Keeping lionfish as pets is not as difficult as we think it is, provided that you handle these venomous species carefully.
Lionfish are venomous species belonging to the Scorpaenidae family that are typically characterized by their striped body and gracefully flowing pectoral fins. Their stripes come in shades of white, yellow, orange, red, maroon, brown, navy green, and black. At times, lionfish are also known by other names, like scorpionfish, Turkey fish, and firefish.
Native to reefs and rock crevices of the Indo-Pacific ocean, lionfish are found in almost all oceanic regions―including the warm waters of Atlantic Ocean―today. Though it is challenging to keep lionfish as pets, many hobbyists do rear them in their aquariums. After all, watching lionfish swim with their flamboyant fins is worth the effort.
Tips on Lionfish Care
If you happen to be a novice aquarist, think twice before incorporating lionfish in your newly installed fish tank. You can spend time gathering information about these vivid-looking fish, their feeding habits, surviving requirements, and caring guidelines. Do not forget that lionfish bear venomous spines, which they use to deliver painful stings when disturbed.
Establishing a correct-sized fish tank (preferably reef aquarium) is the foremost and crucial step for rearing lionfish. While installing aquarium, you need to have a thorough knowledge about their native habitat. To be more precise, you will succeed in maintaining active lionfish in captivity only when the tank conditions resemble their natural habitat. Also, the size of the fish tank should correspond to the lionfish species that you are planning to keep.
Popular lionfish species for aquariums are Volitans, Radiata, and Antennata. The size of lionfish may vary depending upon the particular species. A dwarf lionfish, for instance, grows to the size of a tennis ball, whereas a typical species measures about 30 - 35 cm in length. In contrast, lionfish larger than 55 cm are found in the Caribbean oceanic regions. Consider your tank setup and maintenance levels at the time of purchasing lionfish for your aquarium.
Choose Other Fish
A lionfish can be reared with other lionfish of the same size. Some people even succeed in keeping them with other compatible marine fish of equal size. However, it is not always possible, because they are dangerous to other tank inhabitants. Very often, they injure and kill other fish in the aquarium. If you prefer maintaining them together, seek advice from the supplier regarding compatible species.
When kept in saltwater aquariums, lionfish are adaptive to a wide range of water conditions. This does not mean that they thrive well in poor water quality. When kept in dirty water for a prolonged period, your lionfish may get infected with bacteria; that too, in the eye portion. Hence, make sure you install a filter system and perform regular cleaning of the aquarium. Also, change water as per the guidelines of the supplier.
Food options for captive lionfish include a mixture of feeder fish, small crustaceans, shrimp, worms, and pieces of beef heart. They are most active at the time of feeding, from late afternoon to early morning. The rest of the day, they behave like sedentary creatures and prefer resting at the bottom of the aquarium. It is best to lay a soft substrate, so that your lionfish will not get injured during resting.
Aquarists who maintain lionfish in their fish tanks are of the opinion that these venomous fish are very hardy as compared to other common marine fish. They hardly show worrying signs of diseases or infection when subjected to proper care. In case you notice mucus like shedding by lionfish, it is an indication of ill health. They are primarily affected by two diseases, cloudy eyes and fin rotting. Checking the water chemistry for any impurities and abnormal conditions can help you keep such health problems at bay.
Speaking of dwarf lionfish care, they require more open spaces in the tank. Accordingly, you are not required to create caves and hiding places for keeping them. Also, it is to be borne in mind that caring for freshwater lionfish will be totally different from caring for marine species. In fact, the so-called freshwater lionfish belong to a completely different family and are not venomous like their marine namesakes.