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More FAQs about Lionfish Identification

Related Articles: Lionfish & Their RelativesKeeping Lionfishes and their Scorpaeniform Kin Part 1, Part 2, by Anthony Calfo and Robert Fenner, Dwarf Lionfishes,

Related FAQs: Lionfishes & their Relatives, Lions 2, Lions 3Lions 4Dwarf Lionfishes, Lionfish Selection, Lionfish Compatibility, Lionfish Systems, Lionfish Behavior, Lionfish Feeding, Lionfish DiseaseLionfish Reproduction, Freshwater "Lionfishes"

Scorpionfishes: Lionfishes & Much More for Marine Aquariums
Diversity, Selection & Care

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by Robert (Bob) Fenner

lionfish, IDs       1/21/14
Hi there!
I have a pretty simple question, it may involve a not so simple answer though. My quandary is this, I am looking into lion fish a bit and I was curious if the Pterois Mombasa and the Pterois Miles were the same thing?
<Mmm, have you checked Fishbase.com?

 They have very different "max" sizes but from any picture I've seen they look exactly the same! I've even asked a few LFS this question and some say "yes" and some say "no". I've looked at the defying characteristics for both and they look to be pretty much identical as best I can tell. So is the Mombasa the same thing as a Miles or are they different? Also, if they
are the same what is the actual size max? I've seen 6.5 most everywhere for the Mombasa and 14 most places I look for the Miles? If they are different how can I tell I'm looking at a Mombasa and not a Miles?
Thank you so much!
<Take a look, and click on the link for both species. Bob Fenner>

Lionfish ID 5/18/08
Good afternoon,
< Bill >
Last week I bought this Lionfish at my LFS and it was labeled "Red Lionfish". I spoke to the kid working at the store who told me it was a baby Volitans that happen to catch a ride with another fish as they normally don't sell them so young. While I've been searching the web I've been seeing similar ones labeled as "dwarf" lionfish. I was wondering if you could confirm if it is a Volitans or some other kind of Lionfish. He currently is under an inch in size, very active, and easy to feed. Thank you for such a great website and thank so much for your time!
< Looks like a Russell's Lionfish ( Pterois russellii ) , also called a Red Volitans Lionfish. The Russell's Lionfish is not a dwarf and will require a minimum of 75 gallons.
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/lions&rels.htm GA Jenkins >
- Bill (The Joker)

Lionfish Identification Hi! I've been scanning the site for several months now reading  and learning as much as I possibly can... I had what I thought was a well  planned out 38 gal FOWLR containing: 1 Tomato Clown 1 Yellow tail  Damsel (both I've had for approx 10 years) Just added in the last  5 months: Various hermit crabs, snails Live Sand Some live rock (don't know the poundage, but its not a  lot) 1 banded cleaner shrimp/ 1 skunk cleaner shrimp 1 (recently split to two, unidentified Anemone probably BTA or Condy?? <Likely the former> Fish store didn't have  a clue, photo attached, it has pink tips and  kind  of a fluorescent green coloration up close). Ammonia 0 Nitrite 0 Nitrates 25 (coming down with regular water  changes) Gravity 1.024 PH 8.4 Here's my problem... I sent my fianc?to pick up a small coral beauty at the  LFS that I had ordered and he came home with a rather small (approx 2") unidentified lion. Fish store lady said it might eat the  shrimp when it gets bigger <Will eat this... and the Damsels, including the Clown... perhaps the Hermits even> but should get along  well in my tank and that I would absolutely LOVE it!! Ahhh!! my tanks not big enough for all of this! <No... it's not big enough for what you currently have>   But a bigger ones not an  option for at least another 6 months - 1 year. Needless to  say the Coral Beauty died in the quarantine tank with ich but the lion seems to be quite healthy. I've looked over all of the lionfish pictures on WWM and cant  seem to find this one... He looks like the volitans but seems to have "peacock  eyes" on his fins which I haven't seen on the ones in the photos... Can you help  me identify him/her? <Is a Pterois volitans> (photo attached). Id like to know how big he's going to get <About a foot long in this system if it lives for a few years> and if I do go out and get a tank especially for him how big should it be? <Posted... at least eighty gallons> I am  hoping he's a dwarf of some kind? <Ah, no> Also, the infamous pet store lady said she could not get him  to eat anything but White Cloud feeder minnows. <Interesting... wonder where they're getting these minnows in the wild?> She has tried but to no avail...  I had much success with getting our piranhas off of the feeders by feeding them  seafood from the deli, large Hikari  pellets, and nightcrawlers... What should I start with on  this lion? <Posted... start reading here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/lions&rels.htm and the links till you engender enlightenment...> Also, last but not least... I had planned on adding a chunk of  live rock to my quarantine tank as it is set up at all times now... However, I  was told that if I ever treated anything with Coppersafe that it would not EVER  come out of the live rock and would be toxic to anemones etc. Is this true? <To an extent yes... again, more to this than simple yes/no responses... Read on WWM...> Thanks for any information you have to offer! Carrie
<Keep reading... and return these fishes. Bob Fenner>

