Red Lionfish Care “Pterois Volitans”

The red lionfish is a saltwater fish that can be found in the Indo-Pacific and East Africa. It is also known as Pterois volitans, the red firefish, red zebrafish, red weaver, weaver’s delight, and banded sea krait. The red lionfish has almost always been considered venomous or poisonous – it contains tetrodotoxin which makes them dangerous to eat. Surprisingly enough though, not all red lionfish are toxic; only about half of them contain this deadly toxin!

The red lionfish is a venomous fish that lives in the Indo-Pacific Ocean. They are red, with white spots and stripes running along their body. They have long, needle-like spines on its dorsal, pelvic, and anal fins which can be used to inflict painful stings. There are over 40 different species of red lionfish found in coastal waters around the world.

If you are a diver, odds are you have heard of the Red Lionfish. They are an invasive species in the Caribbean and the Atlantic ocean. They reproduce quickly, eat anything they can get their teeth on, and have no predators to keep them in check. These characteristics make for one tough fish that has become a major problem for native marine life.

Red lionfish are often described as being mischievous because they wreak havoc on reef ecosystems by eating everything in sight! They also display territorial behavior when it comes to other red lionfish males or females which means there is always fighting going on within this species.

Origin and descriptions

The red lionfish is a species of venomous fish that originates from the Indo-Pacific Ocean. It’s known for its bright coloration, with distinctively long and feathery fins as well as spines on their backs, heads, and sides. Although it belongs to the scorpionfish family (Scorpaenidae), it is not considered a true scorpionfish. It has been known to swim into shallow waters, which can pose a threat to humans and makes them dangerous fish for aquariums.

Their body is decorated by vertical dark bars which may join to form horizontal lines.

The dorsal, anal, and pelvic spines are covered with venom glands while the pectoral fins lack venom glands. The spines are used for self-defense only, not to catch prey.

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Their rings of teeth lining the mouth contain approximately 70 tooth plates which rotate like a conveyor belt as new teeth come up from behind. Their teeth are fused together to form a beak-like structure which allows them to easily crush shelled prey such as crabs and urchins, however, they will also readily feed on fish and smaller crustaceans.

Species profile

The red lionfish is named for its coloration. It has long, distinctive fins with spines on its backs, heads, and sides that can grow to be one meter in length. It belongs to the scorpionfish family (Scorpaenidae) and this fish isn’t considered a true scorpionfish.

Scientific name

The scientific name of the red lionfish is Pterois volitans

Color and appearance

The red lionfish has a bright coloration, with distinctively long and feathery fins as well as spines on their backs, heads, and sides. They can be brown or greenish-grey above grading to white below; the body is decorated by vertical dark bars which may join to form horizontal lines.

Lionfishes are also known as fire fishes or turkey fishes because of their red-and-white stripes and feathery fins like the headdresses of Native Americans.

Range and habitat

Red lionfish can be found in the Atlantic Ocean, from North Carolina to South America and around Bermuda. Inhabiting shallow reefs or rocky areas near shore at depths of up to 100 feet (30 meters), they prefer warmer waters where temperatures are between 70-86 degrees Fahrenheit (21-30 C).

They live on a wide range of habitats, such as reefs and areas of rocks at depths from very shallow water to 100 feet (30 meters).


The average size of these fish is around 45 cm long, excluding the tall fins and spikes on its back and sides which can be up to 20 cm. They weigh about 900 grams or two pounds.

Tank size

Red lionfish need a minimum tank size of 100 gallons and prefer an established aquarium with plenty of live rock to swim among. The water should be kept between 72-82°F (22-28°C) and the salinity around 30 ppm (specific gravity = .98).

Life cycle

Red lionfish generally live between 12 and 15 years. A male can release up to two million eggs, but only a small percentage of those will survive after spawning.

The mating ritual is an elaborate one where the female creates a pit in the loose substrate on the seafloor using her pelvic fins and then begins circling around him with her pectoral fins fully extended. If he does not retreat, she will eventually follow him closely, biting and chasing until the male makes a full-body flip to place his ventral surface against her dorsal fin (known as a saddled position). The two then rise slowly from the seafloor and hover for up to an hour.

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Are they aggressive or peaceful?

Red lionfish are territorial and aggressive, so be careful when choosing tank mates. They have venomous dorsal spines that can inflict a painful sting if they feel threatened or in danger of capture.

They will eat just about anything smaller than them including other fish, crabs, shrimps and even ornamental snails!

The best companion species are those that can stand up to their bullying behavior like triggerfish, larger angels, and eels. They should not be kept with other lionfish because they will fight until one of them is dead.

Red lionfish care

Red lionfish need a minimum tank size of 100 gallons and prefer an established aquarium with plenty of live rock to swim among. The water should be kept between 72-82°F (22-28°C) and the salinity around 30 ppm.

