A Survey of the Different Species of Lionfish

Lionfish aficionados know that the Red Lionfish, the lionfish species that invaded the Gulf of Mexico, is not the only lionfish in the ocean. In fact, there are no less than TWELVE different species of lionfish, two of which have become invasive species (Pterois volitans in the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean, Pterois miles in the Mediterannean Sea). We decided to break down the different species of lionfish so that next time you see a funny looking lionfish, you can impress your friends by knowing the specifics of this lionfish sub-species. 

There are of course a few broad similarities: most subspecies of lionfish are generally endemic to the Indo-Pacific and all are venomous. It is still not known how similar or how different all their venoms are (maybe that’s something our co-founders could work on…), but most likely they are highly similar, since a common ancestor evolved venom, and not each fish individually. If you test out StingMaster on any sting other than the Red Lionfish, be sure to send us an email at orders@pterotech.ca, we’d love to hear about your experience! 

Red lionfish (Pterois volitans)

Endemic to: Indo-Pacific

Invasive?: yes, in the Atlantic (Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean, East coast of North America and Northeast coast of South America)

Size: can grow up to 18.5 inches and more (can survive for up to 15 years in the wild)

Venomous?: Yes

Common lionfish, aka devil firefish (Pterois miles)

Endemic to: Western Indo-Pacific

Invasive?: yes, in the Mediterannean Sea

Size: can grow up to 14 inches

Venomous?: Yes

Spot-fin lionfish (Pterois antennata)

Endemic to: Indian and Western Pacific

Invasive?: No

Size: can grow up to 8 inches

Venomous?: Yes

Zebra lionfish (Dendrochirus zebra)

Endemic to: Western Indo-Pacific and Red Sea

Invasive?: No

Size: can grow up to 10 inches

Venomous?: Yes

Dwarf lionfish (Dendrochirus brachypterus)

Endemic to: Western Indo-Pacific and Red Sea

Invasive?: No

Size: can grow up to 6 inches

Venomous?: Yes

Clear-fin lionfish (Pterois radiata)

Endemic to: Western Indo-Pacific and Red Sea

Invasive?: No

Size: can grow up to 8 inches

Venomous?: Yes

Plaintail turkey fish, aka Russell’s lionfish (Pterois russelii)

Endemic to: Indo-Pacific, from the eastern coast of Afrida to the Persian Gulf

Invasive?: No

Size: can grow up to 12 inches

Venomous?: Yes, they can have as many as 26 venomous spines!

Hawaiian turkeyfish (Pterois sphex)

Endemic to: Central Pacific, mainly Hawaii

Invasive?: No

Size: can grow up to 9 inches

Venomous?: Yes

Andover lionfish (Pterois andover)

Endemic to: Western Pacific, mainly Indonesia and Papua New Guinea, as far as Sabah, Malaysia and the Philippines

Invasive?: No

Size: can grow up to 6 inches

Venomous?: Yes

Luna lionfish (Pterois lunulata)

Endemic to: Western Pacific

Invasive?: No

Size: can grow up to 10 inches

Venomous?: Yes

Red Sea Lionfish (Pterois cincta)

Endemic to: Red Sea

Invasive?: No

Size: can grow up to 8 inches

Venomous?: Yes

African lionfish, aka frill-fin turkeyfish (Pterois mombasae)

Endemic to: Tropical Indian Ocean and the Western Pacific 

Invasive?: No

Size: can grow up to 7.8 inches

Venomous?: Yes

Pterois brevipectoralis

Endemic to: Western Indian Oceans, but very deep (70 – 80 metres) 

Invasive?: No

Size: can grow up to 7.8 inches

Venomous?: Yes

Now that you’ve read about all the different species of lionfish, you can officially call yourself a StingMaster-officiated lionfish species expert! Next time you’re out with your friends and see a crazy looking lionfish, make sure you ID it correctly!

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