Profile of the Lionfish


Any saltwater aquarium would benefit from the presence of a lionfish. Their elaborate, long deadly spines can gravely hurt an unwary owner. Lionfish (also known as zebrafish, turkeyfish, butterfly-cod, or devil firefish) are a top predator that has become an invasive species in several waters. Despite their modest swimming speed, lionfish will eat any tiny fish or invertebrates that venture too close.

Species Overview

Common Name(s): Lionfish, zebrafish, firefish, turkeyfish, butterfly-cod, red lionfish, peacock lionfish, red firefish, scorpion volitans, devil firefish

Scientific Name(s): Pterois volitans and Pterois miles (other species in Pterois genus), Dwarf varieties Dendrochirus spp.

Adult Size: 12 to 15 inches

Life Expectancy: 10 to 15 years

Family Scorpaenidae
Origin Caribbean, Indonesia, Africa
Social Semi-aggressive
Tank Level Top, mid-dweller
Minimum Tank Size 120 gallons
Diet Carnivore
Breeding Egg layer
Care Easy to moderate
pH 8.1 to 8.4
Hardness 8 to 12 dgH
Temperature 72 to 80 F (22 to 27 C)

Origin and Distribution

Lionfish come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and they come from all over the world. Pterois volitans, often known as the Volitans Lionfish, is an Indonesian fish that has made its home in the Caribbean after being accidentally released into the warm seas near Florida. The Miles Lionfish (Pterois miles), the other most frequent lionfish species, is found in the waters of Africa.

In many regions of the world, these resilient fish have become invasive. They are such a significant threat for Florida reef systems that annual competitions to trap these invasive pests are organized. Many of these invasive species began as pets that were abandoned in the water by their owners. Never let your pet loose in the wild, and make sure your aquarium can accommodate full-grown adults (up to 15 inches!).

Colors and Markings

The lionfish is distinguished by its bright red and white coloration and extended fin rays. Beware! The poison in these long fin rays protects the fish, but it can harm unwitting owners. If you are unfortunate enough to be stung by your lionfish, bathe the wound in the hottest water you can stand right away. The proteins in the venom will be broken down by heat. It is suggested that you use this medication while traveling to the doctor or hospital for more sophisticated medical treatment.

The lionfish's colors can range from a bold, bright red to a darker burgundy or maroon. Fins without venomous spines are usually almost transparent with darker brown, almost black, spots.


Lionfish are normally peaceful tankmates for large fish, but their poisonous protuberances can be an issue for more aggressive tankmates that try to harass them. Multiple lionfish can be housed in a single aquarium, and one or two can be added to a community reef or coral tank if the other fish are large enough to not be eaten. Lionfish are kind to corals and don't need a cave to hide in. Smaller dwarf lionfish may prefer their own cave or fissure. Keep in mind that these fish prefer somewhat colder saltwater environments when selecting tankmates.

Lionfish Habitat and Care

The most crucial feature of a lionfish habitat is ample swimming space. Their deadly spines take up a lot of room, and your fish will suffer if they get trapped on the decorations. Keep your decorations simple or make sure there is plenty of open swimming space.

Lionfish are generally easy to care for, although appropriate water chemistry is essential. Maintain a regular maintenance schedule and check your water chemistry on a regular basis.

Lionfish Diet and Feeding

Top predators, lionfish demand a carnivorous diet. Frozen shrimp, fish, or squid should be added to most saltwater community pelleted meals. Although it may be tempting to feed your lionfish live items like goldfish or crabs, bear in mind that this is a typical way for infections to infiltrate your aquarium. To maintain your system safe and healthy, you must quarantine all living additions.

Gender Differences

There are no external differences between male and female lionfish. They are similar in size and appearance, regardless of their gender.

When your lionfish achieve reproductive maturity and display behavioral indicators, you should be able to identify males from females. Your fish may form a partnership and claim a tiny area, or one male may chase away other males in order to build his breeding harem.

Breeding the Lionfish

Because of its reproductive technique, lionfish have become an invasive species in many places of the world. They are prolific spawners and reach reproductive maturity in less than a year. Some lionfish have been seen producing around two million eggs every year in the wild.

The lionfish may be reproduced in captivity, with certain species reproducing in harems (groups of two or more). Give your lionfish plenty of area, preferably in a separate breeding tank, as with other fish in captivity. The females will lay a sticky egg mass, and the male will fertilize it shortly after. In order to effectively breed your fish, you may need to keep an eye out for certain courtship habits. However, before mating lionfish, make sure you have a strategy in place to deal with any offspring.


Do not let them go into the ocean!

More Pet Fish Species and Further Research

If you are interested in lionfish, and you want to know compatible fish species for your saltwater aquarium, check out: