Volitans Lionfish

Black Lionfish ~ Red Firefish

Family: Scorpaenidae Picture of a Volitans Lionfish, Black Lionfish, or Red FirefishPterois volitansPhoto Animal-World: Courtesy L. Prakash
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Which lionfish can I put in a 10 gallon tank? A volitan or an antennata? Also which one can I put in a 20 gal tank?  Daniel Soto

   The Volitans Lionfish, Black Lionfish, or Red Firefish are so lazy that many times people think they are dead when they are merely resting upside down!

   This is the most commonly seen (and kept) Lionfish. The Volitans Lionfish, Black Lionfish, or Red Firefish is also the largest lionfish, at about 16 inches for a full adult length.

   The Red Lionfish is often sold as P. volitans but is actually Pterois lunulata. Unlike the Black Lionfish (pictured above), the Red Lionfish does not have the antennae above the eyebrows.

   The dorsal spines of this fish are venomous; the sting can be treated by heating the afflicted part and application of corticoids. If the sting is not severe, running hot water over the effected area for 15 minutes or more will help. We have known two people to get stung by an aquarium specimen, the symptoms lasted for a few days. Our motto is "Don't pet the fish"!

For more Information on keeping marine fish see:
Guide to a Happy, Healthy Marine Aquarium


Geographic Distribution
Pterois volitans
Data provided by FishBase.org
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Actinopterygii
  • Order: Scorpaeniformes
  • Family: Scorpaenidae
  • Genus: Pterois
  • Species: volitans
Volitans Lionfish
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A Black Lionfish Hanging Out

Video - Volitans Lionfish. This is the most commonly seen (and kept) Lionfish. The Volitans Lionfish, Black Lionfish, or Red Firefish is also the largest lionfish, at about 16 inches for a full adult length. Another species, the Red Lionfish, is often sold as P. volitans but is actually Pterois lunulata. Unlike the Black Lionfish, the Red Lionfish does not have the antennae above the eyebrows. The dorsal spines of this fish are venomous; the sting can be treated by heating the afflicted part and application of corticoids. If the sting is not severe, running hot water over the effected area for 15 minutes or more will help. We have known two people to get stung by an aquarium specimen, the symptoms lasted for a few days. Our motto is "Don't pet the fish"!

French Angelfish Juvenile, Lionfish and more... (Pomacanthus paru)
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Juvenile French Angelfish in the wild in Florida, along with a very out of place Lionfish.

Very cute juvenile French Angelfish up to :50, then video of a juvenile lionfish, (possibly a Volitans) whose ancestors were obviously dumped by a foolish aquarist. Since they do not belong in the Atlantic, they now have no natural predators. Eating juvenile fish is disrupting the tropical Atlantic ecosystem that is already very delicate. French Angelfish grow quite large, but very small babies, the ones that are the size of a dime could easily be eaten by a Lionfish. Provide your adult French Angelfish with a 180 gallon tank, and please find homes for any unwanted fish. NEVER dump fish back into the ocean!

Baby Volitan Lionfish, Pterois volitans
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Very small baby in captivity.

This little baby Volitans Lionfish will become 8 to 10" in a year and 15" within 18 months. As you can see, they pose no thread to starfish, and the brittle starfish in this tank, although large, poses no threat to the baby. Volitans Lionfish need a tank that is at least 120 gallons which will provide 24" front to back to accommodate live rock, provide an open area on the sand for them to sit on, and allow enough room for them to turn around. Factor in their 15" length and pectoral fin span, and one would easily conclude that an 18" wide tank would be barely enough room.

Volitans Lionfish, Pterois Volitans, Red Lionfish, Turkey-fish
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A good set up for multiple Volitans Lionfish.

This video looks very similar to the set up they have at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Nevada. There are several adults with plenty of room in a tank that is roughly 1,000 gallons. They are very docile toward each other and as you can see, these adults do not have the antennae above their eyes anymore. They need a minimum tank size of 120 gallons because they will grow to 15" within 18 months! Avoid feeding freshwater fish or shrimp, since it will cause them to become ill and malnourished, causing disease and death.

Maintenance difficulty:    The Volitans Lionfish, Black Lionfish, or Red Firefish is easy to keep. Lionfish are among the hardiest of all marine fish. In the beginning though, make sure you have a reliable supplier of feeder fish.

Maintenance:    Feed live fish in the beginning, gradually enticing them to eat frozen of fresh foods such as silversides and lancefish. Other crustaceans and seafoods can also be tried. They should be encouraged to eat non-live marine foods as soon as possible.

