Red Lionfish

The Red Lionfish is a species of venomous marine fish that are part of the scorpionfish family. They hunt like lions do, meaning they stay still most of the time, but striking fast and unmercifully when they see a potential pray. But they also kind of look like lions as well with their long, flowing gently in the water dorsal and pectoral fins, just like the mane of a male lion.

There are 12 species of lionfish, of which the Pterois volitans is one of the most studied and kept species in captivity. Lionfish are aposematic, meaning they warn other predators by contrasting coloration and widening their fins. This is their way of alerting other creatures they are dangerous and not to be messed with.


The Red Lionfish is a real carnivore and predator. They hunt by using their camouflage skills and extreme lightning-fast reflexes. Their pray, mostly shrimp and fish do not even have a chance. They capture and corner their pray with their fins and swallow them all at once. Their mouth is designed to swallow large pray.

Natural environment

Lionfish are actually found in nearly all marine habitats, from 1 to 300 meters of depth. They have been seen on and around seagrass, mangroves, coral reefs, sand beds and ship wrecks. They do prefer tropical warm marine waters. Spread throughout the Indian and pacific ocean they are also found in the Atlantic near Florida, South Carolina and even up to New York, but it is believed to be an invasive species introduced in this region because of the aquarium trade. Unfortunately, aquarium owners most likely released them into the ocean when quitting the hobby. They can harm reef ecosystems when there are too many of them.

They are one of the top best predators that spawn year long, with females releasing up to 2 million eggs a year and out competing other already overfished native species (snappers and groupers) from food. They eat algae eating fish (Parrot fish) and when their populations decline, the coral reef can be overgrown with seaweed and algae.

Keeping a Lionfish at home

It is best to keep the Lionfish in FOWLR systems, preferably as a stand-alone species and otherwise mix them only with big, hardy, fish that can hold their own, such as bigger angel fish, tangs, triggerfish and eels. The Lionfish itself is also a hardy species that can adapt well to aquarium life when provided with adequate space. Even though they are slow swimmers, they still grow big and feel more comfortable in a spacious aquarium. Also give them places to hide and a good, varied, vitamin rich diet.

Pterois volitansUp to 50 cm, but in aquariums they stay smaller (30 to 40 cm).
Found in warm tropical waters of the South Pacific and Indian Oceans.Temperature: 22 – 28 °C
pH: 8,1 – 8,4
sG: 1.021 – 1.023
These fish are venomous, in fact the most venomous fish in the ocean. Their dorsal fins are like needles and they can shoot venom up through them but purely for defensive reasons when they feel threatened. They do not hunt using this venom. If you get stung by a lion fish while cleaning the aquarium, it will be extremely painful and can even cause nausea, headache and sometimes difficulty when breathing. It’s rarely fatal but if stung seeking medical help is still advised. Use great caution whenever you have to go inside their tank for maintenance and or cleaning. For safety feed them using a tong. They are venomous but not poisonous. In fact in some parts of the world they are eaten as a rare delicatesse.They live up to 15 years in the wild, but in captivity they can go beyond that, if they are provided with the right conditions and care.


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