African Freshwater Pipefish (Enneacampus ansorgii)


Enneacampus ansorgii (Syngnathus ansorgii or S. pulchellus), also known as the African Freshwater Pipefish is a livebearer fish that likes fresh and brackish waters with heavy vegetation from the Western coast of Africa from Gambia River drainage to the Cuanza River in Angola. Like seahorses, it is part of the Syngnathidae family.



Enneacampus ansorgii is an elongated fish (snake-like) with a relatively short, tubular snout. The body is protected by a series of bony rings marked with small, irregular yellow spots. Because of the elongated body, the dorsal fin is located far back. It has 22-29 dorsal soft rays and the anal fin is too small with 2-3 anal soft rays.

Their back is dark brown with no dorsal spines, the flanks are light brown and the belly region is brick-red to orange. They have a small, fan-shaped caudal fin. The male has a stomach ridge that is formed by two lateral folds which becomes a breeding pouch during the spawning season.

They can grow up to 5-6 inches (13-15 cm).

Behavior and Compatibility:


Enneacampus ansorgii is a relatively benthic, peaceful, and social fish that sometimes will rest on the substrate or among the plants. It is preferable to keep them in groups or with other calm species that will not compete for food. Other pipefish species, slow-moving gobies, and small livebearers are good tank mates. Other compatible species are smaller Synodontis, Pelvicachromis, Poecilia, hatchet fish, African freshwater butterflyfish, Freshwater Sole, snails, and fan shrimps (Atyopsis spp.). Halfbeaks are a good option also, yet if they are a bit more boisterous, they tend to ignore tough crustacean foods (mysids and krill), and they will not compete for food with E. ansorgii.

Being a slow feeder is not advised to keep them with overly active or territorial species, such as Synodontis and mormyrids.

Water Parameters:

Temperature: 24-28°C
pH: 7,0 – 8,2
Hardness: 10 -25 dGH

Enneacampus ansorgii likes hard, alkaline freshwater or slightly brackish waters. For Enneacampus ansorgii, an additional 0.5% salt is recommended (4 TSP of salt to every 10 gallons – 5 g/10 L).

Proper Tank Conditions:

The minimum tank size required is 120 liters (30 gallons) for 4-5 fish. It has to be well aerated and with a moderate current.

They require specific water parameters they need including plenty of hiding places and coverage. Sand substrate, preferably coral sand is suitable for the bottom. The tank should be positioned to receive the morning sun.

To build a complex habitat for these fish, plants, bogwood, and rocks are suitable for decoration. Using such decoration will also make them feel safe at the same time. But it is substantial to ensure that the uneaten food would not accumulate where the water current does not reach it.

Enneacampus ansorgii like to live in areas that have heavy vegetation. Therefore, plants that can tolerate the slightly brackish water conditions, such as Vallisneria and Sagittaria should be used for the decoration. These long-leafed plants would orient nicely with the elongated body of the fish.


Enneacampus ansorgii are very specialized predators. They move slowly and stealthily through the vegetation until they spot their prey. Once the prey is spotted, they suck it into their mouth by expanding their buccal cavity (“cheeks”) and creating a vacuum by simultaneously closing the gill covers and the mouth. The vacuum is created when the mouth is opened. This way of feeding is very effective and allowing them to capture the prey that other fish missed.

They feed exclusively on live food, such as daphnia, brine shrimp, ghost shrimp, Cyclops, fish fry (livebearers), bloodworms, and mosquito larvae.

Sometimes, E. ansorgii can be trained to eat frozen food (frozen mysids and krill; frozen brine shrimps are not that nutritious), but the frozen food should “move” in the water to attract them to eat it. It is best to mix frozen food with live brine shrimps to train them to eat frozen foods.


Because of the special water conditions and their way of feeding, it is hard to breed Enneacampus ansorgii in captivity, but it was performed successfully on several occasions and they breed in freshwaters.


The female will lay the eggs above the male’s brooding pouch. Later, the eggs will pass through the male’s anal opening that is bordered by two lateral folds. These enclose the eggs and form the breeding pouch. The male will carry the eggs for several months until batches of live fry hatch at the same time. After the fry hatch, they can eat baby brine shrimps, cyclops, rotifers, and relatively smaller species of daphnia “Moina”.

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