Lionfish Care Guide – Learn The Best Practices

If you are thinking of getting a lionfish, then you might be wondering exactly how to take care of one. It is important to learn everything there is to know about the type of fish you want to get before you bring them home, so you can know if you will be able to provide the right care for them.

Lionfish do require specific habitats, and you will need to find out more about this in order to take good care of one at home. This is why we are going to tell you everything you need to know about lionfish, including some breeds in specific. 

Lionfish careguide

This will help to give you a better understanding of what you can expect when it comes to caring for a lionfish.

Lionfish Habitat

Lionfish are usually found in the Indo-Pacific, South Pacific, Red Sea, and the Sea of Japan, and they are typically associated with tropical reefs. This is where they can usually be seen living on both hard and soft substrates, often in crevices or under overhangs during the day.

They are known to emerge to hunt in the dim light of the evening and pre-dawn hours, and during this time, their striped patterns allow them to blend into the shadows and reef growth.

How to Identify a Lionfish

It can be difficult to identify certain species of lionfish, but more often than not, you can tell which species they are if you know what you are looking for. All lionfish will share certain traits, like large heads, mouths, and eyes, as well as a bony ridge that runs from the eye across the cheek. This is known as the suborbital stay. 

There will also be long and non-venomous rays that are present on the pectoral fins, and they have stiff and dagger-like dorsal, pelvic, and ventral fin spines that can deliver their venom. The toxicity of this venom will depend on the species within the family, but lionfish are typically the least toxic.

2 Main Types of Lionfish

Below are the two most popular lionfish species that you will likely house in an aquarium environment. There are many other types of lionfish that do not appear in this list, so check out that full list if interested. For now, check out the summaries below: 

Dendrochirus Biocellatus - Fu Manchu Lionfish

  • Maximum Size - 4.75" (12 cm).
  • Depth: Approximately 3 to 130 ft (1 to 40 m).
  • Minimum Tank Size: 30 g (114 l).
  • Natural Habitat - Occurs on and around reefs in the Indo-Pacific, Mauritius, Reunion, Maldives and Sri Lanka to the Society Islands, north to southern Japan, and south to Scott Reef.

This is one of the most striking types of dwarf lionfish when it comes to appearance, but they are also one of the hardest to keep. The color of this species is red or orange with dark mottles stripes and specks on the body.

It also has highlights on its face, mandibular extensions, and fins. The second dorsal fin features two eyespots, which are what give this species of fish its name.

Lionfish Care Guide

Some specimens do have a third ocellus on this fin, and their pectoral fins are smoothly rounded. Only the lower few ray tips will have a serrated edge.

However, as we have already mentioned, these fish are really difficult to keep, and there are lots of reasons for this. The first of these reasons is that the Fu Manchu is usually a poor shipper, which means that it is really important to try and find a healthy specimen.

As well as this, these are typically shy fish, especially in the beginning, which can make it difficult to wean them on to prepared foods.

These fish need to have lots of rock work with caves and overhangs where it can take shelter until it has become used to its new surroundings. Giving them places to hide can even make them more adventurous, as they know they have somewhere to retreat to if they need it.

Lastly, these fish are fairly weak swimmers, and they prefer to scurry and crutch along the substrate and rock work. This makes them a poor competitor for food when they are kept with aggressive feeders.

Their natural source of food is made up of shrimp and other small crustaceans, and saltwater or freshwater ghost shrimp is one of the best types of food for them.

Once your fish are used to feeding, you will need to start the weaning process, which can take a couple of months for stubborn fish.

Dendrochirus Brachypterus - Fuzzy Dwarf Lionfish

  • Maximum Size: 5”-6” TL (~ 13 - 15 cm)
  • Depth: 1 - 68 m (~ 3 - 223 ft).
  • Minimum Tank Size: 40 g (~ 151 l).
  • Natural Habitat: Occurs in association with reefs, drop-offs, and rocky caves. Indo-West Pacific: Red Sea and East Africa to Samoa and Tonga, north to southern Japan, south to Lord Howe Island; Mariana Islands in Micronesia; the Arafura Sea and Australia.

One of the best species of dwarf lionfish species is the fuzzy dwarf lionfish, which are pretty, hardy, and personable fish. They have quite small mouths in comparison to other lionfish species, and as their name would suggest, they do have a fuzzy appearance.

Spotfin Lionfish

These fish are typically brown, red, or yellow, but brown is the most common color and yellow is the rarest. 

To house just one of these fish, you will need to have a 30-gallon tank at least, but three of these fish can be kept in a tank that is no smaller than 60 gallons. Multiple of these fish need to be properly sexed, as the males do tend to fight.

Once they become accustomed to their habitat, they will usually be out and about the tank, and look out for food when someone comes close to them. 

Despite this, they should still be provided with caves and overhangs to give them an extra level of comfort.  Many will have their ways to get attention, like learning to spit water at their keepers.


Ultimately, these lionfish will make great community fish as long as they have the right tank mates, and they usually keep themselves to themselves as long as they get on with the other fish. Keeping Lionfish in a tank with aggressive fish is never recommended, so, if you are introducing them into your community with notorious "bullies" or generally aggressive fish such as the six line wrasse is probably not advised.