Common Lionfish

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Pterois volitans - (Linnaeus, 1758)
Common Lionfish

With ornate finnage and great hardiness, this fish is a favorite for larger aquariums. Scott W. Michael


This is a great aquarium species, exceptionally hardy and providing a constant display as it parades about the tank.

Beware, as its fin spines are loaded with a potent venom. Give its venomous spines plenty of space when cleaning the aquarium, and be sure children cannot reach into the tank.

Breeding populations of Pterois volitans and the closely related Pterois miles are now established in western Atlantic. These fishes are now regarded as invasive species in American and Caribbean waters. See Lionfish Invasion Spreads.

Family: Scorpaenidae

Other common name(s):

  • Volitans Lionfish
  • Black Volitans Lionfish
  • Red Lionfish

Native range:

Habitat: Reef or reef-sand interface, lagoons. It tends to stay in the open and needs ample room to swim in and rest.

Maximum length: 38 cm (15 in)

Minimum aquarium size: 285 L (75 gal)

Water: Marine 24 °C (75 °F) - 28 °C (82 °F)

General swimming level: All levels.


Carnivore. Feed meaty seafoods, such as shrimp and squid, to satiation several times a week. To start a new fish feeding, offer fresh seafood from the end of a feeding stick. If the lionfish shows no interest, live ghost shrimp or feeder fish are rarely rejected.

Aquarium Compatibility

This ornate creature is not usually a threat to any tankmate, except for those that will fit into its extended jaws. On rare occasions, it may behave aggressively toward another lionfish—­during such battles it may joust at its opponent with its venomous dorsal spines. It will eat smaller fishes and ornamental shrimps.

Special Care

VENOMOUS spines. Handle with care and use caution when feeding and cleaning the aquarium. Stings are painful, but not lethal, although allergic reactions are potentially severe.


Demersal (on or near the bottom) spawners, lay eggs in a gelatinous mass. After hatching, the larvae float with the plankton.


Because of its boldness, it is one of the best of the lionfishes for life in the aquarium. It will learn to recognize its keeper as a source of food, and will beg at the water’s surface when it sees him or her in the room.

Reference: 101 Best Saltwater Fishes
Image credit: SWM
Text credit: SWM