Pterois volitans

From RTAW Reefpedia
Jump to: navigation, search
See Talk:Pterois volitans for individual experiences with this species, Pterois volitans. Feel free to add your own personal experiences.

Common Name
Volitans Lionfish
Binomial Name
Pterois volitans
Pterois volitans 001.jpg
Scientific Classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Scorpaeniformes
Family: Scorpaenidae
Genus: Pterois
Species: volitans

Common Names

  • Volitans Lionfish


Easily recognisable fish with distinct pectoral and dorsal fins elongated in ribbon-like fashion along the length of its extended separated spines. Pectoral fins may exceed body length and may be used to herd prey during hunting. Dorsal, anal and pelvic spines contain a toxin that is used in defense.


Soft projections above each eye give a horned appearance, with projections around the jaw forming whiskers. Body is white with maroon/red-brown coloured vertical stripes with dark brown/black spots in the webbing of the pectoral fins and along the spines of the soft dorsal, anal and caudal fins. Colouration may deepen or lighten to suit environment and mood of the fish. Body shape shortens with age becoming squatter in adulthood.

Similar Species

Dendrochirus zebra (Zebra Lionfish), P. antennata (Spot-Fin Lionfish), and P. radiata (Whitefin Lionfish).

Maximum Size

38cm wild [1]

Associated Organisms



Slow swimming and often perches on or above rocks or corners of the aquarium, commonly found in a vertical, nose down pose. Will extend and display its pectoral and dorsals fins when hunting or agitated. An active predator with a large mouth, fish a third of it's body length or smaller may be seen as potential prey. Seemingly curious and intelligent, may pose a concern during aquarium maintenance.

Captive Care

Intermediate experience. Care needs to be taken due to poisonous spines. Careful selection for compatibility with fellow tank mates required. A known gorger, avoid over-feeding, known to choke when overfed.

Tank Size

They can attain 18” in captivity so require at least ~400L for adults [2], with a minimum tank width of 24". More room would also allow construction of taller bommies or large caves, where the fish can shelter during bright daylight hours.

Water Flow

Low to Moderate, not a strong swimmer, prefers out of current positions in high flow tanks.




Known to be reluctant in accepting fresh or frozen foods initially, once trained they are easily target fed. Diet should consist of a variety of crustaceans, fish and squid, noting stomach size during feeding to avoid over feeding. Daily or alternate days, will become more aggressive toward other inhabitants when under fed. Long term use of freshwater feeder fish can lead to premature death in P. volitans. This is because they lack marine HUFAs, or unsaturated fatty acids resulting in nutritional deficiencies [2].

Growth Rate

Slow to moderate depending on feeding rate.


Fairly resistant to many external protozoan parasites, skin may shed in an attempt to rid themselves of parasitic infections.


POISONOUS. Stiff spines on the dorsal, anal and pelvic fins contain a toxin that can cause very painful stings. If stung, immediate treatment with hot running water for at least 20-30 minutes [2] will denature proteins in the venom and alleviate pain. If the spine penetrates deep or if pain persists, further medical attention should be sought.



An active and voracious predator, should not be housed with fish a third of their size or smaller without great care. Care should be taken when adding new inhabitants, it is advisable to remove or confine to allow a new inductee to settle into their new environment, frightened fish are an easy target for predation.


Any smaller fish it can fit in its mouth may become prey.




Incompatible with crustaceans.


Yet to be captively breed. Difficult to determine sexes, males can be aggressive towards each other. Pelagic spawner following a ritual dance between adults close to surface. Female releases two or more egg masses containing 2,000 - 15,000 eggs which after fertilisation by the male hatch in 3 days [3].

Local Ecology


Native to the Indo-Pacific Region and Eastern Africa and recently introduced to the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico and Eastern USA.


Often found up to 50m deep [1] in crevices and underneath rock structures during the day, actively feeding around structures at dawn and dusk.

Additional Information




  1. 1.0 1.1 ( Froese, R., Pauly, D. Fish Base, World Wide Web electronic publication, 2008, Retrieved: 12 Feb 2010,
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 ( Marini, F., The Lionfish Info Sheet: Captive Care and Home Husbandry, Reef Keeping Magazine, 1(10), 2002.
  3. ( Syngajewski, N., Forman-Orth, J., Analysis of the Lionfish (Pterois volitans) Introduction to the Eastern Coast of the United States, Invasive Species Management, University of Massachusetts, 2004.