Invasive lionfish eating up Caribbean reef fish

by Owen James

Lionfish: Gorgeous, and hungry

Lionfish: Gorgeous, and hungry

Lionfish are devouring everything in their path in the Caribbean – and the only thing that stands in their way is other lionfish.

According to scientists, the lionfish poses the latest of numerous threats to reefs in the region, with the survival rate of other reef fishes slashed by about 80 per cent once Pterois Volitans moves in.

It makes depressing reading for reef lovers everywhere.

Even worse, it’s thought the species was first introduced to Caribbean waters by fishkeepers releasing their pets into the wild.

Never release any pet fish into natural waters! Take unwanted fish back to the store, or if they won’t accept them and neither will local hobbyists, then kill them humanely as best you can. It will do much less harm in the long-term. Tropical fish are a long-term commitment

According to this report on invasive lionfish in Science Daily, just one large lionfish can do major damage:

In studies on controlled plots [...] scientists determined that lionfish reduced young juvenile fish populations by 79 percent in only a five-week period. Many species were affected, including cardinalfish, parrotfish, damselfish and others. One large lionfish was observed consuming 20 small fish in a 30-minute period.

Lionfish are carnivores that can eat other fish up to two-thirds their own length, while they are protected from other predators by long, poisonous spines. In the Pacific Ocean [...] other fish have learned to avoid them and they also have more natural predators, particularly large groupers. In the Atlantic Ocean, native fish have never seen them before and have no recognition of danger. There, about the only thing that will eat lionfish is another lionfish — they are not only aggressive carnivores, but also cannibals.

I’ve kept lionfish, and they are indeed beautiful creatures. It’s thoroughly miserable to imagine them becoming a pest instead of a bona fide predato.

Check out Katy's Tropical Fish Guide for more aquarium info.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Walter 07.21.08 at 11:02 am

seems weird theres nothing big enough in the carribean to eat the lion fish. did they fish out all the groupers and snappers there or do they just not have the appetite for lionfish.

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