Practical information to identify and manage non-native, invasive plants and animals
The Quiet Invasion:
A Guide to Invasive Species of the Galveston Bay Area
Pterois volitans

ITIS TSN:166883
Presence:Species of Concern
Native Range:Western Pacific Ocean
Human Health
Lionfish possess venomous dorsal, pelvic and anal spines which are intended to discourage predators. The venomous spines will injure humans, causing very painful puncture wounds. Caution is urged for anyone who encounters this species of fish (particularly divers and fishermen). Careless handling of recently dead specimens can also result in wounds. Symptoms of the sting may include extreme pain, swelling, redness, bleeding, nausea, numbness, joint pain, anxiety, headache, disorientation, dizziness, nausea, paralysis, and convulsions (Pasko 2005).
Prohibited Lists
As of 2010, these species are not prohibited in Texas.
Introduction Pathways
Lionfish were first reported in Florida in 1985 (Schofield et al. 2010) and were likely introduced to the waters of the U.S. Atlantic Coast via the aquarium trade (Semmens et al. 2004; Whitfield et al. 2007; Schofield et al. 2010). It is also possible (but unlikely) that lionfish may have been transported through ballast water of ships travelling from the Pacific Ocean (Schofield et al. 2010).
Geographic Distribution
As of 2010, this species is not reported in Texas. Schofield et al. (2010) report that lionfish have been sighted along the U.S. Atlantic Coast along from Florida northward to Rhode Island. Lionfish are also reported throughout the Caribbean. Most recently, lionfish have been collected in the Gulf of Mexico near Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula and just north of Tampa Bay, Florida. This species has the potential to increase its range in the Gulf of Mexico over the coming years.
Specific Primary Habitats
Pterois volitans is a reef-associated marine fish. The ranges of observed water temperatures and collection depths of lionfish from the southeastern U.S coast was reported as 13.8 to 24.4° Celsius and 40 to 99 meters (m), respectively (Meister et al. 2005). However, Schofield et al. (2010) report that lionfish can inhabit depths of 10 to 175 m. Lionfish were initially thought to be largely immobile during daylight hours, hiding in crevices. However, Cote and Maljkovie (2010) recently found that lionfish were active hunters during daylight hours.
Ecological, Economic, or Social Impact
Lionfish have few natural enemies and have the potential to outcompete and prey upon a broad range of native reef species. Lionfish have also been found to reduce the recruitment of native reef fish larvae into the adult population (Albins and Hixon 2008; Schofield et al. 2010).
Physical Description
Lionfish have greatly elongated dorsal fin spines. The body is white or cream colored with red to reddish-brown vertical stripes that alternate from wide to very thin. The membranes of fins are often spotted (Schofield et al. 2010).
Reproduction Characteristics
Lionfish are external fertilizers that produce a pelagic egg mass following a courtship and mating process. Larvae are planktonic (ISSG 2010).
The lionfish is a nocturnal ambush carnivore that preys on small fishes and crustaceans which are swept up and trapped with the extended pectoral fins. In the Bahamas lionfish were observed hunting 19 reef fish species from at least 9 families (Cote and Maljkovie 2010). The species is relatively quick to adapt to novel prey types, and quickly learns to avoid noxious prey (Schofield et al. 2010). Cannibalism occurs.
Since early detection is key to preventing the spread and establishment of this species, regional/local monitoring or surveillance is essential. Lionfish should never be released in local waterways. If sighted in local waters, note the location and immediately notify the TPWD. Because of venomous nature of this species, do not attempt to capture or handle individual fish.

This species belongs to the following lists:
To view a larger version of an image, click on the thumbnail.
A adult lionfish (<i>P. volitans</i>) in 140 feet of water 40 miles off the North Carolina coast. Photo courtesy NOAA Archives,
A adult lionfish (P. volitans) in 140 feet of water 40 miles off the North Carolina coast. Photo courtesy NOAA Archives,
Lionfish (<i>P. volitans</i>). Photo courtesy Don DeMaria, USGS NAS Database,
Lionfish (P. volitans). Photo courtesy Don DeMaria, USGS NAS Database,
Page Updated/Reviewed: 09/07/2010 1:07 PM