Habitat: Natural geographic location:    Volitans Lionfish, Black Lionfish, or Red Firefish are found in the Pacific Ocean: Cocos-Keeling Islands and Western Australia (Ref. 27362) in the eastern Indian Ocean to the Marquesas and Oeno (Pitcairn group), north to southern Japan and southern Korea, south to Lord Howe Island, northern New Zealand, and the Austral Islands. Replaced by the very similar Pterois miles from the Red Sea to Sumatra. They inhabit lagoon and seaward reefs from turbid inshore areas to depths of 50 meters.

Foods:    The lionfish will hide in unexposed places during the daytime often with the head down and practically immobile. Pelagic juveniles expatriate over great distances which is the reason for their broad geographical range. In the wild this fish hunts small fishes, shrimps, and crabs at night, using its widespread pectorals to trap prey into a corner, stun it and then swallow it in one sweep.

Social Behaviors:    Sociable and peaceful, can be considered a community fish as long as the tankmates are not small enough to eat!

Sex: Sexual differences:    Unknown.

Breeding/Reproduction:    See general breeding techniques in the Breeding Marine Fish page.

Light: Recommended light levels:    No special requirements.

Temperature:    No special requirements. Normal temperatures for marine fish is between 74 and 79 degrees fahrenheit.

Length/Diameter of fish:   Volitans Lionfish, Black Lionfish, or Red Firefish adults can grow to 40 cm (16 inches).

Minimum Tank Length/Size:    A minimum 75 gallon aquarium is recommended.

Water Movement: Weak, Moderate, Strong    No special requirements.

Water Region: Top, Middle, Bottom    Will swim anywhere their prey takes them.

Availability:    This fish is generally the most readily available of all the lionfish.

Author: David Brough. CFS.
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Lastest Animal Stories on Volitans Lionfish

Daniel Soto - 2011-11-10
Which lionfish can I put in a 10 gallon tank? A volitan or an antennata? Also which one can I put in a 20 gal tank?

  • Jasmine Brough Hinesley - 2011-11-11
    You really should not be keeping any lionfish in a 10 or 20 gallon aquarium. To thrive, the really need to have a minimum of a 75 gallon aquarium. In general, for most saltwater fish you will want to have a fairly large aquarium to accommodate their needs and to keep the tank chemistry balanced.
Reply
Chad - 2006-12-13
Just took back my medium/small lion. I was very aware that it'd eat anything it could fit in its mouth. What I didn't realize is just how big a fish that was. It will easlily swallow a fish a third its size, sometimes bigger. If the fish is too long to swallow right away, it will sit around with the fish's tale sticking out of its mouth until it can make room in it's belly. I also thought I could distract my lion by feeding it a large silverside just before I added a Diamond Goby that was borderline too small for my tank. Had no effect on my Lion's appetite. Went hunting immediately and had swallowed him by the next day. His stomach was so big that he didn't move for two days. I reluctantly decided to take him back to allow for smaller fish. If you don't mind having a size limit for fish in your tank, this is an awesome fish, and was one of my favorites until it started eating expensive fish. Keep in mind they grow extremely large, and fast if fed well. Also, don't feed feeder goldfish. They don't have the nutrition needed and can sometimes choke your lion.

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Ben compton - 2004-06-05
The volitan lionfish is a AWESOME fish but is venomous! A baby volitan lionfish can live in a 55gal tank, but in another year you are going to have to upgrade. And keep in mind that the lionfish will eat any fish that can fit into its mouth! A perfect tankmate for this fish is a eel.

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phantom - 2011-11-20
Can I feed fresh water feeders to a lion fish?

  • Alex Burleson - 2012-02-08
    Hypothetically, yes. However, the fresh water feeder fish will endure great stress before they are eaten, as they are fresh water, and not salt water. I would not recommend the act.
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Robin - 2012-04-23
Hi guys, I've a small doubt regarding red volitan lionfish as I've taught this small guy which is almost 4 inches. I just wanted to know whether my red volitan is poisonous, as I have got stung by my volitan. Pls help me with this and what treatment I can take if it's poisonous.

  • Jeremy Roche - 2012-04-23
    They do have poison but each person reacts much differently. Soak the area in hot water, this will break down the poison. It may be wise to go to the hospital to make fure a spine did not break off and get lodged. I have taken many stings in a tank and in the ocean and have never had much more then pain and swelling.
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