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Lionfish Quickfacts (Special Thanks to, NOAA, Simon Fraser University and the USGS)

Invasion History

  • Two visually identical species of lionfish (Pterois miles and P. volitans) were introduced into the Atlantic via the US aquarium trade beginning in the 1980’s.
  • Lionfish invaded range is North Carolina to South America including the Gulf of Mexico.
  • Lionfish have established throughout most of the Caribbean in less than five years.


  • Lionfish may live decades and reach sizes exceeding 47cm (19 in).
  • Lionfish inhabit all marine habitat types and depths (shoreline to over 300 m or 1000 ft).
  • Lionfish possess venomous spines capable of deterring predators and inflicting mild to serious stings and reactions in humans.
  • Lionfish temperature tolerance is approximately 10-­‐35°C (50-­‐95°F).
  • Lionfish become sexually mature in less than a year and spawn in pairs.
  • Reproduction occurs throughout the year about every 4 days.
  • In the Caribbean, a single female lionfish can spawn over 2 million eggs/year.
  • Lionfish eggs are held together in a gelatinous mass of 12,000 to 15,000 eggs and are dispersed at the ocean’s surface by currents.
  • Their larval duration is approximately 25 days.


  • Lionfish can reach densities of over 200 adults per acre.
  • Lionfish are generalist carnivores that consume over 70 species of fish and many invertebrate species, capable of eating prey up to half their body length.
  • Many lionfish prey on commercially, recreationally, and ecologically important species.
  • Dense lionfish populations can consume more than 460,000 prey fish/acre/year.
  • On heavily invaded sites, lionfish have reduced their fish prey populations by up to 90% and continue to consume native fishes at unsustainable rates.
  • Native predators exhibit avoidance for lionfish.
  • Lionfish are susceptible to very few parasites compared to native species.
  • Lionfish exhibit site fidelity.
  • Lionfish have a high affinity for structure and feed primarily during dawn and dusk.


  • Lionfish are edible and considered a delicacy.
  • Local removal efforts that are sustained can significantly reduce lionfish densities.

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Map of Lionfish Dispersion Since 1985