What are The Different Lionfish Types?

Lionfish are certainly the most popular scorpionfish species with hobbyists, and there are many valid reasons why. These saltwater fish are beautiful, while at the same time, potentially dangerous, which is perhaps the reason why so many people gravitate towards them. Their body shape is unusual, to say the least, and they are covered in deadly venomous spines, sporting mesmerizing coloration and patterns.

Types of Lionfish

One thing that many hobbyists and fishkeeping experts don't know about these marine fish is that there are many different types. In total, there are no fewer than 12 different Lionfish species, which we have narrowed down to give you a list of the six main types of Lionfish.

As a general rule, most Lionfish species are very similar in appearance, personality, and care requirements. However, we will describe each different type in detail so that you can measure the subtle differences in the different Lionfish types.

6 Main Types of Lionfish

As we know, Lionfish are a very unique species of fish, perhaps the most in the hobby and there are a few main types of Lionfish that you probably didn't know were even different! Each of these Lionfish has a truly draw-dropping appearance and brilliant personality, making a saltwater aquarium feel alive.

If you are new to the hobby or have developed a recent interest in Lionfish then you need to consider whether or not you have the right Lionfish tank set up for them and also the right Lionfish tank matesLionfish do not always play well with others, especially small fish, so by setting them up correctly you will be giving your Lionfish the best chance at living a healthy and happy life. Let's dive in to the different types of Lionfish!

1. Common Lionfish (Pterois miles)

The Common Lionfish or devil firefish is a species of ray-finned Lionfish, native to the western Indo-Pacific region. They are always being confused with Red Lionfish, which are another important type of Lionfish; however, they are not the same.

Lionfish tank mates

These fish will typically grow to around 14 inches (35 cm) in length, their dorsal fin has 13 long, strong, and venomous spines, paired with 9 to 11 soft rays, and an anal fin that contains 3 long spines and 6 soft rays. Common Lionfish will vary in color, from red to tan, and even gray on some occasions. They also sport dark, vertical bars on their heads and their bodies.

2. Red Lionfish (Pterois volitans)

The Red Lionfish is a very similar-looking Lionfish to the Common Lionfish, with the main difference being size. They naturally inhabit the Indo-Pacific region and have recently become an invasive species to the Caribbean Sea in addition to the East Coast of the U.S. and East Mediterranean. When fully grown these Red Lionfish will grow to roughly 18.5 inches (47 cm) in length, which makes them one of the largest Lionfish species.

Red Lionfish

Appearance-wise they share similar patterns and coloration to their Common counterparts, white stripes with a mixture of red/maroon/brown stripes coinciding. They also display many venomous spines across their bodies, the average amount is 18 but some Red Lionfish can have more or less.

3. Spotfin Lionfish (Pterois antennata)

Sponfin Lionfish are also known as Ragged-finned Firefish, we know, quite the mouthful, right? They sport red, white, and black vertical stripes that run along their bodies with their outlining feature being the large, fan-like pectoral fins and quill-like dorsal fins, which lack connective tissue, therefore giving them an almost spiny appearance.

Spotfin Lionfish

They originate from the Indian and West-Pacific oceans and will typically hide in caves and crevices from larger prey, which is why it is so important to have a big enough tank for them with many awesome hiding spots. Typically, these Lionfish will grow to 5 inches (13 cm) in length, and still contain many venomous spines that need to be watched out for.

4. Clearfin Lionfish (Pterois radiata)

Clearfin Lionfish are probably the most unique of all Lionfish species, hailing from the Indo-Pacific region. They also go by the name of Tailbar Lionfish, and sport red, white, and black vertical stripes along their body, large pectoral fins, and tall dorsal fins. Like true Lionfish, they love hiding spaces and having a lot of available space to swim around in.

Clearfin Lionfish

Their fins are a lot more transparent than other Lionfish types, hence the name, and they will grow to roughly 8 inches (20 cm) in length.

5. Luna Lionfish (Pterois lunulata)

Luna Lionfish undoubtedly have the best second name, known to some people as the dragon's beard fish, how unusual? They are native to the tropical ocean waters of the western pacific and share the same red, brown, and black coloration as most other Lionfish and the same stripy patterns.

Luna Lionfish

Luna Lionfish are medium-sized when compared with others on this list, growing to roughly 10 inches (25 cm) in length, and they still contain the venomous spines that all hobbyists should avoid touching!

6. African Lionfish (Pterois mombasae)

The final Lionfish type to feature on this list is the African Lionfish, deepwater firefish, or frillfin turkeyfish, whichever tickles your fancy! They share very a similar appearance to most of the Lionfish featuring on this list, except they have a darker body, paired with dark brown and white stripes.

African Lionfish

African Lionfish will grow to roughly 8 inches (20 cm) in length, and they hail from the tropical Indian Ocean and also the Western Pacific. You will typically find them in soft-bottomed areas, in conjunction with the growth of invertebrates.


As a hobbyist, owning a Lionfish at one point or another is the tropical dream! However, they are not the easiest fish to handle, but if looked after properly, they will undoubtedly become a tank favorite.

Something many people overlook is that there are so many different types of Lionfish. Hopefully, after checking out the fish featured in this article, you can make your decision on which Lionfish is right for you and your saltwater aquarium.