This week’s fish of the week is the Lionfish!
Lionfish (Pterois volitans)
Lionfish are a popular aquarium fish, with their red stripes and long spines. The spines, however, contain venom that the lionfish uses as a defensive mechanism. They do not move too fast, so their spines help protect against predators. Do NOT go sticking your hands in a tank with a lionfish without proper precautions! Make sure you know where they are at all times while performing any tank maintenance. Do not corner a lionfish; they will get defensive and attack. If you are stung by one of the spines, seek medical attention immediately. En route to getting medical attention, soak the stung area in a hot water bath, with the water as hot as you can stand.
The lionfish is a species that is getting a lot of attention lately. Normally found in the South Pacific and Indian oceans, lionfish have been exported over the years as a popular display fish. By some means, the lionfish were released into the Atlantic Ocean along the US coast and have spread from the New York to Florida, as well as Bermuda and Puerto Rico. They have become an invasive species, where an introduced, non-native species devours or outcompetes a native species for resources (food, shelter, etc.). This leads to a decline in the native species, which could change the entire ecosystem it is a part of. It is important to remember, if you do not want your fish anymore, don’t just dump them in a pond or the ocean. As a responsible pet owner, you need to find them a proper new home or consider humane euthanasia.
For more information about the lionfish as an invasive species, check out the USDA website