Koh Tao Lionfish

The Lionfish is another of the great variety of marine life that Koh Tao diving has to offer all levels of divers.
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 colours and are very photogenic with little or no fear of divers.  They have toxic fins but lionfish are easy to spot and slow to move so stings are very rare.

Pair of Lionfish


Lionfish (Pterios) are one of the most beautiful fish that you’ll see while scuba diving in 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 dangerous 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 has 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 it?

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.

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 have been observed blowing jets of water at their prey, presumably to disorientate them. Most are active hunters in the morning from sunrise to midday.

The beautiful tentacles are also thought to play a role in courtship behaviour; but they have not been observed in a nightclub.  Females release about 15,000 eggs at one time which are then 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 centimetres long and strong enough to swim to the sea bed.  Lionfish can live to over 15 years old.
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