Ragged finned firefish: Characteristics, habitat, care and more


The Ragged finned firefish, Spotfin Lionfish or Pterois antennata in scientific terms is part of the family scorpaenidae, whose name is due to its poisonous properties, being considered one of the most dangerous in the world.

This species enjoys great popularity among aquarium hobbyists both for its spectacular shapes and colorations, as for its behavior and its poisonous characteristics.

Taxonomy: Animalia KingdomRagged finned firefish: taxonomic categories

Phylum: Chordata Class: Actinopterygii  Order: Scorpaeniformes Family: Scorpaenidae

Genus: Pterois Species: Pterois antenatta

Ragged Finned firefish: Main Characteristics

This is a saltwater fish that usually inhabits the edges and crevices of reefs in the depths of the oceans. Pterois antenatta is a calm fish, which only attacks if it’s bothered. He usually stays without much activity during the daylight hours and at night he begins his task. In any case it’s better to be away from him.

However, if there is something that we must keep in mind is its danger since it’s territorial and carnivorous, so it’s recommended to have it with larger fish or simply with others equal to it.

When being introduced in any artificial place, all these circumstances must be foreseen.


Pterois antennata is characterized by the amazing and different stripes of its pectoral fins and its long white and black antennae.  Moreover, it lacks tissue between the rays of its dorsal fins.

The pectoral fins are partially connected halfway and this membranous area has one or more dark spots that look like eyes. These fins usually carry poisonous spines that the animal generates in its glandular tissue which can be as sharp as the needle of a hypodermic syringe.

Above the eyes Ragged finned firefish have long antennae adorned with dark bands, which gives the appearance of having horns over their eyes.

This majestic bearing is accompanied by a striking color that serves as an alarm and warning for the rest of the inhabitants of the reef. The spots, stripes and prints that show in nature are a perfect camouflage on the reef.

However, in captivity we will never get the intensity and brightness that they usually display in their natural habitat.

Ragged finned firefish: characteristics anatomy




Its size ranges between 40 and 30 cm and its weight is around 480 gms. It’s very important to emphasize that the development of this fish is closely related with the water temperature of its habitat habitat  and its feeding way.

Let’s meet it


The Ragged finned firefish, is a predator that lives in the depths of the oceans.They like to be on sandy and rocky places, and they can also live quietly in ponds, fish tanks, aquariums and in the depths of the seas.

It almost always occupies the Pacific and Indian reefs, although in recent times they have been found in the warm areas of almost the entire world. Pterois antennata  is usually found in large quantities and is very fishy to have it in aquariums.

However, the increase of its population has caused a concern, since it’s a predator and very dangerous fish, being a threat, both for the other species of smaller fish and for the human beings.

Currently this species has been found in almost all the seas of the world; they are usually seen hanging around areas such as the Austral Islands, Kermadec, Marquesan Islands, Mangarava, East Africa, Southeast Japan, Queensland and Australia.

Pterois antennata spends the day  around the coral reefs, (in the crevices of the rocks), where he swims very slowly so as not to attract the attention of his possible prey.

In any case, what must be taken into account is the danger of its poison and the risk of threat to other smaller fish from being a victim of this predator. It’s worrisome the way it has been evolving, because it’s not sought as food, hence its proliferation has emerged.

Ragged Finned firefish: Feeding Habits

This is a carnivorous fish and one of the strongest predators.  it feeds on small fish, crustaceans, crabs  and shrimps. It worth pointing out that it’s very easy for this animal to obtain its prey due to the colors that make up its body, which allows it to camouflage between coral reefs and rock crevices.

While in captivity, their feeding continues almost the same, since it’s usually fed with smaller and live fish, even when you can experiment with dead fish, a fact that will have to be carried- out gradually until they get used. As far as one of its predators is known, they are large groupers.

Since it can eat any type of prey, this species has become very worrying for the maintenance of the ecological balance, since a loss of marine species has been triggered due to its presence.

The Spotfin Lionfish represents a threat to various economic activities and marine biodiversity, since it has completely invaded much of the Caribbean and the Atlantic.

In the same way it has been possible to verify that these animals have exaggerated amplitude in their stomach, being able to ingest large amounts of food, so they can stay uneaten about three months without starving. Such a fact allows them to face any time of food shortages, and only lose ten percent of their body weight.

Let’s watch them again


The natural defense system of Ragged finned firefish is made-up of apocrine glands that produce toxins of protein origin at the base of 18 spines: 13 spines, three anal and two pelvics. This toxin is lethal to other species and painful to humans.

Each spine has a duct inside that connects one of its ends to a venomous gland that secretes between three to 10 mg of venom per spine.

It should be noted that 21 mg of the poison would be required to cause the death of a 60 kg human being.

In man, the mechanism of poisoning occurs when the person steps on or touches the fish, where pressure is placed on the spines so that the venom spreads inside the wound caused by the puncture.

The Lionfish venom contains acetylcholine and a neurotoxic toxin which affects neuromuscular transmission.

