Spotfin Lionfish: 15 Facts You Won't Believe!

Spotfin lionfish facts, such as they are vicious nocturnal hunters in coral reefs and have a massive invasion range, are very interesting.

Native to the Indo Pacific coral reefs, spotfin lionfish (Pterois antennata) is a venomous marine species of fish belonging to the family Scorpaenidae. Aggressive and carnivorous in nature, these colorful fishes are found in west Indo Pacific countries of Malaysia, Indonesia, and parts of Australia. Spotfin lionfishes prefer warm marine habitats with plenty of small fishes, shrimps, and crustaceans available. Spotfin lionfish (Pterois Antennata) are predominantly shrimp eaters. This fish prefers eating shrimps and prawns at night, so coral reefs are ideal habitats for these fish of prey. Large non-native populations of the Pterois antennata are found in parts of Florida, along the Atlantic coast and in the  Caribbean Sea. They are presumed to have escaped from tanks or aquariums. There are critics to the aquarium theory as well since these fishes were spotted before the aquarium incident as well.

The spotfin lionfish (Pterois antennata) has several other names such as ragged finned firefish, broadbarred firefish, antennata lionfish, Pterois zebrafish, Pterois turkeyfish, and banded firefish. This fish species with venomous spines has been expanding its range from native Pacific to other non-native places where prey or food is readily available. Broadbarred firefish is also a popular pet fish for tanks and aquariums, and they are also safe to eat as seafood.

For more relatable content, check out these altum angelfish facts and oilfish facts for kids.

Spotfin Lionfish

Fact File

What do they prey on?

Small fishes, banded coral shrimp, crustaceans, and marine invertebrates

What do they eat?


Average litter size?

2 million eggs per year

How much do they weigh?

0.55-1.65 lbs (0.25-0.75 kg)

How long are they?

5.9-7.8 in (15-20 cm)

How tall are they?


What do they look like?

Orange, dark brown, and red

Skin Type

Wet, slimy scales

What are their main threats?

Humans, coral reef habitat destruction, food scarcity, and pollution

What is their conservation status?

Least Concern

Where you'll find them

Indo Pacific coral reefs, the Caribbean Sea, Atlantic and Pacific Ocean, and the Red Sea


Africa, Indonesia, Malaysia, India, Sri Lanka, Australia, Polynesia, and Florida





Scientific Name

Pterois antennata





Spotfin Lionfish Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a spotfin lionfish?

Spotfin lionfish (Pterois antennata) is a species of venomous marine fish. It is a type of lionfish.

What class of animal does a spotfin lionfish belong to?

The broadbarred firefish belongs to the class of ray-finned fishes, Actinopterygii.

How many spotfin lionfish are there in the world?

Due to their increasing population range, the exact number of lionfish spotfin is unknown. Some studies indicate that there can be up to 1000 ragged finned firefish per acre in both native and non-native habitats.

Where does a spotfin lionfish live?

The spotfin firefish species is found in the ocean, mostly in coral reefs native to the Indo Pacific Ocean. They also inhabit tanks and saltwater aquariums.

What is a spotfin lionfish's habitat?

The lionfish spotfin (Pterois antennata) lives in a wide range of habitats due to its adaptive abilities. The native habitat of broadbarred firefish comprises coral reefs of the Indo Pacific Ocean and Red Sea. Non-native habitats include the Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean Sea, and even an artificial habitat in aquariums and tanks. The ragged finned firefish prefers warm habitats for laying eggs. Otherwise, it adapts according to availability of food or prey fishes like shrimps and other small fish species.

Who do spotfin lionfish live with?

Spotfin lionfish are solitary fishes, but they can also be found in loose groups of three and four fishes. Grouping amidst broadbarred firefish is presumed to be for the purpose of breeding or reproduction.

How long does a spotfin lionfish live?

Spotfin lionfish (Pterois antennata) can have a lifespan range between five and 20 years.

How do they reproduce?

Spotfin lionfish (Pterois antennata) is an oviparous species, meaning it lays eggs. The female spotfin lionfish or broadbarred firefish lays 50000 eggs every four to five days throughout the year. This means 2-3 million eggs per female are released each year.. These are unfertilized eggs that are produced as clusters in mucus sacs which the female releases from her body. Spawning occurs near the water surface and the male lionfish immediately fertilizes the eggs with their sperms. They prefer to breed in warmer habitats and the eggs often float with ocean currents.

What is their conservation status?

The lionfish or the ragged finned firefish has the IUCN listing as Least Concern and has an increasing population.The most popular theory of lionfish invasion states that they were removed from home aquariums and released in the Atlantic Ocean.

Lionfish larvae and egg masses were distributed across the Atlantic Basic by ocean currents. Lionfish or the ragged finned firefish are unable to survive in temperatures of water below 50 F (10 C). This means ragged finned firefish are not found in areas with these temperatures.

Spotfin Lionfish Fun Facts

What do spotfin lionfish look like?

