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Related Articles: Keeping Lionfishes and their Scorpaeniform Kin Part 1, Part 2, by Anthony Calfo and Robert Fenner, Dwarf Lionfishes, Small Scorpionfishes: Lionfishes and More of Diminutive Size by Bob Fenner Rockfishes and Kin (family Scorpaenidae), The Mystery of the Atlantic Pterois Lionfishes, by Anthony Calfo, Subfamily Scorpaeninae (Rock and Scorpionfishes), Subfamily Choridactylinae (Inimicinae),, Subfamily Synanceinae, the Stonefishes, Subfamily Tetraroginae, Sailback Scorpionfishes or Wasp Fishes, Family Triglidae, the Searobins or Gurnards, Wound Management

/A Diversity of Aquatic Life

The Scorpionfishes We Call Lions,

Family Scorpaenidae, subfamily Pteroinae

Pt. 1 of 2, To: Pt. 2

By Bob Fenner

Pterois radiata
Scorpionfishes: Lionfishes & Much More for Marine Aquariums
Diversity, Selection & Care

New eBook on Amazon: Available here
New Print Book on Create Space: Available here

by Robert (Bob) Fenner

The marine aquarium hobby and service business would definitely be poorer were it not for the Lionfishes. They are the archetypal 'stock' captive fishes. Hardy, readily available, second only to damsels in accepting disastrous water conditions. Able to be trained to accept almost all types of foods and amongst the most disease resistant of specimens, lions are, would seem to be the best of captive aquatic life; and they are.

Except for the very real probability of getting stung by their venom bearing fins by being careless, the only downside of lionfish keeping lies in picking out healthy individuals and not overfeeding them.

The Various Lionfish and Related Groups

Lionfishes are members of the scorpion- or rockfish family Scorpaenidae ("Score-pea-nah-dee") a group of fishes important to humans as food fishes and sources of envenomation (the subfamilies Synanceinae, the Stonefishes, and Pteroinae, the Lionfishes, among others). The non-toxic, but still very spiny rockfishes, in the genera Sebastes, and Sebastolobus are prominent table fare, sold as 'Pacific Snapper' in the U.S. though they are not in the snapper family, Lutjanidae. As Billy Shakespeare might say (or write) what's in a name; sheesh.

For those few of us into higher taxonomy, you're referred to Nelson's latest edition of Fishes of the World, 1994. Scorpaenids are part of the Order Scorpaeniformes, the 'Mail-Cheeked Fishes', referring to the numerous processes on these fishes gill covers. A brief synopsis here for sake of granting you insights into the breadth of this group, and logical links to pages on the WWM site:

Order Scorpaeniformes, the "Mail-Cheeked Fishes", 25 families, about 166 genera, 1,271 species.

    Suborder Dactylopteroidei, Family Dactylopteridae, the Flying Gurnards. Two genera, about 7 species.

    Suborder Scorpaenoidei. Contains world's most venomous fishes. Seven families, about 96 genera, 544 species.

        Family Scorpaenidae, the Scorpionfishes and Rockfishes. 56 plus genera and 388 species.

            Subfamily Sebastinae, the Rockfishes. Important foodfishes. Four genera, about 128 species.

            Subfamily Scorpaeninae, various Scorpionfishes. 15 plus genera with more than 150 species.

            Subfamily Sebastolobinae. Three genera of five species.

            Subfamily Plectrogeninae. One genus, two species.

            Subfamily Pteroinae. The Lionfishes and Turkeyfishes discussed here.

            Subfamily Setarchinae. Three genera, five species.

            Subfamily Neosebastinae. Two genera, twelve species.

            Subfamily Apistinae. Three monotypic genera.

            Subfamily Tetraroginae, Sailback Scorpionfishes or Wasp Fishes. 11 plus genera and 35 species.

            Subfamily Minoinae. One genus, 11 species.

