Physical Description: The banded pipefish also known as a flag tail pipefish or ringed pipefish, Dunckerocampus dactyliophorus, is an extraordinary saltwater fish. It is part of the Syngnathidae family, which makes it a relative to the seahorse. Appropriately named for its appearance, the pipefish has a long body with brownish-red and yellow or white striped vertical markings running the length of its body. From its tiny gills to the round, fan like caudal fin, this is an interesting addition to an advanced hobbyist’s aquarium. The pectoral and dorsal fins are not well developed. This fish has a long snout with a small upturned mouth, eye placement on either side of the head area, though there is no defined head shape. The body shape facilitates rock grazing and hiding in tiny rock crevices if the fish feels threatened. A large fish will grow to approximately 7.5 inches. Juvenile fish size will range between three to five inches. In the wild, the banded pipefish can be found in shallow waters, sea grass beds and rocky reef environments in tropical climates. These fish do not do well in strong currents or deep waters that require strong swimming. They are found all over the world but predominantly in the Indo-Pacific region.
Introducing the banded pipefish is a slow process as this fish is sensitive to acclimation. Great care and patience should be taken when readying this fish for any aquarium. A minimum of two hours should be spent adapting the fish to new tank water and temperature. The diet requirements for this fish can be challenging for new aquarists. The banded pipefish is a carnivore and lives on a constant diet of live adult copepods, brine shrimp and Mysis shrimp. This fish can be considered a finicky eater since it is extremely difficult to substitute its preferred diet. Seasoned hobbyists have found growing copepods in rock rubble in the back of a tank or a refugium the best way to keep a growing population of adult copepods.
Aquarium Conditions: Ammonia and nitrite levels should be zero, nitrates should be zero. Even a slight spike in nitrite or ammonia will not bode well for this fish and could mean death. Ideal tank temperature is 72-78 degrees Fahrenheit. A temperature degree change of even 4 degrees can potentially shock this fish. Salinity should be at 1.024 to 1.026. Keep pH levels between 8.1-8.4, maintain alkalinity at 8-12DKH. Moderate lighting is customary; water flow is best kept low to medium. The minimum tank size for this fish should be 50 gallons. The best tank mates for this social species are passive, slow swimming, non-stinging fish such as gobies, other pipefish and seahorses. Regular cleaning maintenance and excellent filtration is required due to the potential for waste from the live and protein rich food source.
Breeding:Captive breeding is not common but possible. Breeding for this species is a unique phenomenon since it is in the only family, Syngnathidae, in the animal kingdom where birthing is attributed to the male. The male has a brood pouch which provides a form of embryonic protection and gestation for the eggs as they develop before the male gives birth. Experienced hobbyists will find this a challenging yet rewarding addition to their aquatic environment.