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 molluscs. Here is a list, which isn’t an exhaustive list, of what lionfish will eat:
- Sea Bass
- Sand divers
- Jawfish (with the eggs still in its mouth)
- Juvenile lionfish
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:
- that native marine creatures do not recognize lionfish as predators and are therefore easy prey.
- that lionfish eat the cleaner fish (eg. wrasse) and shrimp (eg. Pederson) that keep the other reef fish clean and healthy.
- 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.
- that lionfish stomachs can expand up to 30 times their normal size
- that some lionfish have been found with as many as 40-60 prey in their expanded stomachs.
- that a single lionfish can hoover up about 80% of the marine creatures in its area in just 5 short weeks.
- 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.