There is nothing I love more than a trip to my local marine aquatic store to see all the saltwater beauties that I long to own. Every single one of them swimming around with their glorious color, shape, and size attracts my eye.
There is, however, one species in particular that I spend more time with than I do the others, and that is the might Antennata Lionfish. This magnificent specimen is top of my marine dream list!
The Antennata Lionfish (pterois antennata) is a highly prized marine species due to its coloration, beauty, unusual fins and rays, and venomous, hence potentially dangerous status. They are, however, despite their wicked arsenal, a fairly friendly species that only tends to attack when threatened.
Known around the world by many different common names the Antennata Lionfish is fairly common within the aquatic trade, usually being captured by fisherman rather than homebred. They are not always heading for a home aquarium when caught, however, as they are also a delicious edible fish. Seems rather a shame to eat them to me nonetheless when their beauty can be admired for much longer than the taste will last!
Hopefully, you are considering keeping an Antennata Lionfish in your home aquarium rather than eating one. If I’m wrong, I’ll say it now that this isn’t the guide for you. If I’m right, however, do read on and we here at Fishkeeping Forever will share with you everything you need to know about the delightful Antennata Lionfish. Enjoy our Antennata Lionfish – Complete Care Guide
Antennata Lionfish Characteristics and Care
Of course, the Antennata Lionfish is best known for its unusual appearance and its ability to produce venom. This means that people tend to ignore the immense beauty of its coloration and personality. This is a real shame as the Antennata Lionfish is far more than spines and venom, it is also full of personality and charm.
Surprisingly from a care point of view, the Antennata Lionfish is relatively easy to care for. They are hardy, can be housed with several tank mates, and do not require much in the way of specialty housing. Below is a chart of useful information that will provide a simple care guide.
- Scientific Name: Pterois Antennata
- Common Names: Spotfin Lionfish, Ragged Finned Firefish, Banded Lionfish, Broad barred Lionfish, Rough Scaled Firefish, Antenna Turkeyfish
- Family: Scorpaenidae
- Origin: Africa, Indonesia, Sri Lanka
- Sociability: Semi-aggressive
- Growth: Up to 8 inch
- Diet: Carnivore
- Minimum Tank Size: 50 gallons
- Care Level: Moderate
- Water Parameters: 72-78℉, dKH 8-12, pH 8.1-8.4, sg 1.020-1.025
- Breeding: Oviparous
- Reef Compatible: With caution
- Venomous: Yes
- Cost: $35 upward
Colour and Appearance of an Antennata Lionfish
The Antennata Lionfish has a striking red, white, and brown vertical striped body that allows them to appear camouflage in low light hours. A pair of long brown and white supraorbital appendages adorn their head. These, however, pale in comparison when studied alongside the large fanning pectoral fins and tall quill-like dorsal ones.
The pectoral fins of the Antennata Lionfish have only a small amount of connecting tissue making them appear fan like. The dorsal fins have no connective tissue at all. This gives them the very recognizable and formidable spiny look they are so well known for. There are between eleven and (unlucky) thirteen dorsal spines on the Antennata Lionfish of which each one is filled with venom.
Like all species of Lionfish, the Antennata has a large mouth which it uses to create a vacuum before sucking prey in and swallowing it. This species is sometimes referred to as the turkey fish due to its resemblance from certain angles to the bird’s plumage.
Antennata Lionfish Habitat
The Antennata Lionfish is naturally found in the waters of the Indo Pacific from East Africa to Marquesan and Mangareva Islands, North to South Japan, Queensland, Australia, Kermadec, and the Austral Islands.
Here they will be found in the lagoons and seaward reefs hiding under crevices and in amongst rocks. Typically they rest during the day and come out to hunt at night when they will place themselves facing the safety of their hideouts. The usual diet of the Antennata Lionfish would be shrimp and crab.
Antennata Lionfish are most often seen by divers in spring and summer at depths of twelve to twenty-five meters. They are usually generally easy to approach but care needs to be taken by divers so they do not get stung by this venomous fish.
