Red Lionfish

Pterois volitans

Maximum Size:

15 in (38 cm)


Around 10 years.

Typical depth:

7–180 ft (2–55 m)


Red lionfish are originally from the Indo-West Pacific, and are considered an invasive species in the Western Atlantic. They are most active at dusk and during the night when they hunt for fish, shrimp, crabs and other reef creatures. Lionfish can live without food for up to three months.


Occasional predation by Nassau and tiger groupers, as well as some sharks.

Did you know?

Caribbean reef sharks are one of the few shark species that have been documented sleeping on the seabed. Most sharks must swim constantly, even while sleeping, to keep water flowing across their gills, otherwise they will drown.


Lionfish have up to 16 venomous dorsal and anal spines that can deliver a powerful neurotoxin when they puncture skin. Lionfish do not generally attack divers and snorkelers, but may sting in self-defense. Divers and snorkelers may feel intense pain after being stung, followed by swelling and redness around the wound.


It is important to exit the water as soon as possible and remove any pieces of spine that may remain in the wound. Use pressure to control the bleeding and apply the hottest water you can stand, ideally around 113°F (45°C), to reduce the pain. Some people experience shortness of breath, dizziness and nausea. There have been no known fatalities from a lionfish sting, but there is always a risk of complications, including congestive heart failure. Seeking medical attention is advised. The pain may last anywhere from several hours to several days.


The treatment advice contained in this book is meant for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, either in terms of diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider if you are injured by a marine organism. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking it because of something you have read in this book.