What do lionfish eat?

What do lionfish eat?

So what do lionfish eat? Very sadly they are voracious predators and can eat an enormous number of different marine creatures. Pretty much they will eat anything they can get in their mouth, about half the length of their body, which includes over 70 different fish, invertebrates and mollusks. Here is a list, which isn’t an exhaustive list, of what lionfish will eat:

  1. Grouper
  2. Snapper
  3. Parrotfish
  4. Sea Bass
  5. Grunts
  6. Damselfish
  7. Clownfish
  8. Basslets
  9. Gobies
  10. Blennies
  11. Wrasse
  12. Cardinalfish
  13. Filefish
  14. Goatfish
  15. Sand divers
  16. Jawfish (with the eggs still in its mouth)
  17. Silversides
  18. Juvenile lionfish
  19. Shrimps
  20. Crabs
  21. Lobsters
  22. Worms
  23. Seahorses
  24. Octopus

What do lionfish eat

For me, and I’m sure for most of you, that is a very sad list to see. As a scuba diver I want to see all those marine creatures on every dive, and not just a few of them left on a reef with a large number of lionfish hanging out. As I hate killing anything, when I am killing lionfish I constantly have to think about the good I am doing, the marine creatures I am saving. I have now killed over 10,000 lionfish myself so I am sure I have saved an amazing number of marine creatures.

Did you know:

  1. that native marine creatures do not recognize lionfish as predators and are therefore easy prey.
  2. that lionfish eat the cleaner fish (eg. wrasse) and shrimp (eg. Pederson) that keep the other reef fish clean and healthy.
  3. that lionfish eat the algae eaters (eg. parrotfish) that keep the reef free of algae. Remember if the algae builds up and up the corals will die due to a lack of oxygen and sunlight.
  4. that lionfish stomachs can expand up to 30 times their normal size
  5. that some lionfish have been found with as many as 40-60 prey in their expanded stomachs.
  6. that a single lionfish can hoover up about 80% of the marine creatures in its area in just 5 short weeks.
  7. that a lionfish can go up to 3 months or longer without eating and will only lose 10% of its body weight.

So divers get out there as often as you can and Kill ’em and Grill ’em. Happy hunting!

Source: Feeding ecology of invasive lionfish (Pterois volitans) in the Bahamian archipelago by James A. Morris Jr & John L. Akins.

About Nigel Coles

Hi my name is Nigel Coles. I used to live in Bristol, England but after a change in direction we moved overseas to work in the scuba diving industry. After a time in Thailand, for the last 8 years I have been living with my wife Deby, in the East End of Grand Cayman, The Cayman Islands. I’m a dive instructor, working for Tortuga Divers, part of the Red Sail group. I spend my day on dive boats, training students and taking our guests on dive trips. It’s a hard life but someone has to do it
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2 Responses to What do lionfish eat?

  1. Tarah says:

    Nigel how would you describe the feeling after being stung?

    • Nigel Coles says:

      Initially my “feelings” were one of surprise and embarrassment at being stung. In terms of how it felt, well so far I have not been hit hard. And I have always squeezed the sting like hell as soon as it happened so I have felt little or no pain.

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