The spotfin lionfish looks similar to the red lionfish. They have colorful bodies with black and white spots. Their dorsal fins and fan-like pectoral fins extend into sharp flowy spines that lack connective tissue. There are appendages over each eye of the ragged finned firefish. These are similar to their antennata. Juvenile lionfish spotfins have unique tentacles on their heads to attract prey. Each ray of their dorsal fins, pectoral fins, and anal fins is connected to venomous glands. The broadbarred firefish is the only lionfish species that features blue color on its body. These fishes are uncharacteristically venomous for coral reefs.

The lionfish is known to have venomous spines which are 18 in number. These consist of 13 dorsal spines, three anal spines, and two pelvic spines. The spotfin lionfish's body can grow up to 7.8 in (20 cm) in size. Males and females are identical.

The fan-like pectoral fins of the spotfin lionfish are used to stun and catch prey.

How cute are they?

Spotfin lionfish are not a cute and friendly fish species. They are aggressive, carnivorous, and harmful to humans due to the venomous spines on their body. They are very colorful which is an advantage for camouflage in their native coral reef habitat.

How do they communicate?

According to research, lionfish or ragged finned firefish use their fins for communication with some other lionfish to hint for cooperative hunting. They do this by flaring their pectoral fins following it with quick tail movement.

If disturbed they will raise their pectoral fins to warn and if cornered, they know how to escape quickly.

How big is a spotfin lionfish?

Spotfin lionfish pterois size can range between 5.9-7.8 in (15-20 cm). They are about half the size of a common mackerel fish.

How fast can a spotfin lionfish swim?

Spotfin lionfish are adept at catching prey but they are not very good swimmers. These fishes can swim in very deep oceans but not very fast. They rely on camouflage and their venomous spines to stun prey like small fishes and shrimps.

How much does a spotfin lionfish weigh?

Spotfin lionfishes can weigh anywhere between 0.55-1.65 lb (0.25-0.75 kg).

What are male and female names of the species?

Both males and females of this species are called spotfin lionfish or ragged finned firefish.

What would you call a baby spotfin lionfish?

A baby spotfin lionfish is called a fry.

What do they eat?

The ragged finned firefish is a carnivore species that eats small fishes found in coral reefs and shrimps. It also eats crustaceans and invertebrates. Despite all these varieties in its diet, the spotfin lionfish (Pterois antennata) prefers shrimp as its main food source. Its food can be adapted to availability in non-native habitats. They are skilled predators that stun their prey with fast reflexes. They can eat fishes twice their size.

Lionfish are caught and eaten by humans as seafood. Natural predators of the broadbarred firefish are sharks, eels, scorpionfish, snapper, and grouper. These predators are only found in their native Indo Pacific range and not their invasive range which is why spotfin lionfish populations are multiplying.

Are they dangerous?

Broadbarred firefish are potentially dangerous to humans, other important marine species of fish, and to the environment. They are gluttonous carnivores that can eat as much food as they can find. This takes a toll on populations of other fish and destroys their native habitats of coral reefs. Terms like lionfish invasion are used for their massive spread across non-native ranges. Their high adaptability to habitats and rapid breeding through eggs are causing environmental damage.

Would they make a good pet?

Spotfin lionfish are unique-looking fishes that are often kept in tanks and aquariums as pets. Due to their carnivorous nature, small fishes should not be kept in the same tanks or aquariums. They are mostly kept in reef aquariums and saltwater tanks. They need regular food and ample hiding space like they find in native marine reefs.

Did you know...

The introduction of the lionfish or the ragged finned firefish in the Western Hemisphere is explained by a theory. The theory is lionfishes escaped and got released into the sea after the destruction of an aquarium in 1992. However, they were sighted back as early as 1985 so this supposition of aquariums is wrong.

Lionfish (ragged finned firefish) were transported to the Western Atlantic Basin in ship’s ballast tanks. This theory, which is directly related to lionfish (ragged finned firefish), supports the proof that a lot of non-native marine species are spread this way.

The 'Lionfish as food' campaign by NOAA in 2010 encouraged people to hunt the fish to control the fish population.

Can spotfin lionfish live with other fish?

In the wild, up to 10 spotfin lionfishes can live together. In tanks and aquariums, there should be one male and several females. No other fish species can be kept in the same fish tank as they will be preyed upon by this aggressive carnivorous species.

How does the spotfin lionfish move?

Ragged finned firefish or spotfin lionfish have fan-like pectoral fins and soft rays on the dorsal fins. The anal rays are six to seven in number while the dorsal fins are 10 to 11 in number. Spotfin lionfish move with the slow undulating of these anal and dorsal fins. They have special bladder muscles for swimming to control location. They hide in crevices of reefs that provide camouflage. On spotting prey fish, they spread their fan-like pectoral fins and spines and swallow the prey.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other fish from our triggerfish facts and gourami facts pages.

You can even occupy yourself at home by colouring in one on our free printable Spotfin lionfish coloring pages.



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