The beautiful but deadly lionfish

An Invasive Species

In 1985, the invasive lionfish was first reported on the Atlantic coast of Florida. Today, the lionfish has spread into the Gulf of Mexico, down through the Bahamas, and down even to the coast of Venezuela in South America. Because it’s native to the warm, tropical waters of the South Pacific and Indian Oceans (around India and Australia), it is unclear how the lionfish was introduced to the Americas. However, since its appearance, it has gained a reputation for being one of the most invasive species in the United States.

In the Wild

The lionfish is problematic for marine life in the wild because it has been able to spread widely and rapidly. They reproduce fairly quickly, and it takes less than a year for a lionfish to reach maturity. Once they are mature, they can spaun up to every 4 days in warmer climates.

The lionfish is a predatory fish, and it feeds on over 70 different types of prey fish and invertebrates, like the banded shrimp and the critically endangered nassau grouper. Being predatory, it also is competition for other predatory fish, like larger grouper species and snappers. In addition, it also can cause ecological havoc for reef habitats by eating fish that clean hazardous algae that can harm coral.

Humans can also be affected. The lionfish has 18 venomous spines that are used for repelling predators. If a lionfish is stepped on, its spines will go into a person’s foot, causing severe pain, swelling, and sometimes blistering of the area. However, despite having venomous spines, lionfish meat is not poisonous at all.

In the Tank

As aquarium fish, the lionfish can be extremely fascinating. From their red and brown zebra-like stripes to their featherlike dorsal fins, lionfish are interesting to watch as they slowly creep up on their prey. In tanks, lionfish are usually fed live prey like goldfish or ghost shrimp.

However, you should be cautious about bringing a lionfish into your aquarium as they are a predator and can eat your other cherished fish indiscriminately.

Check out the Lionfish in action. 

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