Species : Carnivorous Fish
Scientific Name : Pterois Volitans
Common Name : Lionfish
Distribution/Region Found : Indo-Pacific Ocean, Indian Ocean, Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico
Size : 30 cm to 35 cm long (12 to 14 inches)
Required Tank Size : 55 Gallon Tank
Life Span : 10 to 18 years
Environment : Salty water
Predators : Frogfish, Eels, Scorpion Fish
Prey : Fish, Shrimp, Crabs
beautiful lionfish in fish tank - image of beautiful lionfish with blurred light blue and pink background in clear fish tank

Lionfish spines and fins in aquarium - image of Lionfish in defence stance in aquariumThe lionfish is a carnivorous fish whose scientific name is Pterois Volitans. Some of its close relatives include the devil firefish and Hawaiian turkeyfish. In the 1980s, the lionfish was common along the western coastline of the Atlantic ocean. However by the 2000s, the Atlantic and Caribbean, along with the coastal waters of the Gulf of Mexico, were home to lionfish populations.

The lionfish is an invasive species and a voracious predator that feeds on smaller fish, shrimps and crabs. It’s also prey to frogfish, eels, and scorpionfish.

How much does a Lionfish cost as a pet?

Thinking of adopting a lionfish? It’s smart to first weigh up the costs of owning one.

Most of the time our excitement at the thought of owning a pet leads us to forget some important considerations such as the cost of the pet, caring for them and dietary requirements.

lionfish in aquascaping - image of a lionfish in aquascaping, tail to camera The first cost you incur will be the purchasing cost. In most instances, the price is always dependent on the size and the length of the lionfish. On average, a lionfish will cost anywhere from $20 to $120. One of the most common lionfish species, the Black Volitan, retails anywhere between $35 and $90. However the larger the lionfish, the more expensive it will generally be.

Another cost involved will be that of your tank. You should budget for a saltwater tank that is larger than 55 gallons and can hold temperature ranges between 22 and 26 degrees celsius. You will also need to budget for decorations, filters, rocks and water testing kits. A fish tank fitted with all these features and accessories can cost anywhere from $100 up to $300.

An extra charge that you might incur is shipping fees, mainly due to the complexity of transporting a fish, however some pet stores will offer free shipping. Another cost is the lionfish diet which, in most instances, includes frozen squid, krill, and silversides. This will cost you an average of $30 each month.

What fish can be put in the same aquarium as a lionfish?

Before finding your new lionfish pet a companion you first need to understand that lionfish are known for their predatory nature. They do not make good community fish. However they are quite peaceful toward fish that they cannot eat. Lionfish have a tendency to only consume fish that fit into its mouth and as a result, it’s recommended that they should only share the aquarium with much larger fish that it cannot consume. You can only put the invasive lionfish in the same aquarium with smaller fish if the smaller fish are intended to be food.

Some of the reef fish that the lionfish can share the same aquarium with include:

salt water angel fish - great tank mate for lionfish - image of salt water blue, purple and yellow angel fish with aquascaping blurred in the background

Saltwater Angelfish

The saltwater angelfish is an ideal companion for the lionfish as it is too large to be eaten by the lionfish. They also consume completely different types of foods.


lionfish tank mate - the clown fish - image of two clown fish swinging near aquascaping in light filled aquarium


One of the most popular reef fish, the clownfish is small but notoriously bad-tempered and territorial. As such, lionfish are unlikely to pick a fight with these fish. As long as the clownfish has some room to stretch out, the two types should get along just fine.

foxface rabbitfish - another great tank mate for lionfish - image of yellow, black and white foxfaced rabbitfish in light filled aquarium with bubbles and aquascaping blurred in the background

Foxface Rabbitfish

The foxface rabbitfish is a unique fish that is named due to its elongated head. It’s also ninety percent vegetarian and feeds on macroalgae and small micro-organisms. This species is large, hardy and peaceful which makes it an ideal mate for a lionfish.

How big does the tank for a lionfish need to be?

In general, lionfish are a hardy species that adapt exceptionally well in captivity. If a lionfish, or lion fish, is provided with adequate space and a nutritious diet, they can thrive in a saltwater aquarium. The average capacity of a lionfish aquarium should be around 50-gallons, as lionfish can grow up to 15 inches in length. If, however, you intend to get the smaller species of lionfish, a 30-gallon aquarium tank will do just fine. The tank should come with a testing kit to check the quality of water in the aquarium.

Lionfish tank setup

lionfish in aquarium - image of lionfish near the bottom corner of the aquarium with tiny pebbles and aquascaping blurred in the backgroundIt’s important that you have the proper aquarium tank setup to accommodate and keep your lionfish comfortable. The Lionfish is a Saltwater fish which therefore needs a Salt Water Aquarium to thrive.

Here are a few items that you should include when shopping for your lionfish aquarium tank setup:

50-gallon aquarium

The actual habitat for the lionfish. It’s critical to buy the correct tank.

Appropriate lionfish diet (dry and frozen)

The Lionfish is known to eat dried or frozen shrimps, krill, squid and any other small fish. They are aggressive hunters so they will prefer to eat live rather than dried or frozen fish.