Over the past twenty-five years or so the Antennata Lionfish has also become an invasive species in the reefs off Florida, the Caribbean, and is now moving its way up the Atlantic coast. This is thought to be due to aquarists dumping specimens they no longer want or cannot provide for. With the rapidly growing numbers of invasive specimens, they are now believed to be one of the most threatening to the Atlantic Ocean.
Antennata Lionfish Behaviors
It would be fair to say that the Antennata Lionfish is not the most active of species, especially through the day. Daylight hours are usually spent hiding out in rocks and crevices or perching on top of a favorite coral. During the darker hours, however, Antennata Lionfish will be more visible as this is the time they come out to hunt. This is generally not far from their hiding spot though and they will often be found facing it in case a quick escape is needed.
Despite their lack of activity, the Antennata Lionfish is still an interesting species full of personality. They are very inquisitive about anything in their surroundings and once they get to know you may swim towards your hands. They are also aggressive hunters and eaters that use their huge mouths as a vacuum before sucking prey in and swallowing it. Small fish, shrimp, and crabs will all be on the menu so be careful what you house them with.
Generally sociable and peaceful with a tendency to move out of harm’s way when disturbed, the Antennata Lionfish makes a good aquarium companion. They can nonetheless react aggressively when feeling threatened and can charge at considerable speed. They do, however, give off warning signs which include erecting their dorsal spines and assuming a head down position. This body position brings their venomous spines to point in the direction of the perceived threat.
Caring for an Antennata Lionfish
Due to the Antennata Lionfish spending most of their day in hiding they require an aquarium that provides them with plenty of places to do just that. At a minimum, this should be around 50 gallons with excellent bio-filtration and preferably a surface skimmer. Good bio-filtration is needed due to their producing a lot of waste, and the skimmer to clear oil from the surface of the water left by their oily foods.
Lighting wise Antennata Lionfish are not fussy and will thrive in any brightness providing they have a place to shelter. They do, however, require a tight-fitting lid as they are quite the adept jumpers. You can, with caution, place this species in a reef aquarium as they will not bother at all with corals. They will, however, make a meal of crabs and shrimp if given the opportunity so care needs to be taken.
These saltwater lionfish need good quality aquarium water, which we would expect is a given in any saltwater aquarium. We highly recommend using RO-DI water when you perform partial water changes and when first setting up your aquarium.
Filtration will be key to successfully keeping these amazing fish. Hopefully, you have installed the correct filters on your tank and maybe you have installed a saltwater refugium tank and system. Large external filters are common and provide a good method of keeping your tank clean. Used in conjunction with a saltwater refugium would be the best practice.
When introducing the Antennata Lionfish to an aquarium it is best to use the drip acclimatization method although they are fairly hardy so could technically be floated. Numbers that you add will depend upon the size of your aquarium but most keepers usually opt for just the one. They are, however, sometimes observed in their natural habitat in groups of three although it is not known if this is a living arrangement or perhaps just for breeding.
Disease wise this particular species is incredibly hardy probably due to the unusual act of ‘cuticle molting’. This is where they shed a thin layer of protective skin called a cuticle to rid themselves of algae, hydroids, and bacteria that have attached to them.
Over time you will recognize the signs this is about to happen as your Antennata Lionfish will become inactive and look dull. They may even make weird contortions with their face as they attempt to shed the skin. Finally, they will dart around the aquarium and the skin will float away leaving your Antennata Lionfish looking incredibly shiny.
Feeding wise Antennata Lionfish can be picky eaters but when given their preferred food greedy. Given the chance, they will always overeat, even to the point of regurgitation. Feeding should be done 2 to 3 times a week due to their sedentary nature and slow metabolism. Only ever feed enough so that their stomachs get a slightly visible bulge. Overfeeding will shorten your Antennata Lionfish’s lifespan as they are prone to hepatic lipidosis or fatty liver disease.
Great care should be taken when you are interacting with the Antennata Lionfish in a manner where ‘stinging’ you is a possibility. It is, after all, estimated that 82% of all stings occur within the home environment. Most of these are due to transferring, catching, or trying to hand feed the Antennata Lionfish.
Should you need to perform aquarium maintenance it is a good idea to have someone spot for you so you know where your specimen is. If this is not possible always treat your Antennata Lionfish with the utmost respect and learn to recognize the signs that they are feeling threatened.
