If you know your tropical fishes well, there’s a chance that you may already have heard of the Ghost Pipefish. Divers usually enjoy meeting this little fella while being underwater, because of its rather unusual shape and camouflage. Ghost pipefish can measure up to 12cm, not really an underwater giant but that’s not why we like it.
Ghost Pipefish mostly eat tiny crustaceans that pass them by, unaware of the presence of a predator. Fun fact, females are almost twice as big as the males.
The Ghost Pipefish, a camouflage master
If you see it in open water, you might think that this odd and colourful fish isn’t doing a great job at hiding itself. Nothing could be furthest from reality. Indeed, considering the many fireworks-like colours corals and seaweeds display in the Coral Triangle, sometimes a bit of flamboyance is required to actually blend in your surrounding. And the Ghost Pipefish has got that right. You could swim right past through it without even thinking you’ve seen a fish! Its body mimics the fauna and flora of the Indonesian seabed and spends most of its time hanging upside down next to crinoids, corals and seaweed. Which means you have to look for them in order to see them.
A cousin of the seahorse
As you may have guessed from its peculiar shape, the Ghost Pipefish belongs to the same order as seahorses and pipefish (it’s actually a false pipefish). However, there’s one big difference between this fish and its cousins. Seahorses and pipefish have the particularity of having the male carrying babies in a pouch while the Ghost Pipefish entrusts this delicate task with the female. They form a pouch with their ventral fin that is used to brood eggs. As opposed to seahorses, the Ghost Pipefish is also a lucky fish. Indeed, if seahorses are intensely fished to be used in the Asian pharmacopoeia, the pipefishes are widely ignored by it. Since it doesn’t have any natural predators either, it lives a really peaceful life only disturbed by aquarists.
Where to see a Ghost Pipefish?
As opposed to pygmy seahorses, Ghost Pipefish don’t spend their whole life with the same host, they settle on a reef during their reproduction period before moving along when that’s over. Therefore, there is no designated dive site where you can spot them in Amed and Tulamben. So cross your fingers and hope for the best! Thankfully, it is rather common to see them while diving in this part of Bali.