What Do Dragon Face Pipefish Eat?

Dragon face pipefish, or Messmate Pipefish, are long, sleek aquatic creatures with a similar shape to snakes or eels. They are much smaller though, only reaching seven to eight inches in length. They have faces that look like dragons with a long snout, hence their name.

If you’re thinking about owning one of these cute, curious little guys, understand they have a specific diet. Dragon face pipefish have particular food requirements. So if you aren’t up for the commitment, don’t acquire a one of these delicate babies from the sea.

What do you feed a dragon face pipefish?

They are picky eaters. So, when considering what do dragon face pipefish eat, it’s important to understand they’re carnivores and require fresh food to thrive. This is part of what makes them a little difficult to care for.

Eating Habits

The eating habits of dragon face pipefish are a tad peculiar. They’re visual eaters, they eat only with their own kind and they’re carnivores that will only eat live food. If these conditions don’t exist, there is a likelihood of going hungry and dying.

This means dragon face pipefish must have plenty of warmth and light when it comes to feeding time. This is so they can see their food and eat in comfort. If they can’t see, they won’t eat and that increases their chances of starving to death.

Plus, they’re slow eaters because of their minuscule, tubular mouths and propensity toward sensitive digestion. This is why they must eat several times per day; it ensures they have enough energy for their daily activities while maintaining a healthy constitution.

Non-Confrontational Predators

What’s more, they’re not competitive at all. So, they won’t fight for resources the way other fish in the tank will, thereby killing the dragon face pipefish because it would rather starve to death than dominate for survival. This is why they should only share a tank with their own kind, those of the same species or other reef-safe fish.

Part of the reason for giving them live food is to satisfy their excellent hunting skills with their amazing capacity for camouflage. They have long, thin and small bodies with the ability to morph color and markings. So, even though they won’t compete for food with other fish, they make wonderful predators.

Types of Food ; Feeding

You must feed them at least three times per day. Also, dragon face pipefish will refuse dead or dried food at first. It has to be fresh, meaty dishes! After they become established in their new home and get used to their tankmates, you can begin to introduce other kinds of food to see if they’ll eat it.

Red Bug Eaters

Dragon face pipefish are notorious for eating little red bugs. Tanks with Acropora coral will often get an infestation of these red bugs. Uncontrolled, the infestation will inhibit the growth and extension of polyps with major color loss.

Adding a dragon face pipefish to the tank will take care of red bug infestations in no time and provide them with a consistent food source. But their diet can consist of other live, small invertebrates too:

  • Baby guppies
  • Grass shrimp
  • Brine shrimp
  • Mosquito larvae
  • Daphnia
  • Copepods
  • Micor-Amphipods
  • Micro-Crustaceans
  • Plankton

In their natural habitat, they will hunt down insects, small fish and worms. So long as the food is fresh and micro, they’ll pretty much eat it so long as it’s meaty and tiny.

Because they often come direct from the ocean than a breeder, they are still “wild” and not domesticated. This is why it’s important to come as close as possible to recreating their original home so they can still hunt for prey.

Do dragon face pipefish eat flatworms?

Yes, dragon face pipefish will eat flatworms, but it’s a little bit of hit or miss. They won’t eat them with as much regularity or exuberance as they will the red bugs that come off of Acropora coral, one of their favorites. This is not ideal for their regular diet either, so don’t rely on them to remove flatworm infestations from a reef-safe tank.

Are dragon face pipefish related to seahorses?

Yes, dragon face pipefish are very close relatives to seahorses. They both sit in the Syngnathidae family, which means they have fused mouths. They make good tankmates but, dragon face pipefish may compete with seahorses for food. This won’t always happen with every instance, but it isn’t unusual either.

Where do they live?

Dragon face pipefish are native to the tropical and subtropical regions of the Pacific Ocean, where the water is warm and alkaline with a pH between 8.1 and 8.4. They enjoy temperatures between 70°F to 80°F with an eight to 12 hardness and gravity between 1,20 to 1,025.

They are often found socializing and mating near reefs that provide most of their favorite food, those red bugs. Dragon face pipefish are very social creatures but they also love to hide. They have morphing ability means they can sneak in places like caves and overhangs or blend themselves among surrounding plant life.

Are there any freshwater dragon face pipefish?

There are some rare species of pipefish that do live in freshwater.  But, almost all pipefish have a penchant for saltwater. This includes the dragon face pipefish in particular.

Feeding a Dragon Face Pipefish

Drgaon face pipefish are interesting and beautiful that make a wonderful addition to any reef-style aquarium. But their feeding and food will be the keys to continued survival. They must have live, meaty food several times per day amid plenty of light. They must also only live with other non-aggressive fish, preferably with another of their own kind.

They often refuse dried or frozen food, so it’s imperative to feed them things like live brine shrimp or other micro-crustaceans. But, if you have an Acropora coral, dragon face pipefish will help control red bug infestations. They will eat micro critters from other coral, but this isn’t a guarantee.


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