Leaf Scorpionfish
Leaf Scorpionfish

Leaf Scorpionfish

Taenianotus triacanthus


Taenianotus triacanthus is the only known member of the genus Taenianotus in the scorpionfish family Scorpaenidae. The species is known under many different common names in English, including Leaf Scorpionfish, Leaf Fish, Leaffish, Paperfish, Paper Scorpionfish, Sailfin Leaffish, Sailfin Leaf Fish, Threespine Scorpionfish, and Swayfish.   

Taenianotus triacanthus has not been evaluated for the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Geographical distribution, habitat and habits

The Leaf Scorpionfish is found in the Indo-Pacific, from the eastern coast of Africa to the Galápagos Islands (Ecuador), northwards up to the Ryukuy Islands (Japan) and Hawaii (USA), and southwards down to Australia and the Tuamotu Archipelago (French Polynesia).

The Leaf Scorpionfish is typically found on reef flats, near outer reef slopes, and in current-swept channels, but it can also be encountered on lagoon reefs. It is not a migratory species. Compared to many other reef living fish species commonly kept in aquariums, this fish ventures really deep: its depth range is 5 – 134 meters / 17-440 feet.

The Leaf Scorpionfish lives alone and will spend most of its time hiding immobile among algae and sea grass. Just like its common name suggests, it looks like a leaf and it will move its body from side to side to look even more like a leaf swaying in the current.

Size and appearance

The largest scientifically measured Leaf Scorpionfish was 10 cm / 3.9 in.

As mentioned above, the Leaf Scorpionfish disguises itself as a leaf in the sea. It will swing from side to side, just like a leaf would do in the current. It can even change its color somewhat, and some specimens have patches on the body that look like coralline algae to make the camouflage even better.

The body extremely compressed with a high, sail-like dorsal fin. The soft dorsal fin is attached to the caudal fin. The pectoral fins are used to support the fish and can even be used as legs to walk over the bottom. Around the mouth, there is a more or less well developed “beard” consisting of fine appendages. The spines of the Leaf Scorpionfish are venomous.

The coloration of this species is variable. Some specimens are for instance nearly completely yellow to red, while others are mottled with shades of white, black, brown, rust, red, orange, pink, purple and/or green. Instead of scales, the body is covered in prickly papillae.  

The Leaf Scorpionfish sheds its skin twice a month and the molting always starts with the skin on the head breaking off.

Leaf Scorpionfish care

The Leaf Scorpionfish should ideally be kept in an aquarium with plenty of live rock. Using an aquarium smaller than 20 gallons / 75 litres is not advisable. This species is normally kept in groups consisting of 2-3 Leaf Scorpionfishes and it can be combined with other peaceful fishes in a friendly community aquarium. It will eat small fish and various invertebrates (e.g. shrimps), but will not harm sessile invertebrates.

The spines of this fish are venomous and can deliver an unpleasant sting, so it is important to be very careful when aquarium maintenance is carried out inside the tank.  

Feeding Leaf Scorpionfish

In the wild, the Leaf Scorpionfish will spend most of its time perched on a peace of coral or similar where unsuspecting prey will think it is a harmless leaf and venture close enough to become food. It feeds chiefly on fish and small crustaceans, but is also fond of larvae.

Try to mimic the natural diet of the Leaf Scorpionfish in the aquarium. You can for instance feed it shrimp, crabs and small fish. This fish has a fairly small mouth and can only eat small animals. You should be prepared to provide your Leaf Scorpionfish with live food, because training it to accept fresh and frozen meaty foods can take quite a long time. In many cases, you must first feed it some live food to trigger feeding before you add dead food to the water. You can also try placing dead food in a net and move it in front of the fish. Some aquarists have managed to train their Leaf scorpions to throw themselves into the net and devour the food inside.

Scorpionfish articles:

Leaf Scorpionfish – How to keep the leaf scorpionfish (Taenianotus triacanthus) in aquariums


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