            Subfamily Choridactylinae (Inimicinae). Two genera, ten species.

            Subfamily Synanceinae, the Stonefishes proper. Six genera, ten species.

    Family Caracanthidae, Orbicular Velvetfishes. One genus, four species.

    Family Aploactinidae, the Velvetfishes. Approximately 17 genera and 37 species.

    Family Pataecidae, Australian Prowfishes. Three genera and nine species.

    Family Gnathacanthidae, the Red Velvetfish. One species.

    Family Congiopodidae, the (bizarre) Racehorses, aka Pigfishes, Horsefishes. Four genera, 9 species.

    Family Triglidae, the Searobins or Gurnards. Divided into two subfamilies and three Tribes. 

Suborder Platycephaloidei, Crocodilefishes, Flatheads. Three families, 23 genera, about 75 species.

    Family Bembridae, the Deepwater Flatheads. Four genera, five species.

    Family Platycephalidae, Crocodilefishes or Flatheads. 18 genera of about 60 species.

    Family Hoplichthyidae, the Ghost Flatheads. One genus, ten species

And more I/we'll eventually list and go over like the sculpins/cottids, agonids/poachers, hexagrammids/greenlings... but not today.

Back to the Family At Hand: Scorpaenidae:

The family Scorpaenidae's widespread importance is reflected in it's many colorful common names: Upside-Down Flying Cod, Butterfly Cod, Turkeyfish, Firefish, Scorpionfish, Zebrafish, Stonefish, Rockfish, among many others.

And The subfamily Pteroinae, Aquarium Lionfishes: 5 Genera, 17 Species

For our purposes here let's limit the discussion to the Lionfish species important to the pet fish hobby and industry; those of the genera Pterois, Dendrochirus, and Brachypterois. The first genus Pterois (Tare-oh-ease) are considered the "true" full-size lions, with huge pectoral fins, featuring unbranched rays with degrees of connecting membranes extending beyond the body at their insertion. 

The other two genera are more often sold as 'dwarf' lions. They display smaller, branched-ray pectoral fins with the rays sporting almost continuous membranes.

A brief mention here regarding 'other Lion' species. There are several other genera in the scorpaenid family offered from time to time as Lionfishes. For the most part these miscellaneous fishes are not as desirable as the species we will go over here. They are more secretive and far less appealing physically and color and pattern-wise. But, they probably are all venomous. Much more about this later, but it bears re, re, repeating: all Lionfishes are venomous and amazingly easy to get 'stuck' by. Yes, it's painful and may be very dangerous, especially is you have allergic reactions to proteinaceous stings (Stung, interested? See Wound Management for Aquarists).

And as regards the 'Freshwater Lionfish' sold in the trade; these are actually Sculpins, family Cottidae, related not too distantly to scorpaenids (in the same Order). For the record, besides not being Lionfishes, they are not venomous, or freshwater. There are some sort-of brackish water Scorpaeniform fishes, like the Bullroats, that do make forays into freshwater, but they are not permanent residents.

The Lionfishes You'll Likely Encounter Include:

Pterois antennata (Bloch 1787), the Antennata Lion or Broad-Banded Firefish to science. This is the third lion confused with the volitans and Luna species. You won't make this mistake. Antennata lions have strikingly different pectoral fin rays. These are long, the thickness of pencil lead and bright white. Also, remember the connection, between the name Antennata for it's relation to the black and white antennae (supraorbital flaps) and the six prominent spots on their face. To eight inches long. One in a typical day-time pose (apparently inverted) in Fiji, one in Moorea, French Polynesia, and one in S. Sulawesi. http://fishbase.sinica.edu.tw/Country/CountrySpeciesSummary.cfm?Country=Indonesia&Genus=Pterois&Species=antennata

Verticals (Full/Cover Page Sizes Available
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The images in this table are linked to large (desktop size) copies. Click on "framed" images to go to the larger size.

