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Red lionfish

Red lionfish

(Pterois volitans)

The red lionfish is native to the Indo-Pacific region where it is widely distributed among coral and rock reefs and other tropical inshore habitats. It has been introduced into the western Atlantic and can now be found in coastal waters from New York to South Florida, as well as in Bermuda, the Bahamas and parts of the Caribbean. This introduction is causing significant changes to the reef environments because the lionfish is preying on and displacing native fishes.

The red lionfish can be identified by its elongated fin elements and zebra-like red and white stripes. Its spines are venomous and can inflict a serious and painful injury to humans. This fish can grow to 15 inches in length and weigh 2½ lbs.

When in the Georgia Explorer gallery, stop at the special lionfish exhibit to see this beautiful and dangerous fish.

Fun Facts

  • The red lionfish uses its broad, feathery pectoral fins to corner its prey which it then grabs and swallows whole.
  • The male is aggressive and will vigorously defend its territory during breeding season.
  • This lionfish is a voracious predator and is known to be cannibalistic.
  • Larvae and juveniles of this species drift long distances before settling to the bottom, which accounts for its wide native distribution and rapid spread in the western Atlantic.
  • Six lionfish escaped into the sea in South Florida in 1992 when Hurricane Andrew destroyed a shore-front home.
  • Download full fact sheet

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