Species encyclopedia

Red Lionfish

Pterois volitans


Red lionfish can be found in lagoons, between the surface and 50 m below.

They stay under the shelter of an overhang during the day and come out at night to feed. Lionfish lie in wait at night, hunting fish, shrimp and crabs.

Their unique hunting style is carried out in a pack that surrounds the victims with the lionfish’s large pectoral fins. Their protractile mouth (which can be thrust forward) and their ability to distend their stomach allows them to swallow prey as big as they are, but also enormous quantities of food in general.


The female red lionfish is oviparous (egg-laying). She expels thousands of eggs coated in a gelatinous mass that allows them to float to the water’s surface. After several days, larvae measuring a few millimetres are born. It then takes another three weeks for them to develop into young fish.

Defense system

The rays of the red lionfish’s dorsal, anal and pelvic fins are venomous. They are endowed with muscles used to raise them instantaneously and are connected to glands containing venom with haemolytic and neurotoxic properties. Their sting causes sharp pain followed by numbing, nausea, dizziness and even heart and respiratory problems (depending on the dose injected). It usually heals within a few days.

The red lionfish is very similar to the spotfin lionfish. They differ however in that the red lionfish is larger and the spiny rays of its dorsal and pectoral fins are connected to a membrane running their whole length.

Many fish venoms are thermolabile (can be destroyed with heat). So if you are stung, you should approach that area to a heat source.

Indo-Pacific region


Species encyclopedia

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