These toxins of protein origin in turn are cytotoxic and are made-up by water-soluble thermolabile polypeptides; which reduce the inactivation rate of sodium channels in axonal membranes and interfere with potassium channels. We invite you to read our article puffer fish to learn about other poisonous species.


The bite of the Ragged finned firefish is usually very painful, as is that of the toad fish, which spreads throughout the affected limb. The effect may last for one day if not treated quickly; it begins with inflammation and redness of the punctured place, followed by dysesthesias, edema, numbness and paleness.

The edema caused is acting progressively, affecting the entire stabbing part in less than thirty minutes; this can last up to forty-eight hours and continue up to two weeks. These conditions aren’t usually serious and only last a few hours.

First aid is based on starting to remove most of the stingers, while removing most of the poison.

Then try a solution based on ammonia, alternate with a hot water bottle. It’s important to known that the heat is very good to help expel the poison.

Actually, the bite of this fish is not as alarming as it’s  believed, and the problem lies on the amount of bites and the person who receives it, due to the pain it causes.   It’s known that it isn’t excessively dangerous unless it causes an allergic reaction causing other outcomes that can bring greater evils.

Final Effects

The outcome that may have a bite of these animals will depend on various elements such as the body weight of the victim; if he/she doesn’t have greater weight will receive more poison.

In the same way the amount of thorns also counts, since the more thorns they have, the more poison the victim will receive.

The situation of these bites changes if the victims are elderly, children or sick people or with medical treatments.

In the same way it’s worth mentioning that allergic patients with cardio-vascular or respiratory conditions and even those who have been affected by these fish bites before tend to perceive the symptoms in a more pronounced manner.


At first, there is quite strong pain burning and edema in the affected place. On many occasions they are accompanied by nausea, vomiting, muscle cramps, asthenia, sweating, and fever and finally a shock could occur.

As for the wound caused by the spines, these aren’t of great magnitude, the real danger is represented by what they penetrate through their toxins, and hence there are also infections that can be high risk.

First aid

When suffering a bite, from this fish you should go as quickly as possible to a medical assistance center and apply the most common first aid such as:

Place the affected area as high as possible. For no reason should the wound be rubbed or touched.

Hot salt water is recommended, since heat helps relieve pain. In any case, it’s a good idea to use alcohol, vinegar or some content solution with water-bound ammonia.

Let’s learn a little bit about first aids


Maintenance and care of Ragged finned firefish in Captivity

In the maintenance of these species in the aquarium we must bear in mind that they will never attack us. It’s normal that when the hands are introduced into the aquarium in maintenance tasks the fish will deploy its defenses and lean forward as a warning signal.

For this reason, any manipulation inside the aquarium must be scrupulous,.

The toxin that emanates from their bite is very painful and depending on the species can have serious consequences. In almost all cases, medical attention will be necessary.

It should be emphasized that not only the spines are poisonous. So are the anal and pectoral spines.

As for the aquarium behavior of scorpion fish it’s linked to the substrate. They are mostly crepuscular, so during the day they will not show in excess. Its diet is made-up by small crustaceans and any fish that can enter their mouth.

Most species find it difficult to adapt to dead food so you have to be very patient and try again and again with frozen mysis of the right size.

If we can mix live and dead food in each shot we will have a lot of progress for its total adaptation to captivity.

When we keep carnivorous wild animals we must ask ourselves if our character tolerates this particular.

There are commercially available frozen fish tablets ready to eat as food for our carnivorous species but it’s not uncommon for us to use viviparous species with a certain resistance to brackish water such as mollys or platys( to feed our animal.

In captivity they are shown as resistant species with a calm character. Moreover, they are not especially sensitive to physical-chemical parameters nor diseases.

Lionfish prefer much decorated aquariums with lots of live rock where they can find shelter for the brightest hours.

It worth mentioning that lionfish have a distant cousin also poisonous, whose accidents have fatal consequences, within the Synanceiidae family, commonly called bonefishes. This type of fish isn’t available to any fan and a permit is required only available to public aquariums.

here we go again

Other Species of Lionfish

Let’s meet other members of this family

Red lionfish (Pterois volitans)

It’s the most popular species. It reaches sizes up to 38 cm. Their fins are really impressive as well as the striking thing about their livery.ragged finned firefish: Red lionfish

He is a slow swimmer but very graceful and elegant. Pterois volitans has a wide distribution that goes from Western Australia, from Malaysia to Polynesia.  However, its toxicity level is also very high.

Radiata lionfish, (Pteroris radiate)

It’s also one of the popular species of the genus. It has a dark mahogany hue crossed by white stripes which makes it a very attractive species. The Radiata lionfish has sort of very striking tentacles on the eyes of a certain length.  It reaches maximum sizes up to 27 cm.

Yellowspotted scorpionfish (Sebastapistes Cyanostigma)

This is one of the smallest species of lionfish of just 7.5 cm. It’s distributed from East Africa, Red Sea and Samoa. In addition to its striking mottled livery, the disproportionate size of its eyes is spectacular compared to that of the body.

