The red lionfish (Pterois volitans) is a venomous coral reef fish in the family Scorpaenidae, order Scorpaeniformes. P. volitans is natively found in the Indo-Pacific region, but has become an invasive problem in the Caribbean Sea.Red lionfish are clad in white stripes alternated with red/maroon/brown stripes. Adults in this species can grow as large as 47 cm (18.5 in) in length, making it one of the largest species of lionfish in the ocean, while juveniles are typically shorter than 1 inch (2.5 cm). The average red lionfish lives around 10 years. As with many species within the family Scopaenidae, it has large, venomous spines that protrude from the body, similar to a mane, giving it the name lionfish. The venomous spines make the fish inedible or deter most potential predators. Lionfish reproduce monthly and are able to quickly disperse during their larval stage for expansion of their invasive region. No definitive predators of the lionfish are known, and many organizations are promoting the harvest and consumption of lionfish in efforts to prevent further increases in the already high population densities.
The red lionfish is an inhabitant of near and offshore coral and rocky reefs to depths of 50 meters. The species shows a clear preference for sheltering under ledges or in caves or crevices by day. In these refugia the species exhibits a nearly motionless posture, the head tilted slightly downward. Some sources also record red lionfish as occurring in bays, estuaries, and even harbors.
The red lionfish is a solitary predator of small fishes, shrimps and crabs. Prey are stalked and cornered or made to feel so by the outstretched and expanded pectoral fins of the red lionfish in full ambush mode. Prey are ultimately obtained with a lightning-quick snap of the jaws and swallowed whole. Cannibalism has been observed for this species in the wild as well as for the closely related Pterois miles in captivity. Given the tendency of the red lionfish to retreat to areas of hiding by day, this species is thought to be mostly nocturnal. However, red lionfish have been observed to feed during the day and studies of captive specimens imply that Pteroisthat have taken up refugia may simply be those individuals that have recently fed and are sated.
They are mainly a solitary species and courting is the only time they aggregate, generally one male with several females.Both P. volitans and P. miles are gonochoristic, only showing sexual dimorphism during reproduction. Similar courtship behaviors are observed in all Pterois species, including circling, sidewinding, following, and leading. The lionfish are mostly nocturnal, leading to the behaviors typically around nightfall and continuing through the night. After courtship, the female releases two egg masses, fertilized by the male before floating to the surface. The embryos secrete an adhesive mucous allowing them to attach to nearby intertidal rocks and corals before hatching. During one mating session, females can lay up to 30,000 eggs. However, it has been observed that females will lay more eggs in the warmer months.
It is an aquarium fish which is also used as a food by the humans.