Almost all species of lionfish are poisonous. The venom is found in thirteen spines in the first dorsal fin, three spines in the anal fin and another two spines in the ventral fin. The spines contain venom-producing glands. These are covered with a thin skin layer. When one of the spines penetrates the victim’s body, the skin bursts open and the fish releases its poison into the wound. The poison causes severe muscle twitching in humans and is very painful, but usually not fatal.
The Pacific lionfish is considered a pest in the Atlantic. It is believed that this dangerous fish were carried off into the Atlantic through the Panama Canal in the ballast water of the vessels traveling from the Pacific. Ships emptying ballast water into the Atlantic allowed the fish to escape and conquer a new habitat. Solitary fishkeeping animals have also been exposed in the Atlantic. Meanwhile the fish have spread in the whole of the Caribbean and along the American coast from Florida to New York.
|Closest relatives||Perch family, dragonhead family, scorpionfish, lionfish (20 species)|
|Habitat||Coral reefs, shipwrecks, overhangs up to 50 meters deep|
|Behaviour||solitary, in the mating season a male with several females, twilight and nocturnal, loyal to the site, not shy of attacking divers solitary, in the mating season a male with several females, twilight and nocturnal, loyal to the site, not shy of attacking divers|
|Diet||Fish, crabs, squid|
|Body length||up to 47 cm|
|Spawn||two spawn balls floating on the water surface per breeding period|
|Use||If properly filleted, the fish is edible|
|Current status||very common, introduced in the Atlantic, spreads rapidly there (invasive)|
|At Zurich Zoo since||2001|
|Ch. Arnold, Uster|
|C. Meier, Zürich|