Pterois volitans (Common lionfish)


Numerous dark red to brown/black vertical bands, alternating from wide to thin. Long feather-like pectoral fins with light and dark bands. The anal, rear dorsal and tail fin are translucent with dark spots. Often with large skin flaps above the eyes. It is a solitary fish, during the day often hanging face down in unexposed places. Very similar to the Indian lionfish Pterois miles, which is mainly distinguished by location (Indian Ocean and West Indo-Pacific) as opposed to Pterois volitans that is distributed in the East Indo-Pacific and parts of the West Indo-Pacific. Also P. volitans has 9-12 soft dorsal fin rays, where P. miles has 9-11.


Unassessed by the IUCN Red list, but a common reef inhabitant in the Indo-Pacific.


East Ind0-Pacific. Western Australia and the Malaysian peninsula to the Pitcairn Islands, Southeastern Pacific: from South Japan to New Zealand. They can be found in lagoons, coastal and seaward reefs in a depth range of 2-50 meters.


Pterois volitans reproduction is sexual and involves external fertilization of eggs and complex courtship and mating behaviors. The species is generally solitary outside of the reproductive season, but during courtship, males will aggregate with multiple females to form groups of 3-8 fish. Research indicates that competing males use their spines and fins in visual displays. Females release a pair of mucus-encapsulated clusters of 2,000-15,000 eggs to the pelagic environment where they are fertilized by the male. Environmental microbiota break down the egg mass mucus to free the eggs and facilitate hatching. Embryonic development starts around 12 hours post-fertilization, and larvae hatch out within around 36 hours of fertilization. The larvae become competent swimmers 2-3 days after hatching, capable of capturing and consuming ciliates and other small zooplankton. The typical larval duration of various lionfish species likely falls in the range of 20-40 days. The congener P. mils is 10-12 mm at when metamorphosing from larva to adult (Fishelson 1975), and the situation is probably similar for P. volitans.


Up to 38cm.

Prey / Predation

They hunt at night, for fish, shrimps and crabs, using their broad pectoral fins to corner and trap their pray. They normally swallow the pray in 1 go.

Special features

Lionfish are an invasive species and they have spread their habitat very wide over the last decades. They are therefore “culled” at some places. Meaning they are collected and killed to keep down their numbers in order to protect other local fish species. The dorsal spines are venomous and can even cause death to humans.