Koh Tao’s marine life is very diverse and one of the most visually striking is the Lionfish.  We call them lionfish but they are also known as firefish, zebrafish, and butterfly cod in other areas. We tend to put them together as one name but there are quite a few different species that we find around the world. All have stunning warning colors and are very photogenic with little or no fear of divers.  They have toxic fins or tentacles but lionfish are easy to spot and slow to move so stings are very rare.

Lionfish Description

Lionfish (Pterois) are one of the most beautiful examples of marine life that you’ll see while completing your diving certification on Koh Tao. There are 9 species native to the indo-pacific region. As with a lot of sea creatures bright and beautiful can often equate to danger as well. Have you been to the bars in Bangkok? Lionfish tentacles (dorsal fins) are highly poisonous.  They are found in the Indo-Pacific region but have become an invasive problem in the Caribbean Sea, as well as along the East Coast of the United States. This and a similar species, Pterois, have both been deemed as invasive species. Red lionfish are clad in white stripes alternated with red/maroon/brown stripes. Adults in this species can grow as large as 47 cm (18.5 in) in length, while juveniles are typically shorter than 1 cm. The average red lionfish lives around 10 years.

Where Can You Find Lionfish?

The lionfish is native to the Indo-Pacific region, including the western and central Pacific and off the coast of Western Australia. But, the species has been accidentally introduced into the Western Atlantic and has become an invasive species there and has become common in the northern Gulf of Mexico as well.  While scuba diving on Koh Tao they are normally found at Chumphon Pinnacle in numbers.
Lionfish hunting in corals Chumphon Pinnacle Koh Tao

Lionfish hunting in corals at Chumphon Pinnacle

What Do They Do

Lionfish use their venomous tentacles for defense from predators, not for catching their prey. To hunt, they lay in wait until their prey is near enough for them to lunge forward and swallow their prey in a single bite. Their diet is mainly small fish and crustaceans which they can corner or coral by opening out their fins. In addition, they can blow jets of water at their prey.  Presumably to disorientate them. Most are active hunters in the morning from sunrise to midday.

Their beautiful tentacles are also thought to play a role in courtship behavior, but they have not been observed in a nightclub.  Females release about 15,000 eggs at one time which are fertilized by the male. The small fry hatch in open water two days later and float in the water column until they are a few centimeters long and strong enough to swim to the sea bed.  Lionfish can live to be over 15 years old.
Lionfish silhouette at Koh Tao

A lionfish watching you

More Koh Tao Marine Life

Koh Tao marine life has a great variety to offer fun divers, those who are learning to dive, and snorkelers. You don’t have to go diving to see the underwater life but it does help. We don’t have much of the “big stuff” but we do get whale sharks, mostly at the deeper dive sites. But we do have lots of underwater life to enjoy. Here are just some of the other marine life you can see.

So if you are interested in Koh Tao diving contact us and you can find out more about diving and marine life follow us on Facebook or Instagram. Or click on the links below.

Koh Tao Diving Courses

What Other Scuba Certifications Can I Get On Koh Tao?

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When is the best time to dive on Koh Tao?

Find out more about SSI here: Dive SSI