Red Lionfish: They’re Just Like Us

Meet the Seattle Aquarium’s latest SEAlebrity: Singa the red lionfish! Singa means “lion” in Indonesian, which is fitting because this species is native to the warm, beautiful waters of the Indo-Pacific. At the Aquarium, you can find Singa in our Tropical Pacific habitat

And, while these fish certainly look different from us—with their long, flowing dorsal spines and wide, colorful pectoral fins—they have a lot more in common with humans than you might think.


Red lionfish: they’re just like us! And here are just a just a few of the ways:

A red lionfish at the Seattle Aquarium swimming towards the surface of the water in its habitat towards food being offered by an aquarist.

1. When they’re hungry, get out of the way! 
You know that feeling when lunchtime just can’t come soon enough? Red lionfish do too. They have huge appetites and are known to prey on over 50 different species. They also need a balanced and varied diet for optimum health, just like we do.

Red lionfish swimming underwater in an area with underwater tree roots.

2. They go about their business in all kinds of places…
We humans move through a lot of environments in our daily lives—school, work, the gym, restaurants, shops and more. Red lionfish are similar: they’re seen in just about every marine habitat, from coral reefs to mangrove forests and more, at depths that vary between mere inches below the surface to over 300 feet down. 

A red lionfish at the Seattle Aquarium swimming in a coral habitat.

3. …But home is where they belong. 
There’s a reason for the saying “home, sweet home”—it’s the place where we rest, relax, replenish and thrive. The same is true for red lionfish. In their home waters, their populations are stable and they play an important role in keeping the ecosystem balanced. But that’s not the case along the coast of the southeastern United States, where red lionfish are considered an invasive species. (Interested in learning why? Check out our red lionfish webpage!).

A red lionfish at the Seattle Aquarium looking sideways up with its eye just out of the top of the water of its habitat at the Seattle Aquarium.

4. They stick up for themselves when the situation calls for it. 
People sometimes need to defend our positions during a disagreement—and red lionfish do too. If a potential predator gets too close, they can use their venomous dorsal spines to deliver a painful sting. 

Doral spines of a red lionfish.

5. They can start families any time of the year. 
Unlike many animal species, humans don’t have a particular breeding season. Neither do red lionfish. They reproduce all year long, and quickly. Female lionfish can lay eggs (up to 30,000 at one time!) every four days, and the eggs hatch into larvae within 24 to 36 hours. 

A single red lionfish swimming over coral and undersea plants.

6. They need a healthy, clean environment to thrive. 
This one is obvious, right? Humans, red lionfish, every living thing on Earth and in the ocean—we all depend on a healthy environment. There all kinds of things that people can do to preserve and protect our world and its waters. Explore our take action page for some great ideas!

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