» Posted by on Nov 18, 2015 in Becca N, Blog, Conservation, Education, Saltwater Fish | Comments Off on Meet a Turkey Fish this Thanksgiving at Absolutely Fish!

Meet a Turkey Fish this Thanksgiving at Absolutely Fish!

By Rebecca Noah


What is a turkey fish?

Turkey fish is one of several common names for the lionfish, a member of the scorpion fish family (Scorpaenidae) and the Pterois genus. Lionfish are a type of venomous, predatory marine fish native to the Indo-Pacific and are well known for their long pectoral and dorsal fins (which can look like a turkey’s plumage when seen from a certain angle) and conspicuous striping patterns.


Lionfish’s aposematic coloration, while appalling to other fish and aids in repelling predators, makes for a striking and stunning addition to public and private aquaria.  Additionally, several of their fins are tipped with venomous spines, which makes for a captivating and alluring aquatic predator.


Lionfish in the Aquarium

Due to their striking coloration, impressive fins, and predatory nature, lionfish are very popular in the aquarium trade. Of the species of lionfish in the Pterois genus, the most popular in the aquarium trade is the Volitans Lionfish (P. volitanss). The Volitan Lionfish can grow up to 15” long and should be provided with plenty of open space, as it will spend time out in the open as well as hovering near décor items.


Although majority of the lionfish in the Pterois genus grow larger, there are also species of dwarf lionfish in the Dendrochirus genus that are well suited for smaller aquariums. The most popular dwarf lionfish is the Fuzzy Dwarf Lionfish (D. brachypterus) staying under 7” in length, making it perfect for smaller tanks in the 30-55 gallon range.


All lionfish must be housed in a predatory-themed aquarium. Lionfish are not excessively aggressive, but must be housed with tank mates that are large enough to not be eaten, such as large tangs, angels, eels, groupers, and snappers. Lionfish are very hardy aquarium specimens and will except a variety of meaty frozen foods such as silversides, krill, Mysis shrimp, and clam as well as freeze dried or pelleted foods with training.


Caring for a Venomous Fish

Due to the venomous spines that are located on the dorsal fins as well as the anal and pectoral fins, care must be taken to avoid contact with the species in the aquarium. The venom is a protein-based combination of neuromuscular toxin and a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine, which upon injection causes excruciating pain near the site.


If stung, remove any spines left in the skin, disinfect the wound and apply non-scalding hot water to the area for 30 to 90 minutes as this will help denature the venom and reduce the pain. Even though lionfish venom is not deadly, it can be fatal if the person stung has an allergic reaction to the venom.


An Environmentally Catastrophic Species

Lionfish, originally native to in Indo-Pacific, have now established themselves as a dominant species on the East Coast of the Atlantic Ocean, specifically near Florida and in the Caribbean. Lionfish have easily invaded Atlantic waters because they have no natural predators to keep their population in check and a never ending appetite for any fish that can fit in their mouth (lionfish can eat prey over ½ their body size).  Lionfish are known to eat just about any living animal that is in their range including fish, invertebrates, and mollusks.


The never-ending appetite of the lionfish is having negative effects on species diversity, which is leading to ecological damage to reef communities.  Lionfish are also threatening the commercial fishing industry, as they will often eat the juveniles of commercially valuable species.  Of the 12 species of Pterois, the Volitan lionfish (P. Volitans) and the Miles lionfish (P. Miles) have established themselves as a significant ecological threat to the east coast of the United States and the Caribbean.


Lionfish At Absolutely Fish

You can meet or even take home your very own turkey fish today at Absolutely Fish! We consistently carry Volitan lionfish harvested only from Caribbean waters in order to help reduce the invasive population.

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