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Native Habitat

Tropical FIsh: Lionfish are a New Menace to the Reefs

Here is an example of a previously rare fish beginning to wreak havoc in local tropical reefs.


Photo by Jens Petersen on Wikipedia, used under the Creative Commons license.

We can’t blame man for this growing problem in the reefs off Florida and the Bahamas.  Divers are not being treated to the spectacle of a shimmering and glittering reef full of life and movement in many of the out of the way dive places.  The problem is the once rare Lionfish are a new menace to the reefs of a number of our Caribbean coasts.  They are interlopers that have found that the almost closed system of an isolated reef is a huge smörgåsbord of delightful eating.  The problem is that they sit at the top of the food chain here with few, if any predators to control and stabilize their population.  A recent diver tells the story of her dive to a reef that had been taken over by lionfish:

The reef looked healthy; stands of mountainous star coral jutted up from the ocean floor, interspersed with tangled branches of staghorn. Soft corals, such as sea whips and sea fans, undulated with the gentle current. A few groupers swam around the entrance to a marine cave that descended into darkness in the middle of the reef tract.

But Martorell was alarmed by what she didn’t see — convict-striped sergeant majors busily patrolling the reef to protect their mass of lavender eggs; brightly hued parrotfish munching the thin coating of algae covering the coral; angelfish, gobies, surgeonfish and others meandering around, doing whatever it is they do in a typical day.

Then, as Martorell swam around with her camera, she saw a large lionfish sitting boldly outside a cavern. A few minutes later, she spotted another of the peppermint-striped predators, then another. They weren’t even trying to hide from the photographer and her fellow divers.

Read more here

There is a video showing the capture of a Lionfish by a diver with speargun and mesh bag

Lionfish are a New Menace to the Reefs which were previuously protected by Speargun Laws

The Lionfishes have been protected up until now by laws put into place to prevent rampant destruction by human scuba divers with spears to kill the reef inhabitants. But this is a natural danger. The lionfish are a new menace to the reefs which have entrenched in more and more local reefs in and around Florida and the Bahamas, these rule preventing spears being carried by divers using scuba gear have been relaxed and organized hunts have occurred.  I find the numbers takes for single hunts to be astounding and show the serious problem facing people tasked with protecting the reefs and their natural inhabitants.
This is one case where man can help re-establish a balance that has been disturbed by a very powerful predator who is not very selective in what it will eat.  Lionfish are a new menace to the reefs, indeed!

Steve Pond, of Tropical Fish Aquarist, has kept fish both personally and professionally for over 50 years.  He writes regularly on the wide range of current topics that are important to people who keep tropical fish tanks as a passion and a hobby.

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About blueram

Steve Pond, of Tropical Fish Aquarist, has kept fish both personally and professionally for over 50 years.  He writes regularly on the wide range of current topics that are important to people who keep tropical fish tanks as a passion and a hobby.

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  1. NithaaOctober 7, 2012 at 8:31 amReply

    You need a whole lot of money to start with. Marine tanks are very expensive to set up. In atddiion to everything you would need for a fresh water tank, you also need a protein skimmer, a hydrometer, a salt water test kit, and I don’t know what all else. I haven’t tried it, because I don’t have that kind of money or time to invest.It is also advisable that you be experienced and successful at keeping a tropical fresh water tank before attempting to keep a marine tank. They are much more complex and complicated, so it pays to have a good basic understanding of aquarium keeping before attempting it.It does not appear you have any sort of experience, and have not done much research. One of the first things a person learns is that you MUST cycle your tank before adding fish. That can take several weeks, up to a month or more to accomplish. Just letting an empty tank run does nothing but waste electricity. You have to learn how to properly cycle it.I strongly suggest you go to a book store and/or library and get some beginner’s books on aquarium keeping. You can pick up a volume or two on marine tanks to study if you like, but you are no where near ready for that yet. Once you are successful and confident about your ability to maintain a healthy fresh water tank, then you can attempt a marine tank if you wish.Considering the expense, and the fact you are dealing with living creatures, this is really the best way. Good luck!

  2. LianaMarch 6, 2015 at 12:31 amReply

    to show that Lionfish appear to be as spelsutibce to carrying ciguatera as any other reef fish which is good to know. Concluding that you should avoid eating Lionfish because it probably has ciguatera is not supported. Good job. Hopefully there will be more, and better, studies on this that will shed more light on the subject.

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