Gasterosteiforms are diurnal as far as is known. Most species are solitary or live in pairs or small groups or sometimes in larger groups (e.g., aulorhynchids). Many species have pelagic young, but most adults are benthic. A few species, such as macroramphosids and aulorhynchids, form schools, sometimes containing thousands of individuals. Most species remain in association with soft corals, hard corals (Hippocampus barbouri), algae, sea grasses, or other substrates, where they
are well camouflaged; in many cases they grasp the reef with their prehensile tails. Many species appear sluggish owing to their somewhat sedentary lifestyle and lack of ability to move very swiftly. Syngnathids swim by a combination of movements of their pectoral and dorsal fins, and some species swim by moving their tails from side to side. Many syngnathids appear to hover in one location, controlling their position by coordinated movements of their pectoral and dorsal fins. Some pipefishes (e.g., Heraldia) are able to swim in an upside-down position in caves and crevices. Centriscids remain in a vertical position, with their mouths directed toward the bottom, sometimes in association with urchins. Species of pipefishes, Solenostomus, Aulostomus, and macroramphosids also maintain a vertical position at times. Many species can change their coloration according to their background, using this ability to sneak up on prey or to hide from predators. Some species, especially pipefishes (e.g., Doryrhamphus spp.), have been documented to clean other fishes (e.g., moray eels and damselfishes), removing their parasites while in reefs.
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