The lion fish is undoubtedly one of the most fascinating and graceful of nocturnal predators. Active by night, it spends its days in permanent caverns and alcoves.
The length of an adult lion fish is about 50 cm. It has an elongated body and a large bulky head at the front of which is a wide mouth. Above each eye it has a protruding membranous “horn” which gets shorter with age. The lion fish has 13 long, sharp and venomous spines on its back. Every spine is grooved and has a venomous gland surrounding its base. The venom secreted from the gland flows into the groove surrounded by a thin film. When the spines prick, a small amount of venom penetrates into the wound, causing intense pain. The wounded area swells and the burning pain can last more than a day. Pain may be accompanied by some serious symptoms: difficulty breathing, fever and nausea. If you get pricked by a lion fish, you must get to a hospital immediately. The spines at the front of the dorsal fin are very long and are not connected to a membrane (as is customary). Each spine is wrapped in a narrow and separate membranous lobe.
The lion fish has a reddish back, an orange belly and dark longitudinal stripes along its sides.
Unlike other reef fish, the lion fish cannot change its color according to the environment or its “mood”. It feeds on fish and invertebrates, and lies motionless in the water awaiting its prey. When a small fish approaches, the lion fish opens its mouth and with a suction movement draws in the prey. During the breeding season, males court and attract females with a swimming display. Fertilization takes place in water, about 30 meters deep, where the female releases her eggs in all directions. The young fish are transparent and only when they are older do they get color and develop adult features. Their venom glands are still inactive at this stage, and they cannot use them as a deterrent against enemies. However, they are in the process of developing their poisonous glands and will begin to secrete the deadly venom at a few months old.
The lion fish is a peaceful creature that will ignore or swim away from a diver in close proximity, but if provoked, it won’t withdraw and may instead direct its sting at the intruder and even attack him.
Clearfin turkey fish
The clearfin turkey fish is similar to the lionfish but there are differences. This species has a pair of completely separated fin rays. It is a reddish-brown color with bright stripes across the length of its body.
The clearfin turkey fish does not have membrane that connects the spines on its dorsal fin. As an adult it is up to 20 cm long. Like the lion fish it can cause severe harm.