Unsurprisingly, the venom of this species is stored in the spines on the dorsal, pelvic, and anal fin. It is released when a spine breaks your skin and compresses the venom gland. This action sends venom up the spine and into the fresh hole in your skin.
Due to the Antennata Lionfish producing heat-labile nondialyzable venom the best course of treatment when stung is to place your injury in hot water around 114℉ for 20 to 90 minutes. You will also want to seek medical advice as soon as possible. This is not due to the venom being fatal but rather that you may need a tetanus injection, or have some spine stuck in your finger which will cause later infection. The pain from a sting is said to be excruciating and can last for up to two hours. Swelling and blistering may last for two to three days.
Please note; some people have also been known to develop more serious reactions to being stung by Lionfish such as headaches, chills, cramps, nausea, and even paralysis and seizures.
Diet & feeding Antennata Lionfish
As stated previously the Antennata Lionfish can be an extremely picky eater, especially when first introduced to the aquarium. They will, however, generally always accept live foods such as shrimp, crawfish, fiddler crabs, and various fish.
Saltwater minnows and anchovies are usually a popular choice of food along with silversides. The latter is also useful to give spirulina and extra vitamins to your Antennata Lionfish as they can be easily stuffed.
Over time you may be able to get your Antennata Lionfish used to frozen and dried foods such as crustacean flesh and brine shrimp. Try to stick with meaty foods as your Antennata Lionfish prefers and requires them.
Foods definitely to avoid with the Antennata Lionfish are freshwater feeders which do not contain the correct fatty acids and krill which is linked to lockjaw in this species.
Breeding Antennata Lionfish
Very little is known about the breeding habits of the Antennata Lionfish or their sexual differences. It is, however, believed that when they are seen in a trio, this may be part of their mating ritual. Two of the three specimens spotted are usually sitting still whilst the third swims around them.
Antennata Lionfish are oviparous with the female producing the eggs, the male fertilizing them, and then the eggs being released to float near the surface. What happens next is unclear.
The breeding of Antennata Lionfish in captivity, if being done, is not documented. There are, however, some articles relating to other species of Lionfish being bred in captivity by experienced aquarists. These do not contain specific details on the breeding process.
Suitable Tank Mates
Antennata Lionfish generally, as stated previously, make really good tank mates for many species, These include large angels, boxfish,Triggerfish, firefish, gobies, Larger Wrasse, and parrotfish. Dwarf angel, anthias, batfish, butterflies, hawkfish, and groupers could also be considered with caution.
You may also want to be cautious when mixing an Antennata Lionfish with reef inhabitants such as shrimp, crabs, and corals. This species of fish will see the former as food and will more than likely eat all inhabitants of this type. Coral, on the other hand, they will not eat but may choose it to rest upon. This can stress live coral meaning you will need to move it away from your Antennata Lionfish. This maneuver may not always be successful and you may find your Lionfish seeks it out to rest upon again.
Definite no go’s include anything smaller that they can fit in their mouths or anything overly aggressive. This includes fish like triggers and eels who will chase your Antennata Lionfish and could cause death from stress.
Disease and illness to watch out for
The Antennata lionfish is no more susceptible to illness and disease than any other saltwater or marine fish. The can suffer from all the common diseases that saltwater fish get from time to time.
Water quality is key to controlling disease within your aquarium.
If you do see signs of illness or disease then you need to identify it and attack the issue quickly. Read our comprehensive guide to tropical fish disease. This will help you identify the illness and offer a quick solution and treatment.
The Antennata Lionfish is beyond a shadow of a doubt an amazing looking marine fish that will be the highlight of any aquarium. They are vibrant, attractive, charming, and just slightly menacing with their venomous capabilities.
Perhaps surprisingly, as you have discovered in this guide, the Antennata Lionfish is also moderately easy to care for and can be housed in most marine aquariums. They have a plethora of choices for tank mates and do not require any specialist care.
For me, and many others, this species is a no-brainer, it’s simply a must have for any marine aquarist who loves beautiful and different fish. Which leads us to the only question left to answer…….
Why haven’t you got an Antennata Lionfish yet?
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