Lionfish taxonomy Dear crew: I have perused everything on this site that I can find, and Dr. Marini's articles on reefkeeper.com, and I remain baffled, hoping you can shed some light.  I'm trying to identify a fish by species, and having difficulty. I am sorry that I can't forward digital pictures, and am hoping that a gross physical description might be a purposeful place to start. <Not likely> A local fish store has a variant of dwarf lion that seems not to fit with what I can find in descriptions of species.  When asked, employees could only report that it had been taken in trade, and had been in the store for some time.  Anecdotally, one of them thought it might have originally come from Florida, though that could just as easily have been the locus of the collector/aquarist. When queried about the species, they generalized it to be a fuzzy dwarf. <There are many scorpaenoid fishes called "dwarf lions", not all are pteroines...> The critter in question most generally seems to be brachypterus, but not quite.  The pectoral fins have the characteristic shape reminiscent of the sail on a Chinese junk, and are webbed almost to the end of the spines. Body shape [about 4"], coloration, and fin profile are generally consistent, but there are a few significant departures.  It lacks the "moustache" protuberances at the corners of the mouth, and has no noticeable "horns" above the eyes.  There are bumps of tissue along the lateral line, again consistent with brachypterus, but most noticeably there are no "flags" of tissue at the ends of the dorsal spines as both of my fuzzies have.  Finally, while every fuzzy I have seen has blue eyes, the eyes of this fish have a bright orange outer circle, with a center that is a deep green/black [like a Tahitian black pearl]. My best guess is that it's actually a barberi.  Can you suggest any definitive characteristics that I can look for to identify it more definitively?  Am I overlooking the obvious, and can you tell me what I should have figured out on my own?   <Mmm, you might peruse the linked references for these species, genera on fishbase.org or make a trip to a large college library for a computer searched bibliography... There is variation in the Brachypterus mentioned... color and appendages-wise... Bob Fenner> Looking forward to your suggestions, Rick Walters


Lionfish ID, health This is a two part question. First off I have what I thought was a Volitans Lion-fish in my 125 gal tank. Some friends have seen him and think he looks more like a Russell's lion. What exactly is the difference other than size? <Some meristics... please see fishbase.org re> I've seen pics of both and he can be either. I will attach pics for you to see. Also, he has a major growth on his fin that looks like a darkened swelling. You can see it slightly in the pic included. Is this lymphocystis? <Mmm, doesn't appear so to me... likely a growth from a "bump"... hopefully will heal of its own accord. Bob Fenner>


A lionfish with and w/o antenna I currently have a lionfish that has two prominent antenna. My friend has one with no antenna. Supposedly they are both the same species. I would like to know the difference. I was thinking one was male and the other female?? Or different species? <Good question. I have also seen sympatric (the same) species of lionfishes underwater and in captivity who had "antennae" and not. Don't know the definitive answer here, but I suspect that sometimes the ones "missing" these structures have suffered physical trauma (have seen other fishes bite these off!), and other times that there is genetic diversity at play. It's thought that Lionfish species use their fantastic array of large pectoral, anterior dorsal and "head appendages" mainly for prey-gathering... making a large, confusing appearance as they charge small fishes and motile invertebrates as food... The "antennae" seem like they would help here. Bob Fenner> "Black" Lionfish (8/4/04) Hi Bob, <Steve Allen with you today.> There is a lion fish that is black, can You please confirm this for me, and tell me if they are readily available, I have heard about them, but living in Tassie we have very limited opportunities to purchase one of these. Would be very grateful for any help. Regards Sue-Ellen <I suspect you are referring to the "Black" volitans. This a color morph of the species Pterois volitans. The stripes of this species range in color from red to brown to black, but they are all the same species. Since individual coloration is a factor of more than just genetics (diet plays a big roll for instance), there is no guarantee that a black one you buy will stay black. Many fish change shades over time.>

Mystery Lionfish identification Bob and crew, <Howdy>      I think I have found a website that identifies your mystery Lionfish daily background picture.  It is called the Blackfin Lionfish (Parapterois heterura).  The site says it's a rare species.  The picture is from a different angle but I believe it's the same specimen.  The website is http://www.starfish.ch/reef/stonefish.html  Hope this will answer everyone's questions. <Ah, looks like it. Thank you, Bob Fenner>
Jeremy - Pineville, LA
Blackfin Lionfish (ID of "lion" on WWM dailies) You can also view http://www.starfish.ch/Fotos/lionfishblackfin.html for a bit more information. <Thank you! Bob Fenner> Jeremy - Pineville, LA

Which Scorpaenidae it Be??  >Hi there guys.....  >>Hello.  >Yet another question that I'm hoping you and your staff will be able to help me with. I'm not entirely sure if I have purchased a leaf fish or a wasp fish.  >>What was it sold as?  >I will send a few photos, yet I can't seem to narrow it down.  >>Yes, you sent some seriously MASSIVE photos.. <giggle>, you darn near blew out our limit! I've "grabbed" it and reduced it, though. ;)  >To make the situation worse I just bought it, and I didn't know that it was venomous, right?  >>Oh YES. But if you're ever stung, as long as you're not allergic to insect stings the best thing to do is pee on it (no, I'm not kidding, it really works.. oh my, do I have a STORY about a customer hitting a leaf fish's tank!). In any event, both leaf and wasp fishes are indeed venomous. This is what happens when you buy first and ask questions later.  >It is?  >>I'm not lying.  >Either the leaf fish or the wasp fish?!  >>Either and BOTH, I swear it.  >I was hoping you could tell me if it was venomous or not and what species it is to be exact, your time and help and insight of course, is always more appreciated than you guys will ever know!  >>That all depends on who you ask, but for the most part, yeah? In any event, it's definitely venomous, do handle with care. If you are AT ALL allergic to stings be CERTAIN to have a "crash kit" handy. Let's take a look through my mini-marine fish bible... Alright, because of the HUGE variability in both coloration and external "decoration" (protuberances, frills, etc.), it *could* be either a leaf or wasp fish, however, based upon what I can make out of the mouth, I feel it's likely a wasp fish (mouth is much smaller than leaf fish's, not quite as down turned), however, I most certainly could be entirely wrong. However, do know that you do have a venomous resident. Marina 
Scorpionfishes: Lionfishes & Much More for Marine Aquariums
Diversity, Selection & Care

New eBook on Amazon: Available here
New Print Book on Create Space: Available here

by Robert (Bob) Fenner
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