Fish, Tanks and Ponds

Fish, Tanks and Ponds
A comprehensive guide to fish

Pterois volitans


Kissing gourami, Helostoma temminckiiKissing gourami, Helostoma temminckii
Photos by Andy Rapson


Pterois: Greek, pteron = wing, fin.

General Notes:

Venomous - Often solitary, they hide in unexposed places at daytime often with head down and practically immobile. Pelagic juveniles expatriate over great distances and the reason for their broad geographical range. They are best kept in a species tank or with other large robust fish provided the tank is big enough. Extreme care needs to be exercised when caring for a lionfish as their spines contain a potent toxin. Although a lionfish sting is not lethal it is extremely painful and victim should seek medical attention. The largest problem with lionfish stings is that part of the spine can easily break off in it's victim can cause secondary infections. Once settled and feeding lionfish could live for a very long time, they live for around sixteen years in the wild and this could be exceeded in captivity. Due to the diet this is a messy fish, excellent filtration and protein skimmer should be regarded as essentials.

There is a very similar species P. miles which gradually replaces P. volitans from the Red Sea to Sumatra.

Carnivores - feed primarily on small fish and crustaceans. Occasionally they can be difficult to get them to accept dead or frozen foods. It may be necessary to feed them using a feeding stick with food stuck on the end and wiggle it around in the tank to stimulate the hunting instincts. When feeding they attack with on swift gulping motion that is so quick that animals swimming in a group may not even notice their numbers have been diminished.  Although easy to do, don't train this species to hand feed due to the potential risks involved.

There are no visible external differences between the sexes.

Lionfish have never been successfully bred in captivity.

The wild status of this species has not been evaluated but it is very widespread due to introductions beyond its natural range. It is considered a pest in some regions. Almost all specimens offered for sale will have been wild caught.

Information at a glance

pH: 8.2 - 8.4
dGH: 8 - 12
Salinity: 1.021 - 1.025
Temperature: 23 - 28°C (74 - 82°F)
Diet: Carnivore
Size: 38cm (15in)
Min tank size: 675 litres
Difficulty level: Intermediate
Aquarium type: Species
Swimming level: All levels

Distribution and habitat

distribution map for Helostoma temminckii

Origin: Pacific Ocean: Cocos-Keeling Islands and Western Australia 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

Habitat: Lagoon and seaward reefs from turbid inshore areas to depths of 50 m


Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Scorpaeniformes
Family: Scorpaenidae
Genus: Pterois
Species: P. volitans (Linnaeus, 1758)

Common name:

Synonyms: Gasterosteus volitans, Pterois lunulata