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Kidadl Team

AUGUST 06, 2021

Red Lionfish: 15 Facts You Won't Believe!

Red lionfish facts, discover an intriguing fish that may add charm to your aquarium.

Let us take you on a marine adventure to introduce you to a beautifully intriguing coral reef fish that is venomous. The red lionfish is a fast-growing lionfish species that have invaded the Western Atlantic region claiming the title of an invasive fish species. Their body coloration provides them the perfect camouflage in the reef regions, protecting them from predators and helping them attack their prey quickly.

Their venom glands are situated at the base of their fins which gives them protection from predators. These lionfish species are highly adaptable to various temperature ranges from 60°F - 90°F (22.2°C - 32.2°C). They are apex predators displaying excellent defense mechanisms and great habitat tolerances, making them a hardy species of fish. They can change the equation of the local ecosystem with their predatory and adaptive nature.

For more relatable content, check out these African lungfish facts and mudfish facts for kids.

Red Lionfish Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a red lionfish?

Red lionfish are also known by the name Zebrafish, is a coral reef fish that is venomous. They are endemic to their native range of the Indo-Pacific and the Red Sea region.

What class of animal does a red lionfish belong to?

The red lionfish belongs to the class Actinopterygii and the family Scorpaenidae.

How many red lionfish are there in the world?

The exact count of the Red lionfish is unknown in its habitat range. However, being an invasive species and a broadcast spawner, their population displays an increasing trend across their habitat range.

Where does a red lionfish live?

The red lionfishes are extensively spread in the Indo-pacific ocean region and the Red Sea extending from Cocos-Keeling to the Christmas Islands. They are also found in French Polynesia, northern New Zealand, Lord Howe Island, and the Austral Islands. Their geographic range has also been observed from North Australia to the South of Japan. They are termed invasive species in the Western Atlantic ocean region, out of their native range.

What is a red lionfish's habitat?

The red lionfishes are observed at depths of 1 - 50 m (3.2 - 164 ft)   in the Ocean. But in the Caribbean, these species have inhabited depths of 300 m (984  ft). As a result, these reef fishes have become notorious for their invasive nature in the Western Atlantic, where they have minimal predator threats.

These red lionfish species can also be found in Mangroves, estuarine regions, etc. They prefer the warm marine water of the Tropical ocean regions. They are found in plenty near the rocks and coral reef during the night.

Who do red lionfish live with?

In their juvenile stage and mating period, these red lionfishes can be observed in small groups. However, for most of their life, they are seen as solitary fishes. They defend their homes very aggressively. Male red lionfishes are more aggressive than females.

How long does a red lionfish live?

In the wild, the red lionfish are noted to live for around 10 years.

How do they reproduce?

During the mating season, the male will form a group of up to eight fishes with other females. The mating season displays physical differences in these fishes. Males become darker and uniform in coloring, and the female having maturing eggs will become paler.

During courtship, the male will circle the female and shoot up to the water surface, and the female will follow suit. The female then releases her spawn on the water surface. The spawn comprises two mucus tubes that are hollow and float just below the water surface. The seawater makes these hollow tubes into oval balls measuring  0.78 - 1.96 in (2-5 cm) in diameter. These mucus balls host one or two layers of independent eggs. Each ball may contain between 2,000- 15,000 eggs.

The male sperm enters these mucus balls and fertilizes the eggs. The embryo formation starts only after 12 hours. The larvae hatch after 36 hours, and four days later, they become good swimmers and are capable of feeding on small ciliates.

What is their conservation status?

The IUCN Red List places the red lionfish in the Least Concern category as these fish are expanding in their native habitats and are rapidly flourishing in their non-native habitats in the U.S.

Red Lionfish Fun Facts

What do red lionfish look like?

Interesting facts about red lionfish, this invasive species from the Indo-Pacific region can spawn two million eggs each year in South Florida

The red lionfish has a patterned head and body in reddish or golden brown color bands overlapping the yellow background. There are dark rows on spots on their dorsal fins and the anal fins. They have 13 poisonous dorsal spines and 14 feather-like long pectoral fins. These fan-like pectoral fins are used to pursue and attack their prey. They have a bony ridge across their cheek and flaps that could hide away their nose and eyes. In addition, there is a tentacle above their eyes. The spines present on the dorsal, anal, and pelvic fins can cause severe harmful reactions in humans.

How cute are they?

The unique built of their body makes them an exclusive showpiece of your aquarium. Home aquarists have termed these lionfishes to be relatively peaceful in captivity.

How do they communicate?

