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. They are considered to be one of the strangest and most spectacular members of the fauna that inhabits coral reefs.
Distribution & Habitat
Like the other scorpionfishes, lionfish is common throughout the Indo-Pacific region, but it does not occur in the eastern Pacific. Unlike most scorpionfishes, which have perfect camouflage, the lionfish contrasts dramatically with its habitat. It is a fish that is happiest in shallow, warm waters, where young specimen live in large numbers. This fish can also be found in estuaries. During the daylight hours, Pterois volitans keeps close to rocky outcrops, hiding beneath rocks or in small grottoes and recesses. At twilight it emerges from its hideout and starts hunting deeper down, on the sand or coral.
The highly developed fins, which have long rays, the slender, twisted spines that embellish the body with the brightest of colors, and the disproportionately large mouth, all give this fish an appearance that is somewhat grotesque. 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. Very young individuals are more or less transparent.
The venom from the spine is not fatal but very painful and will usually subside after 2 or 3 hours, depending on the amount.
They prey include crabs, shrimps, and fish. It does not catch nonmoving prey on the sea bed, but it can remain motionless, “suspended” in open water or positioned in front of its prey, waiting for it to make the slightest movement. Like the other members of the family, it has a huge mouth that enables it to catch prey the same size as itself. 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 lionfish lays its eggs enveloped in a mass of mucus that enables them to float and become dispersed by the action of the wind and the currents. This is a very prolific fish. They reproduce at a rate of 2 million eggs annually. Within a year, they can strip a reef area of nearly 80% 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.
- Daniel Beckman – Marine Environmental Biology and Conservation
- Ray Hunziker – Marine Aquariums: Basic Aquarium Setup And Maintenance
- Rosalie Klein – Moon Aruba