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Ghost Pipefish in North Sulawesi

The ultimate guide to Ghost Pipefish

What are we talking about? Pipefish! Did you know that in North Sulawesi we are a “hot spot” for Pipefishes? We have 8 different species of Ghost Pipefish as well as Banded and Stick Pipefish.


But is Ghost Pipefish really Pipefish? No, that’s why they are commonly referred to as “false Pipefishes”. They do not belong to the same taxonomic group as Pipefish and Seahorses. They all belong to the order Sygnathiformes but Ghost Pipefish belongs to the family Solenostomidae. On the other side, Pipefishes and Seahorses belong to the family Sygnathidae.

Different Types Of Ghost Pipefish

The Halimeda Ghost Pipefish

Halimeda ghost pipefish, Solenostomus halimeda

Halimeda ghost pipefish (Solenostomus halimeda)

The Halimeda Ghost Pipefish (Solenostomus halimeda) is found at all three of our resorts; Murex Manado, Murex Bangka and Lembeh Resort. It is a stunning species which is found mainly on coral reef areas and also hiding out in Halimeda algae which it is beautifully camouflaged to match.


Its small body is usually a green colour with white or pale patches. If you look closely you can see red “hair” like strands (filaments) attached to the body. This is the smallest species of Ghost Pipefishes and it grows to just 6.5cm.

The Ornate Ghost Pipefish

Ornate Ghost Pipefish (Solenostomus paradoxus)

Ornate Ghost Pipefish (Solenostomus paradoxes)

It’s not just the Halimeda which can be found at all three resorts; both the Ornate (Solenostomus paradoxus) and Robust (Solenostomus cyanopterus) species are spotted in all three locations too. The Ornate Ghost Pipefish is also known as the Harlequin Ghost Pipefish and is always a big hit with photographers but it can be very tricky to find.


The Ornate species varies in coloration from red to black or yellow. They are one of the larger species and can grow up to 12cm. If you spot one look carefully around the area as they are usually in pairs. This species tend to hide in feather stars and black corals as well as other soft coral species that offer them camouflage.

The Robust Ghost Pipefish

Robust Ghost Pipefish (Solenostomus cyanopterus)

Robust Ghost Pipefish (Solenostomus cyanopterus)

The Robust species is one of our favourites and has a completely different appearance. The Robust is the largest of all Ghost Pipefishes and can grow up to 17 cm, it looks almost identical to sea grass, not just in appearance but in the way it moves too. Often it is spotted over sandy patches allowing itself to be rocked back and forth with the surge just as a piece of sea grass would do. It is no wonder many divers swim past them without realizing they have just spotted an intriguing fish!

The Velvet Ghost Pipefish

Velvet Ghost Pipefish (Solenostomus sp?)

Velvet Ghost Pipefish (Solenostomus sp?)

The Velvet Ghost Pipefish (Solenostomus sp.) is an elusive species that is rare to find. They are most likely found on coral rubble patches or around sponge corals. This species is one of the more colorful species and its coloration varies from white to baby pink and brilliant red. These colors sound gaudy but when they are in vibrant reef habitats they blend in perfectly. The Velvet species blends in perfectly with the surroundings – the sponges. Its surface texture is similar to the sponges’ texture, and its shape even resembles some of the smaller sponge species.

The Banded Pipefish

Banded Pipefish (Doryrhamphus dactyliophorus)

Banded Pipefish (Doryrhamphus dactyliophorus)

Banded pipefish are a species of “true” pipefish and they are relatively common across North Sulawesi, however they are not so easy to photograph. They favour shaded areas and are often spotted underneath reef ledges and shelves or in the far back of small caverns and caves.


Finding these creatures is a challenge because they hide in difficult-to-access (with a camera) places. They will turn away at any sign of a lens. Capturing a good head-on shot is a true accomplishment!

The Stick Pipefish

Stick Pipefish (Trachyrhamphus longirostris)

Stick Pipefish (Trachyrhamphus longirostris)

The other species of “true” pipefish commonly found in North Sulawesi is the Stick pipefish, which is much more sympathetic to photographers than its banded cousin! The Stick Pipefish is found on sand, rubble and sea grass beds. It can be seen alone or in pairs, lying motionless on the substrate with its head protruding.


The head and snout portion of the body are usually darker than the rest of the body and can be almost black. The rest of the body is typically brown, cream or gray in colour and it is easily distinguished by its large size and sturdy looking body.

The Roughsnout Ghost Pipefish

Rough Snout Ghost Pipefish (Solenostomus paegnius)

Rough Snout Ghost Pipefish (Solenostomus paegnius)

In addition to these species which are relatively common in our North Sulawesi paradise, it is also possible to see the Roughsnout ghost pipefish (Solenostomus paegnius), the thin Ghost Pipefish (Solenostomus sp.) and the Delicate Ghost Pipefish (Solenostomus leptosoma) at various sites across our three resorts.

Ultimate Guide to See Species of Pipefish

If you are keen to see Ghost pipefish and other species of Pipefishes we have put together this useful ultimate guide. Dive deep with our ultimate guide to spotting these fascinating fish. We reveal the prime locations at each of our stunning resorts, ensuring you a successful pipefish adventure!


Pipefish guide

The Ultimate Pipefish guide to North Sulawesi

Are we “Piping Hot”?

Absolutely! This ultimate guide to Ghost Pipefish showcases why. Eager to witness North Sulawesi’s mesmerizing marine life? Dive into the perfect adventure with our Passport to Paradise package. Explore these incredible Pipefish and more across 3 distinctive dive destinations in a single holiday.


Three distinct destinations brought together by Passport to Paradise

Ready to dive in? Secure your spot now! Learn about Murex rates and our Passport to Paradise package on our website. Ensure an unforgettable dive experience by reserving your place today!

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