Pterois lunulata Temminck & Schlegel 1843 , the Luna Lion, is too often mis-offered in stores as 'red volitans'. Luna lions lack the beautiful head flaps on the supraorbital bones, and have more rounded, less angular heads than volitans lions. Look closely at the two; most Luna pectoral rays are connected by a web of tissue about two-thirds of their length; Volitans almost totally lack this webbing. P. lunulata are typically rusty red-brown against a creamy background; occasionally specimens are offered that bear gorgeous bluish-green color at the tips of their unpaired fins. Indo-Pacific http://fishbase.sinica.edu.tw/Country/CountrySpeciesSummary.cfm?Country=Indonesia&Genus=Pterois&Species=lunulata


No pic

Pterois miles (Bennett 1828), the Devil Firefish. Indian Ocean and Red Sea. To fourteen inches in length. An occasional import from the Red Sea, though more and more seen in the U.S due to its introduction into the tropical West Atlantic. Numerous thin dark lines on the head and body; small spots on the unpaired fins; small spines on the head in a band. Tentacles above eyes may be banded. Red Sea images. 
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The images in this table are linked to large (desktop size) copies. Click on "framed" images to go to the larger size.
Pterois mombasae (Smith 1957), the Frillfin or Mombasa Lionfish. Indo-West Pacific; South Africa to Sri Lanka, New Guinea. To a bit over six inches in length. This one at Quality Marine in Los Angeles. 

Pterois radiata Cuvier 1829, the Two-Bar Lion is the Radial Firefish. The most chameleonic of lions showing overtones of green, black and various shades of red over shocking white. The salient identifying characteristic of this species is the two while horizontal bars on the caudal peduncle, the part of the body right before the tail. N. Sulawesi and Red Sea specimens. To nine inches.

Verticals (Full/Cover Page Sizes Available
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The images in this table are linked to large (desktop size) copies. Click on "framed" images to go to the larger size.

Bigger PIX:  Pterois russelii, Nuweiba, Red Sea 08 http://fishbase.org/Summary/speciesSummary.php?ID=6404&genusname=Pterois&speciesname=russelii The images in this table are linked to large (desktop size) copies. Click on "framed" images to go to the larger size.
Verticals (Full/Cover Page Sizes Available

Pterois sphex Jordan & Evermann 1903, the endemic Hawaiian ("Dwarf") Lion; often mistakenly sold as Antennata lions which they closely resemble in terms of pectoral finnage. Sphex lion fins are shorter, less colorful and more clubbed in appearance. Though more costly than the majority of lions which are imported from the Philippines and Indonesia, Hawaiian lions are my favorite for hardiness. To eight inches.

Pterois volitans  ("Tare-oh-ease vawl-it-tanz) (Linnaeus 1758),  is the Lionfish to most folks. It is the most commonly displayed and sold member of the family; the quintessential marine aquarium specimen, with it's long flowing pectoral and dorsal fin rays. Volitans lions span the color range of banded red to black against alternating creamy white. Invasive; along w/ smaller numbers of P. miles in the trop. W. Atlantic (P. v. w/ 11 vs. 10 D1 spines, 7 vs. 6 Anal). Yes, black and red volitans lions are the same species. Pacific Ocean; N. Australia, Japan, Marquesas, Australs... Replaced by P. miles in the Indian Ocean, Red Sea. http://fishbase.sinica.edu.tw/Country/CountrySpecies Summary.cfm?Country=Indonesia&Genus=Pterois& Species=volitans

Verticals (Full/Cover Page Sizes Available
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The images in this table are linked to large (desktop size) copies. Click on "framed" images to go to the larger size. Here's a Volitans Lion in Cozumel...

To: Pt. 2

Scorpionfishes: Lionfishes & Much More for Marine Aquariums
Diversity, Selection & Care

New eBook on Amazon: Available here
New Print Book on Create Space: Available here

by Robert (Bob) Fenner
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