Zebra turkeyfish or zebra lionfish (Dendrochirus zebra)

It reaches up to 20 cm in length. It’s distributed from East Africa, Red Sea and Samoa. Its sign of identity is its extraordinary lateral fins and the fully extended posture it adopts when hunting

Taenianotus triacanthus: Leaf scorpionfish

It resembles a fishing fish or Antennarius. Its fins are similar to a candle and shows them always extended as well as the caudal one. The Leaf scorpionfish lacks scales but these are modified in the form of a papilla, so that the appearance of its texture reminds us of sandpaper.

His extraordinary camouflage confuses him with dead matter until the prey gets too close and it’s too late to realize the deception.

Let’s watch it

Invasive Species

The  Spotfin Lionfish has now invaded almost entirely all marine spaces in the Caribbean and North America, exaggeratedly in the Bahamas. Due to this worrying situation, various investigations were carried out, reaching an explanatory theory for this sudden invasion.

It’s presumed that it was from 1992, when one of the most unforgiving storms occurred, as was Hurricane Andrew, which hit the United States.

This storm destroyed an aquarium in Florida where species of lion fish were cultivated causing an outbreak   of Spotfin Lionfish in the Atlantic Ocean.

Although there is news from other sources where it’s indicated that these species began arriving in 1985 in Florida where they were raised in large aquariums due to the striking nature of their body and color. It’s presumed that then a large number of them were thrown into the sea by amateurs.

The great concern is latent due to its condition of dangerous, carnivorous, predatory fish, in addition to not having species that can exterminate it or at least appease its invasion.

The fight against the lionfish

In view of the prevailing circumstances on the state of invasion that has been observed in recent times, drastic guidelines have been made known against the survival of Spotfin Lionfish.

The different local and international organizations have licensed the divers to exterminate any number of specimens of this species in the different marine parks located in Florida, Cozumel parks in Honduras.

It’s alarming the damage that they are causing, (economically and ecologically), since fishing has been damaged creating  a problem of uncertainties where there is no immediate solution.


The Mexican Government in its eagerness to control the proliferation of these specimens has managed to promote the consumption of delicacies prepared with this fish in different restaurants.

Its meat has been cataloged as a delicacy, with a pleasant taste and soft texture. In Cancun it’s incorporated into the menus of all the luxury restaurants, where they offer this strange but delicious poisonous fish.

There is so much concern for these invasions, that south of the Mexican borders, specifically in Belize, these specimens were priced, the government of this country paid 500 $ for each head of this fish, whose amount had to reduce In just two months.

After that decision and due to the large amount of fish extracted from the seabed, the price for each ragged finned fire fish dropped to 100 Belizean dollars.

Nicholas Michaelides, from the department of marine and fisheries research in Nicosia, says that “in Cyprus it’s illegal to hunt using scuba gear, but in this case we are allowing it. We are very worried».

On an island that depends on tourism, the department is taking steps to inform the public before summer. Although there have been no known deaths caused by lionfish bites, human contact with the poison is terribly painful.

The first sacrifice has been carried out in a protected marine area, Cape Greco.The day was raised as a competition and awards were given for harpooning smaller and larger fish. «The plan is for similar sacrifices to be made twice a month for the next two years,» explains Periklis Kleitou, a researcher at the University of Plymouth, who is helping coordinate the elimination project.

Experts have proven that the lionfish not only does not have natural enemies in the Mediterranean, it also has a fierce appetite.

«The elimination of this invasive species is the only effective way to reduce its number and ensure that areas protected by the sea continue to regenerate,» Kleitou explains.

A report compiled by the Maritime and Environmental Research Laboratory based in Limassol with Hall-Spencer, said that if the Indo-Pacific species is not acted quickly, it will have colonized almost the entire southeast coast of Cyprus “within a year … assisted by global warming and rising sea temperatures. ”

Sacrifices: a technique with precedents

Environmental control agencies ensure that invasive species are now among the five leading causes of biodiversity loss worldwide. Specifically in the western Atlantic, lionfish has been linked to the reduction of coral reef fish by approximately 65%.

The sacrifices have proven highly effective in the Caribbean where the species has been blamed for the destruction of coral reefs, the decline in other populations.

Let’s watch

Western Atlantic

Lionfish has been linked to the reduction of coral reef fish by approximately 65%.«In these waters I think we may have missed the opportunity to completely eradicate them because they will spread as the seas warm,» says Hall-Spencer.

But, he warned, that all is not lost. «There is still time to control the population, especially in marine protected areas.»

In addition, Hall-Spencer believes that you can do business with them. “Like firm meat fish, they taste absolutely wonderful. There is definitely a market niche putting lionfish on restaurant tables. ”

Drastic decisions were made due to the alarming invasion of spot lionfish but even so no great results were seen, only the growth rate of their populations in the different waters of almost the whole world decreased.

It was concluded that the lionfish must be accepted as a natural species belonging to the marine environment, you just have to expect that nature itself creates natural mechanisms to balance the ecosystem and maintain the species in all areas.

It is necessary to wait for the appearance of new predators that help to control the invasion of this species, fact that until now seems to have arisen a quite encouraging effect, according to the last investigations carried out.

Let’s watch

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