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Breeding Programme For British Pipefish

March 5, 2015

Aquarists at Hastings’ Blue Reef Aquarium have set up a breeding programme for one of the UK’s most unusual fish species

The Rock-a-Nore Road wildlife attraction has taken delivery of 30 native pipefish.

Pipefish are straightened-out members of the seahorse family and like seahorses it is the male rather than the female which gives birth to the young.

“We’re currently looking after two different species of pipefish – broadnose and snake – and we’re hoping it won’t be too long before we start seeing the first signs of breeding behaviour,” said Blue Reef Aquarium’s Leanna Lawson.

“Like seahorses it is the male pipefish which carries the babies and gives birth to them via a special brood pouch on their stomach

“The female pipefish lays her eggs in this pouch. The male then fertilises them and incubates them until they’re ready to emerge into the great outdoors.

“The young are born free swimming with relatively little or no yolk sac, and begin feeding immediately. From the time they hatch they are totally independent,” she added.

Pipefish feed on small crustaceans such as mysid shrimps and tiny creatures called copepods. An adult greater pipefish needs to eat several hundred tiny shrimps in one day.

UK waters are home to six different species of pipefish and two species of seahorse.

In the wild pipefish live in relatively shallow waters over sandy seabeds or rough ground among seaweed and eel grasses.

Like seahorses, pipefish are extremely slow moving fish and have developed a hard, armour-like outer skeleton to help protect them against would-be predators.

They are often present in rockpools although their seaweed-like bodies mean they are extremely well camouflaged and easily overlooked.