The aquarium decoration

The aquarium decorations are a very important part of the aquarium. The decorations allow the lionfish to feel comfortable and showcase their true behaviour without feeling vulnerable or exposed. Plus an aquarium looks much better when it’s nicely decorated, making the room the tank is in more appealing.

Aquarium salt

To ensure the health of the fish, it’s advisable to introduce some aquarium salt. This is known to help improve fish gill function which makes it easier for the lionfish to breathe.

Water testing kit

This is to ensure that the aquarium water is at optimal quality.

Water filter

This is another accessory whose main purpose is to ensure that the water in the aquarium is free of contaminants.

aquarium thermometer in lionfish aquarium - image of aquarium thermometer amongst green leaves in aquarium

Full-spectrum lighting

Correct lighting is needed to keep the aquarium looking good without adversely affecting the lionfish.


The thermometer helps monitor the temperature of the aquarium to make sure it’s not too high or too low.

Marine substrate

Marine substrate assists the lionfish aquarium to feel as if it is in its natural habitat/environment.

The heater is necessary to help boost the aquarium’s water when it becomes too low.

Protein skimmer
The protein skimmer helps maintain low nitrate levels by minimising any nitrate buildup.

How to care for a lionfish?

Lionfish are an elegant, colourful fish species and also a predator that is equipped with poisonous spines that can cause great pain and breathing difficulty to anyone who is stung.

However, with proper care, the lionfish can be an enjoyable and vital contributor to your saltwater aquarium.


In order to not stress out the lionfish, you need to maintain a stable environment. Some fluctuation in the aquarium water temperatures can be tolerated, but certain water parameters must be adhered to.

lionfish in reef aquarium - image of the underside of a lionfish gliding through the water, the fins look like wings

Temperature – 22 to 28 degrees celsius
pH – 8.1 to 8.4
Ammonia – 0ppm
Nitrites – 0ppm
Nitrates – 0 to 20ppm
Salinity – 1.025


Like any other animal, lionfish require a well-balanced diet consisting of frozen or dried food such as krill, squid and silversides. When feeding, it’s good to vary the diet to ensure that the lionfish receives balanced nutrition. It’s recommended to feed your fish at least once or twice a day. Initially, it’s good practice to feed the lionfish with live fish, and then slowly start to introduce frozen foods.

To know whether your lionfish is healthy there are several signs that you should look for:

  • Clear eyes
  • Swims slowly
  • Healthy appetite

Some red flags to look out for that can indicate poor health include:

  • Cloudy eyes
  • Weight loss
  • Erratic swimming
  • Laboured breathing
  • Loss of colour
  • Spots or fungus on the lionfish mouth and body

Aquarium tank maintenance

aquascaping in lionfish aquarium - image of colourful blues and pinks aquascaping in large aquariumIn order to properly transform the aquarium into a lionfish home, you need to understand its natural habitat. The lionfish is native to the Indo Pacific region and the Atlantic and Caribbean coasts, where it resides within the seagrass beds and reefs along the coastal fringes.

To ensure that the aquarium is functioning as it should be there are a few things you need to do, such as:

  • Every week ensure that you check and keep note of the water quality
  • Gradually introduce new mates or inhabitants into the aquarium
  • Change the water in the aquarium every two to four weeks.
  • Check the water temperature and water filter on a daily basis.
  • It is also recommended to be cautious of the venomous spines when you are feeding it or cleaning the tank

How venomous is a lionfish?

Along with being invasive lionfish are venomous fish; most specifically the red lionfish. It’s recommended that you stay clear of its venomous spines. Despite not being deadly it is likely to cause excruciating pain, vomiting and difficulty breathing.

Are lionfish an invasive species?

red lionfish in aquarium - image of lionfish swimming with blurred backgroundAccording to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, lionfish are an invasive species that has the potential to leave a negative impact on certain species and habitats.

As a result, the commission encourages people to remove lionfish to limit the negative impact it may have on native marine life and the ecosystem by reducing the lionfish populations.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife conservation commission believe that the lionfish population was introduced into the Florida waters when aquarium owners emptied their aquariums into Florida coastal waters, resulting in a lionfish invasion.

As the lionfish population has grown, it has resulted in growing concerns that this invasive species is accumulating a specific toxin by the name of ciguatoxin. This can result in food poisoning as it cannot be denatured by cooking. Some areas that are prone to high ciguatoxin levels are a direct result of the lionfish invasion.

Can lionfish be pets?

Yes, lionfish can be kept as pets in an aquarium tank. If you’ve never had a pet fish before, a lionfish can appear intimidating at first, but you will come to notice that lionfish are peaceful and hardy. Despite being native to the Indo Pacific area, the lionfish can do exceptionally well in captivity as pets as long as they are well cared for.

If you do your research and take care to choose the right size aquarium tank, the right food and temperature, aquarium plants, etc, and be particularly careful of the lionfish’s venomous spines, you can enjoy your lionfish for many years to come.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]