Ghost Pipefish -By Dr Richard Smith

I am slightly fanatical about ghost pipefishes and not ashamed to say it. These small, enigmatic and beautiful fishes are only found by the most sharp eyed of divers. Basically, stay close to your guide!

The number of species is poorly known, as the ghost pipefishes are masters of camouflage and vary hugely in colour and hairiness depending on their local environment. Each species has a general habitat preference. Ornate ghost pipefish are often found around crinoids, robusts in seagrass, rough-snout in algae and velvets around sponges.

Usually ghost piepfishes live in pairs, with the smaller thinner male guarding his larger mate. Unlike the true pipefishes (ghost pipefishes actually belong to a closely related family), it is the female that guards the eggs. She has specially modified pelvic fins where she keeps the eggs, continually fanning them with fresh water.

When I arrived at Siladen Resort and Spa a few days ago, I was excited to hear that the Bunaken National Park harbours a rare treat. The halimeda ghost pipefish (Solenostomushalimeda) is a rare species that lives with a green calcareous alga, called halimeda.On the dive sites around Siladen, however, there is another form of this fish that lives around clumps of a bright red algae. Despite loving this group of little fishes, I had never heard of a red halimeda ghost pipefish. I was on a mission!

Finally yesterday, after just a few days of looking, I found a pair of these stunning fish in a clump of the red algae. They were tucked away in an overhang, where they were contendely hunting clouds of mysid shrimps. The pair was just like their green cousins, but striking red in colour. What an exciting find and another new sighting from the trip!

Richard Smith, a British underwater photographer and writer, aspires to promote an appreciation for the ocean’s inhabitants and raise awareness of marine conservation issues through his images. A marine biologist by training, Richard’s pioneering research on the biology and conservation of pygmy seahorses, led to the first PhD on these enigmatic fishes. Over the past decade, Richard’s photographs and marine life focused features have appeared in a wide variety of publications around the world. Richard leads marine life expeditions where the aim is for participants to get more from their diving and photography by learning about the marine environment: www.OceanRealmImages.com

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