Lesser pipefish (Syngnathus rostellatus)

Distribution data supplied by the Ocean Biodiversity Information System (OBIS). To interrogate UK data visit the NBN Atlas.Map Help



A pipefish with a maximum length of 17 cm. The snout is cylindrical, straight, and of similar length to the rest of the head. It is brownish in colour, sometimes with dark bands, and has a paler underside. Body rings are prominent, with 13-17 pre-anal rings, and 37 to 42 post anal rings. Males carry the eggs in a postanal brood pouch which are fertilised after the female has laid her eggs into the pouch. Pectoral and caudal fins present. The caudal fin is diamond shaped. 

Recorded distribution in Britain and Ireland

Commonly recorded in southern Britain and Ireland and possibly Scotland.

Global distribution

Located around the British Isles, Baltic sea and in the North Sea with records all along the north coast of France, Belgium and The Netherlands. Records around the coasts of Denmark and southern Norway. Scattered records around the southern coasts of France. 


Found inshore, typically within sandy bays. Can be found amongst floating or attached seaweeds. 

Depth range

Shallow shores to 80 m

Identifying features

  • Body length of 17 cm, brown in colour.
  • The snout is of similar length to that of the rest of the head.
  • 36 to 45 rays on dorsal fin; 2 to 3 rays on anal fin; 10 rays on caudal fin; 10 to 13 rays on pectoral fin.
  • The caudal fin is diamond shaped. 
  • Body rings are prominent, with 13-17 pre-anal rings, and 37 to 42 post anal.

Additional information

It is noticeably smaller than Syngnathus acus. Spawning occurs in summer. 

Listed by

- none -


  1. Dipper, F., 2001. British sea fishes (2nd edn). Teddington: Underwater World Publications Ltd.

  2. Whitehead, P.J.P., Bauchot, M.-L., Hureau, J.-C., Nielson, J. & Tortonese, E. 1986. Fishes of the North-eastern Atlantic and the Mediterranean. Vol. I, II & III. Paris: United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).


  1. Centre for Environmental Data and Recording, 2018. Ulster Wildlife Snorkel Safaris. Occurrence dataset: https://www.nmni.com/CEDaR/CEDaR-Centre-for-Environmental-Data-and-Recording.aspx accessed via NBNAtlas.org on 2018-09-25.

  2. Environmental Records Information Centre North East, 2018. ERIC NE Combined dataset to 2017. Occurrence dataset: http://www.ericnortheast.org.ukl accessed via NBNAtlas.org on 2018-09-38

  3. Fenwick, 2018. Aphotomarine. Occurrence dataset http://www.aphotomarine.com/index.html Accessed via NBNAtlas.org on 2018-10-01

  4. Isle of Wight Local Records Centre, 2017. IOW Natural History & Archaeological Society Marine Records. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/7axhcw accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-09-27.

  5. Kent & Medway Biological Records Centre, 2017. Fish: Records for Kent.. Occurrence dataset https://doi.org/10.15468/kd1utk accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-09-27.

  6. Lancashire Environment Record Network, 2018. LERN Records. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/esxc9a accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-10-01.

  7. National Trust, 2017. National Trust Species Records. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/opc6g1 accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-10-01.

  8. NBN (National Biodiversity Network) Atlas. Available from: https://www.nbnatlas.org.

  9. OBIS (Ocean Biodiversity Information System),  2024. Global map of species distribution using gridded data. Available from: Ocean Biogeographic Information System. www.iobis.org. Accessed: 2024-06-15


This review can be cited as:

Gibson-Hall, E., 2018. Syngnathus rostellatus Lesser pipefish. In Tyler-Walters H. and Hiscock K. Marine Life Information Network: Biology and Sensitivity Key Information Reviews, [on-line]. Plymouth: Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. [cited 15-06-2024]. Available from: https://www.marlin.ac.uk/species/detail/2240

Last Updated: 01/08/2018