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Keeping Lionfishes and their
Scorpaeniform Kin

Part 2:  Information on Families and Species

Keeping Lionfishes and their Scorpaeniform Kin
Part : Information on Families and Species


By Anthony Calfo and Robert Fenner


In Part one, we looked at the natural history, behavior and captive husbandry of the Scorpaeniforms as a family.  Part two is a pictorial look at some of the perennial favorites as well as a couple of oddities from the family.  Many of these fishes make fantastic additions to the appropriately sized home aquarium, and given proper diet and care they will live long healthy lives.  Just watch out for the spines!

Rhinopias live up to the etymology of their name, from the Greek "rhinos" – nose, and "ops" – appearance. Indeed, these fishes are all nose (and mouth!). They occur in the most amazing range of colors and ornate extensions.

Photo by Anthony Calfo


Pterois volitans (Linnaeus 1758) is the Lionfish to most folks. Commonly referred to in scientific literature as the "Red" Lionfish, specimens range from reddish to nearly black banded in color with creamy white alternating margins. Regardless of body color, Red and Black Lionfishes are the same species. They are the most commonly displayed and sold member of the family:  the quintessential marine aquarium specimen, with their long flowing pectoral and dorsal fin rays.

Photo by Robert Fenner

Pterois volitans has a very broad geographic distribution including the Indo Pacific, Australia, Japan, Micronesia and the Atlantic coast of the United States… what?!?  Colonies on the Atlantic coast of this Pacific species? <sigh> Yes, the unlawful introduction of this species to US coastal waters seems to have led to the tentative establishment of the species, now being caught as far north as New York in the summer (pers. com. Joe Yaiullo).

Photo by Robert Fenner

Several new species of Lionfish have been trickling into the aquarium trade in recent years, including some remarkable yellow varieties.

Photo by Robert Fenner

The Zebra Turkeyfish is a commonly imported dwarf Lionfish and is one of the best species for captivity. They are adaptable to a wide range of habitats and food offerings. This so-called "dwarf" Lionfish approaches 10" (25 cm.) at adulthood and can be aggressive towards conspecifics. We recommend only one specimen per tank.  D. zebra has spawned in captivity.

Photo by Robert Fenner

Cyclopterus lumpus (Linnaeus 1758 - sub-family Cyclopterinae), the Lumpsucker, is a rather "uncharacteristic" scorpaeniform fish. This harmless temperate species is not likely to be kept by aquarists, but is in favor with public aquariums and fisheries. They readily breed in captivity and are shared among zoological institutions. Male Cyclopterid flesh and female roe (caviar) are of commercial value for human consumption.  Photo by Anthony Calfo


Ablabys taenianotus (Cuvier 1829), the Cockatoo Waspfish, is perhaps the most common Tetrarogid species observed in the aquarium trade. Imports to the USA may come from Indonesia or the Philippines. With growth to about 6"/15 cm., this potently venomous, inactive species has little appeal beyond novelty.

Photo by Anthony Calfo

WWM on Lions & their Relatives

Related Articles: Lionfish & Their Relatives, The Mystery of the Atlantic Pterois Lionfishes, by Anthony Calfo

Related FAQs: Lions 2, Lions 3Lions 4Lionfish Selection, Lionfish Compatibility, Lionfish Feeding, Lionfish Disease

Pterois antennata in French Polynesia



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