Lionfish – Why and How

Understanding why we need to bring down the number of lionfish and how they effect our surroundings in a negative way will help us all understand the right steps to take to fix the lionfish problem on Bonaire.

There is a lot of research available online and through other media that can help you understand the effect of the lionfish phenomenon.

STINAPA Bonaire Marine Park.


How to Identify if it’s a Male or Female Lionfish

Lionfish have a spectacular appearance with distinctive fins and striped patterns that make them an ideal candidate for home aquariums. They are also known as scorpionfish, dragonfish, tigerfish and butterfly cod. There are about 22 species of lionfish in two genera.  All are tropical fish with venomous spines.

Lionfish species reach different sizes ranging from 2 to 18 inches. Different species have different markings, different length fins and a different number of fin spines. They all tend to be solitary animals who come together to mate and form small groups with one male and two to seven females. Males are highly territorial and some species are more aggressive than others, with males more likely to kill each other rather than chase the other away.


Mating Behaviour

The easiest time to tell male lionfish from female ones is when they are ready to mate. The males turn darker and the stripes are less visible, while the female’s patterns lighten. Mating usually occurs just after sunset.  The belly, mouth and throat of the female turn silvery white so she is easier to see. The male circles the female and they ascend to the top of the water where she trembles her fins and releases her spawn, which he fertilizes.


Head Size

Male lionfish tend to have larger heads than females. If you are looking at two or more lionfish of the same species, the one with the larger and more square-shaped head will be the male. Physical characteristics vary between the species . Fuzzy dwarf lionfish are one of the easiest species to determine the sex by the head size. For more information about how to recognize if a lionfish is male or female click here: Ehow.

Fast Facts

Type: fish.
Diet: Carnivore.
Average life span in the wild: Up to 15 years
Size: 11.8 to 15 in (30 to 38 cm)
Weight: Up to 2.6 lbs (1.2 kg)
Group name: School
Scientific Name: Pterois volitans (red lionfish) and Pterois miles (devil firefish); Read more on NOAA.

As you go around you will be getting briefings and listening to conversations about the topic. Here is a list of names given to the lionfish in other places: zebrafish, firefish, turkeyfish, red lionfish, butterfly cod, ornate butterfly-cod, peacock lionfish, red firefish, scorpion volitans, devil firefish.


Why are lionfish considered such a problem? Are lionfish really all that bad?

Yes. Non-native lionfish are a terrible problem in the Western Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea and in the Gulf of Mexico. They are not a problem in their native ranges of the Indian Ocean, Southern and Western Pacific Ocean, and in the Red Sea. The world is still waiting to see how bad the problem with non-native lionfish in the Mediterranean is going to get since it is a relatively “new” invasion.

Invasive lionfish are out-breeding, out-competing and out-living native fish stocks and other marine species. The consequences impact food security and economies affecting over a hundred million people.

More at


Proper training and a permit are required to hunt lionfish on Bonaire.

Bruce Bowker’s Carib Inn is now offering monthly lionfish hunting trips:


Why are Lionfish a Problem?