Lionfish (Pterois volitans)


Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Scorpaeniformes
Family:    Scorpaenidae
Size:    Length: Up to 16 inches (40 cm) 
Weight: Unknown
Diet: Small fish and crustaceans
Distribution: Indian Ocean and Pacific Ocean
Young:  Up to 20,000 eggs
Animal Predators:  Unknown
IUCN Status: No special status
Terms: Young: Fry
Lifespan: Up to 15 years in captivity



·         When a person is stung by a lionfish, the pain can last for days, also causing excessive sweating and laboured breathing.

·         These fish are also known as “turkey fish,” “red lionfish,” “red firefish” and “black lionfish.” 



Lionfish have beautiful reddish brown stripes interspersed with bands of creamy white all along their head and body. Their black-spotted fins resemble feathers, and their 13 long, sharp spines contain poison glands. They have large eyes and a wide mouth.  


Lionfish are native to the tropical and temperate waters of the Indian and Pacific oceans, including the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea, around northern Australia, eastern Africa, southern Asia and the western Pacific islands. They were introduced to Key Biscayne in 1992, when a beachside aquarium broke during Hurricane Andrew. They tend to frequent channels, coral reefs and lagoons at depths of 120 feet (36 m) or more.  


Feeding Habits

Lionfish come out to feed at sunset, when diurnal (active during daylight) fish are finding a place to settle down for the night. Lionfish eat mostly crustaceans, including crabs and shrimp, as well as small fish, even eating juvenile lionfish. Adult lionfish only eat half an ounce of food (14.6 g) per day, and once they are full, they may not eat for 24 hours or more. 



Lionfish are generally solitary fish, but during spawning, a male may be seen in the company of two to seven females. Courtship begins at dusk and is initiated by the male. During this time, males become darker and their stripes become less visible, while females grow paler. The female releases several gelatinous balls, each of which contains about 2,000 eggs. The male discharges his sperm, which penetrates the balls and fertilizes the eggs. When the balls dissolve about 24 hours later, the eggs are released, and they hatch shortly approximately 12 hours later. The young live in small groups and feed on plankton.  



In the coral reef environments where lionfish are found, they are usually at the top of the food chain and so have very few, if any, predators. Lionfish, especially the males, are extremely aggressive and will chase away other lionfish that enter their territory by pointing their poisonous dorsal fins at any intruders, who usually quickly swim away. Lionfish are nocturnal and when the sun comes up, they retreat to a crevice in the coral and rest. 



Lionfish are not a conservation concern. 



Lionfish Wildlife Fact File, IM Pub, US