Red lionfish diet

The red lion fish is an ambush predator that feeds on small fish, invertebrates, and other organisms in the water column.

It hunts by sitting motionless on a rock or coral head with its fins erect to blend into surroundings, then darts out quickly at nearby prey. A good variety of meaty foods are best offered including squid, shrimp, scallop, herring, pieces of fish fillet and krill.

They are scavengers too, so offer meaty foods that have not been previously frozen or cured with chemicals.

Tank mates

Red lionfish are not aggressive, but they will defend their territory fiercely. The question is what can you put into the same tank as a red lion fish that won’t end up on its menu?

Among suitable companions are larger angelfish, butterflyfish and basslets, which have scales too large for the small teeth of this piscivore to penetrate.

Other suitable tank mates include triggerfish, wrasses and tangs that are large enough not to be intimidated by the red lion fish or small enough for it to eat if they do fight.

Lionfish can also share a reef aquarium with other docile species including gobies, blennies and dartfishes.

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As a rule, you can choose tank mates that are smaller and drabber than them.

Water conditions

Even though they are hardy, red lionfish do not have an unlimited tolerance for variations in water chemistry.

They need good-quality saltwater with specific gravity of at least .98 and a pH between eight and 12. Use RO or RODI filtered seawater to prepare the aquarium water if you live in an area with tap water that is soft, acidic or very low in minerals.

Red lionfish also need good water movement and high oxygen levels to help them cope with the warmer temperatures they prefer. Regular partial water changes are a must to keep nitrates at bay and maintain stability for this sensitive species.

Last but not least, use an efficient protein skimmer, as these fish produce a lot of metabolic waste.

These fish are very sensitive to medications, so quinine-based remedies should always be avoided or used with caution and care. Saltwater dips can help cure white spot disease caused by Ichthyophthirius multifiliis .

Breeding Pterois volitans

Red lionfish are generally difficult to breed in an aquarium.

There is evidence that spawning occurs throughout the year, though it peaks between April and October when water temperatures are around 82-86°F (28 – 30°C).

A male can be distinguished from a female by his longer, more pointed dorsal spines as well as a thicker, more robust body.

The male prepares a nest on the seafloor by clearing a depression and tends it until the eggs are laid. He then guards them for five to six weeks as they develop into tiny replicas of their parents.

Breeding aquariums should be at least 150 gallons with fine-grade sand covering most of the base. Provide plenty of caves and crevices for the male to hide in during the courting period, as he becomes more aggressive towards potential rivals when guarding his nest.

The eggs are small, so it is difficult to feed them once they hatch. The fry require tiny live foods such as rotifers or freshly hatched brine shrimp for the first few days, then they gradually accept frozen baby brine shrimp and finely chopped seafood as their diet.

Breeding red lionfish is not possible without a large aquarium containing live rock with plenty of caves for spawning and shelter during early development stages. They also need small invertebrates such as rotifers or newly hatched brine shrimp to feed the fry for the first few days. When they grow larger, offer frozen baby brine shrimp and finely chopped seafood as their diet.

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Red lionfish are thought to live for up to 14 years in the wild, but their lifespan is generally shorter in aquariums.

Parasites and diseases

Red lionfish are prone to a variety of parasites and diseases, including marine velvet disease.

If the fish has a loss of appetite or shows any abnormal behavior such as darting back and forth or resting at odd angles, these may be symptoms that it is suffering from parasitic infection.

In case you notice white spots on its body, use a saltwater dip with quinine hydrochloride to cure white spot disease caused by Ichthyophthirius multifiliis.


The greatest threat to red lionfish are predators such as grouper, large eels, and sharks.

Red lionfish have venomous spines that can cause painful injuries on contact with humans or other fish species in the aquarium.

While they may survive an attack from a shark, the wounds inflicted by its teeth will still take their toll.

The best way to prevent these fish from being attacked by predators is to put them in a well-established aquarium with plenty of hiding spots and shelters.

Does it make good pets?

Red lionfish are not the best pets as they can be difficult to care for.

They need a large aquarium with plenty of live rock and caves, strong water movement that provides good oxygen levels, appropriate lighting, and proper filtration.

In addition, these fish have sharp spines on their dorsal fins which inject venom into predators or humans that touch them.

If you are looking for an easy pet fish, consider more suitable species such as clownfish or damselfish.

Red lionfish do not make good pets because they need a large aquarium with plenty of live rock and caves, high water movement which provides good oxygen levels, proper lighting, and a filtration system.


The red lionfish is an invasive species in the Atlantic and Caribbean, yet they are popular aquarium fish around the world. This makes it difficult to control their numbers because of how easy it can be for people to buy them at pet stores or online. While venomous spines make them dangerous, there is no evidence that suggests this has caused large-scale fatalities in humans.