
Quellen: Korallenriffführer und Riffführer Rotes Meer / Wikipedia www.starfish.ch/Korallenriff/Geisterpfeifenfisch