National Aquarium – Red lionfish

Red Lionfish

Pterois volitans


The lionfish is the first successfully invasive species to the Atlantic Ocean.

Exhibit Name and Location:
Washington - National Marine Sanctuaries and National Parks Gallery

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Red Lionfish

The red lionfish's body is covered with reddish-brown bands separated by white lines. Pectoral fin rays are separated, long, and banner-like, with similar light and dark banding.  Their long dorsal spines are venomous to protect them from predators.


Small invertebrates and fishes


The red lionfish can grow up to 15 inches.


Native: Indian and western Pacific oceans. Invasive: Mediterranean Sea, Atlantic Ocean (south from North Carolina year round; juveniles found north to Connecticut in summer months), Caribbean Sea, and Gulf of Mexico

Population Status

Invasive species, continuing to expand range throughout the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico.


In the Atlantic, sharks and large groupers have been conditioned to feed on dead lionfish, but nothing has been observed preying on a live lionfish. There is a movement to get this fish on restaurant menus, to help control the rapidly expanding population of this invasive species.

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A Note From the Caretaker

The lionfish we have on exhibit were removed from the Florida Keys, where they are invasive and threatening the native animals.