The Red Lionfish, sometimes called turkey fish, zebra fish, dragon fish, butterfly cod, or fire fish, is a tropical saltwater fish native to Indo-Pacific coral reefs. It is easily recognized by long feather-like spines and striped body. The long spines serve as a protection and warning of the venom contained in the dorsal spines. The venom from the spine is not fatal but very painful and will usually subside after two or three hours depending on the amount.

Red Lionfish
Red Lionfish (Pterois volitans)
Photo by Larysa Johnston

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The species is an efficient predator on smaller fish which it corners and entraps before swallowing it whole. It also feeds on shrimp and prawns. They also hunt in packs, cooperating to drive the prey toward the waiting jaws of the larger, dominant lionfish. The reproduce at a rate of 2 million eggs annually. Within a year, they can strip a reef area of nearly 80 percent of its small fish population.

In a marine tank, they are peaceful with larger fishes, but will defend themselves if attacked. People who keep them will tell you that these fishes will quickly become tame and will respond to their owners, beg for food, and generally behave like true pets.


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