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Fish of the Month
Issue: November 2010

Pterois volitans

LINNAEUS 1758

FOM T 1110

Iggy Tavares

Common Names: Black volitans, butterfly, common lionfish, featherfins, fire fish, lion fish, ornate butterfly cod, peacock lionfish, red firefish, red lionfish, red volitans, scorpion volitans, scorpion cod, turkey fish, zebrafish, etc.

Type Locality: Ambon Island, Moluccan Islands, Indonesia

Range: Widespread in the Pacific Ocean, introduced and established in the Atlantic off the southeast U.S. coast

Taxonomic Troubles: Originally described as Gasterosteus volitans. There has been confusion about the status of the extremely similar P. miles. Recent studies support the division and suggest that the species replaces P. volitans in the western part of its range. Both

Size: 38 cm (15 inches), with Atlantic specimens apparently growing a bit larger.

Preferred Water Chemistry: Tropical marine. Their Atlantic distribution suggests considerable cold tolerance for a tropical species.

Difficulty: A very hardy aquarium fish, but the sting is venomous. Be very cautious when handling or working with any fish in the family Scorpaenidae.

Tank Setup: As a large predator this fish requires very large tanks with superb filtration and frequent water changes, which makes it unsuitable for reef systems. Caves or other hiding spaces are necessary, and bright lights will keep this crepuscular species from ve

Feeding: A predator of fish and invertebrates. Uses its pectoral fins to herd and corral its prey. Although they are easily trained to take non-living foods, many lionfish die an early death at the hands of hobbyists who feed them mainly or exclusively on live gol

Breeding: Fry have not yet been successfully raised in captivity.

Description: The bold striping and elaborate finnage of a lionfish is recognized even by non-aquarists. The color of the stripes varies from red through brown to black.

Notes: Many of these magnificent animals languish in undersized, underfiltered tanks with an inadequate diet. Kept properly, they are beautiful, fascinating, and long-lived. With careful planning they can be part of a large fish-only community in an aquarium of several hundred gallons. On a smaller scale they can be interactive pets in a single-specimen setup. The natural tameness and curiosity of these fish increase the importance of extreme care when working with your hand in the tank; it is best to put a barrier between you and the fish. The reproducing population of this fish off the Atlantic Seaboard appears to be having a negative impact on native fish populations, and this has many people calling for adding this species to our diets, as it is an esteemed food fish in Asia. Collecting these popular aquarium specimens for the trade is another viable option. The decreased shipping time would mean lower prices and better condition of the fish.

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