Their communication channels are mostly tactile and chemical. They have elaborate body displays while expressing aggression during courtship. An invading male is welcomed by the courting agitated male with their fins widely spread. There will be some back and forth swimming display in front of the invader, including the display of their venomous dorsal spines.

The final step in the show of aggression will be the agitated male sitting face on with the invader and charging on it to rip off the invader's head. This process will continue until the invader gives up or is impaled completely. So we can conclude by saying, no one wants to fall in the wrong line with a courting male lionfish.

How big is a red lionfish?

The red lionfish can grow as much as 15 in ( 38 cm ). However, they are three times smaller than the blackfish tuna that measures 39 in (100 cm).

How fast can a red lionfish swim?

The exact swimming speed of the red lionfish is unknown. But, we do know that the lionfish species are not great swimmers. Though they are an apex predator and can strike their prey at great speed, they cannot swim long distances.

How much does a red lionfish weigh?

The red lionfish (Pterois volitans) weighs as much as 2.6 lb ( 1.2 kg ). However, they are five times lighter than the haddock fish that weighs 20 lb ( 9.2 kg).

What are the male and female names of the species?

The male and the female red lionfish are called male red lionfish and female red lionfish, respectively.

What would you call a baby red lionfish?

According to their developmental stage, the baby red lionfish is called a larva, fry, or fingerling. When the egg hatches, they are called larvae, which take its nutrition from the yolk-sac attached to it. When the larvae can feed themselves, they become fry. When the fry develops fins and scales, they are called fingerlings.

What do they eat?

Red lionfish (Pterois volitans) are the apex predators in coral reef regions. They prey on small fishes, shrimps, crabs, and invertebrates smaller than 4 in ( 10 cm). They approach their prey very slowly and attack in a lightning strike with a snap of their jaws and swallowing the entire prey in one go.

Although they are not known to have any natural predators, they could be predated by groupers, eels, snappers, and sharks in the wild.

Are they dangerous?

This red lionfish can pose a threat to humans if they sting as a defense mechanism. Their sting could give a pain that lasts for many days, and symptoms can range from pain distress, sweating, and respiratory challenges. The commercial stonefish antivenom is known to be effective against the lionfish venom.

It is interesting to observe that the red lionfish, though venomous fish, are not poisonous enough to be fatal to humans. The lionfish can be eaten if the venomous spines are discarded; they make a great food option for fish lovers.

Would they make a good pet?

Though they are an aggressive predator in the wild, these lionfishes are pretty popular in the aquarium trade. These fishes are hardy and add an intriguing element to the home aquariums. They do make exciting pets for aquarium hobbyists.

Did you know...

The species Pterois miles (Devil firefish) and Pterois volitans were considered as one species. DNA analysis is the only way to distinguish between the two. Red volitan lionfish dominate the Atlantic and Caribbean region claiming a 93% share of the invasive fish population here.

A unique feature observed of the Pterois volitans is that they also hunt for their prey near the water surface using a distinct technique. First, they would wait just below the water and observe the small fishes leaping out of the water to escape their predators. Then, when they lunge back into the water, they get devoured by these Lionfishes ready in their attack mode.

Red lionfish as an invasive species

Red lionfish (Pterois volitans) was introduced to Florida in the Key Biscayne area when Hurricane Andrew destroyed a beachside aquarium in 1992. There have also been reports of the intentional release of these fish species into the ecosystem in the Western Atlantic area.

These lionfish species have an extraordinary ability to multiply, and they have invaded the East of the U.S, the Gulf coasts, and the Caribbean. It has been observed that the lionfish population has grown at a rate of 67 % every year. Many experiments have revealed that these non-native invasive lionfish species could replace 80% of the native fish population on coral reefs. Their sister species, Pterois miles, contribute to 7% of the invasive lionfish population in the local ecosystem. Pterois miles are found on the Eastern coast of the U.S.

Red lionfish in the ecosystem

The bad thing that people may accuse these lionfish species is that with their invasive nature, red lionfish pose a threat to the local ecosystem by aggressively attacking the native fishes and competing with the native fishes for a share of food resources. Suppose the red lionfish reduces the number of cleaner fishes from a particular ecosystem, which is essential to the fish population of that ecosystem. If these lionfishes clean up all the herbivorous fishes, the corals will get overgrown with seaweed and algae. So, it is clear that red lionfishes in an ecosystem have a cascading effect on the respective ecosystem.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other arthropods from our pigfish facts and moonfish facts pages.

You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our free printable Red lionfish coloring pages.

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