S.E.A. Aquarium is home to many beautiful species of Lionfish, such as the Radiata Lionfish, Zebra Lionfish, and Fu Manchu Lionfish. Hailing from the family of Scorpaenidae (Scorpionfish), these fishes are known for their long, venomous stripey spines. Apart from serving as a warning to potential predators, these prominent stripes also double up as camouflage by breaking up the outline of the Lionfish.
Here are five species of Lionfish which can be found at the S.E.A. Aquarium:
Radiata Lionfish (Pterois radiata)
The Radiata Lionfish is distinctively different from its Lionfish relatives. Its spines are completely devoid of markings, making it pretty easy to identify, and the reason behind its alternative name – Clearfin Lionfish. Radiata Lionfish is typically found in rocky reefs up to depths of 25 metres. As such, it tends to appear shy in its brightly lit habitat in the aquarium (so that guests can have a good view of them). Your best bet for spotting one? Peer into one of the caves or overhangs!
Zebra Lionfish (Dendrochirus zebra)
This is one curious looking Lionfish with black, white and orange zebra-like bands on its body, and large fan-like pectoral fins that open up when it rests on the seabed. Found in waters up to 75 metres deep near the seabed, this species of Lionfish is most often found resting on corals or rocky substrates. Check out the wall sides of their habitat to get a glimpse of this beautiful animal.
Shortfin Lionfish (Dendrocihrus brachypterus)
Also called the Shortfin Turkeyfish, the Shortfin Lionfish is a fuzzy looking red coloured lionfish that can almost be described as ‘cute’. Males have a larger head and longer pectoral fins than females. They also have about 6 to 10 bands on their pectoral fins, while females only have about 4 to 6 bands. Just like other Lionfish, Shortfin Lionfish are absolute gluttons – they will eat however much they are fed! Keep a look out for them as they swim around their habitat, showing off their beautiful fan-like fins!
Spotfin Lionfish (Pterois antennata)
This resident dwarf Lionfish is also called the Broadbarred Firefish due to the dark bars on its body and the long, dark banded tentacle above its eyes. It also has unique blueish-black blotches near the base of its pectoral fins, which differentiates them from other Lionfish. Most Spotfin Lionfish are found in lagoons and coral reefs. This nocturnal creature hides in crevices for most of the day and hunts at night. To spot this little fish, peek into the various crevices in its habitat.
Fu Manchu Lionfish (Dendrochirus biocellatus)
The most distinguishing feature of the Fu Manchu Lionfish (also known as the Two Feeler Lionfish) – and the one that gave it this name – are the two long appendages on its upper jaw. These barbels are reminiscent of the moustache adorned by Fu Manchu, the evil criminal genius created by British author Sam Rohmer. During feeding time, this Lionfish will shake its dorsal spines and head from side to side. We are still baffled by this unusual behaviour, but it is most likely its way of distracting or luring its prey.
An invasive species
Lionfish are native to the Indo-Pacific region, and can easily be found in waters around Singapore. But these same fishes are considered an invasive species in the Atlantic Ocean and the waters around Hawaii. The main culprits being the Red Lionfish (Pterois volitans) and the Common Lionfish (Pterois miles). But how did these Indo-Pacific natives travel all the way to the Atlantic?
It appears that humans have been dumping unwanted Lionfish from their home aquariums into these waters for more than 25 years. Being non-natives, they have very few predators which enabled their population to thrive. At the same time, these voracious fish devoured its way through much of the region’s marine biodiversity, such as young snappers and groupers, which seriously affected local populations of these commercial fish.
In 2010, the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration launched a “Eat Lionfish” campaign by promoting the Lionfish as a sustainable seafood choice. This suppressed their populations and reduced their impact on the coral reefs in the region.
Be a responsible home aquarium owner
Many irresponsible home aquarium owners simply release their fish into the wild without considering if they are native to the surrounding waters. Invasive species have the capability to wipe out resident fish populations, regardless which part of the world they are in. They are a serious epidemic that needs to be prevented and resolved, especially when it is due to human intervention.