Reply To: Aggressive Pipefish

Pete Giwojna

Aggressive pipefish

Dear tlskahan:

As you know, at the Ocean Rider aquaculture facility, the pipefish are raised together at high population densities from birth until they are ready to market. As juveniles, at least, they seem to very much enjoy the company of others of their kind and find reassurance in numbers.

In short, the Ocean Rider red banded pipefish (Doryrhamphus dactyliophorus) are normally very sociable and gregarious, and are becoming more so with every generation, since they are accustomed to living in close proximity with many others of their kind from the moment they emerge from their eggs until they reach marketable size and are shipped off to the home hobbyists.

But it is very difficult to sex juvenile banded pipefish because of the lack of a brood pouch. It is normally only possible to determine male and female when the pipefish are actively breeding and the male’s brood patch is ready for the eggs to be attached. There is simply no reliable way to determine the gender of the juvenile pipefish.

Although they are normally quite peaceful, on occasion, however, juvenile pipefish that are approaching sexual maturity, and which have been very friendly towards one another up until they matured, may occasionally become antagonistic if it turns out that they are both males. When you get two of the pipefish and they are both females, they typically get along very well and there is no aggression, and likewise, when they turn out to be a male and a female, courtship and mating is a typical result, rather than any sort of fighting. But, should the two pipes ultimately turned out to be two males, that is when there may be some sparring and fighting as they determine dominance.

In that event, providing your aquarium is large enough, the two pipefish can still happily coexist once they have determined which of them is superior to the other. I should think that your 60 gallon cube tank should be spacious enough for the two pipefish to get along together in the long run. But if the larger pipefish is so aggressive towards the smaller individual that the youngster is unable to feed in peace, then you may need to separate these two individuals to separate aquariums.

In the home hobbyists’ tank in which two of the pipefish are confined together in a relatively small space, there can be problems if both the individuals are males. Under those circumstances, as I mentioned above, there is a chance that the pipefish may indeed sometimes become hostile towards one another as they mature. When you are keeping a couple of juvenile pipefish together, and one of the pipefish become a mature female, they usually continue to get along very well. Even better, if the pair of pipefish turns out to be a male and female when they grow up, they will eventually become a bonded pair that reproduce.

But, of course, sometimes both of the pipefish will be males when they mature, and I think that’s the instance in which trouble sometimes ensues. I believe that, even when both types turn out to be male, many times they will continue to coexist in the aquarium without any open hostility, since one of the individuals will assert his dominance and then be unchallenged by the subordinate individual thereafter, allowing them to get along fine and each continue to get enough to eat at mealtime, etc., when the aquarium is large enough, at least.

Sometimes, however, they continue to compete and persist in fighting, sir, and those are the occasions where it is appropriate for the hobbyist intervene and separate the two individuals.

In a case like that, you may need to relocate the subordinate individual to one of your other aquarium systems, such as your well-established reef tank. But even in the worst case scenario, you will still have two healthy pipefish to add color and interest in your tanks, only they would be living in separate aquariums rather than together.

If you send me a quick email ([email protected]), I would be happy to send you a document with additional information regarding the red banded pipefish that you may find helpful, sir.

Best wishes with all your fishes, Tony!

Pete Giwojna, Ocean Rider Tech Support

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