Dwarf Lionfish
Dwarf Lionfish

Dwarf Lionfish

Dendrochirus brachypterus

Dwarf Lionfish

Dendrochirus brachypterus is known under several different names in English, including Dwarf Lionfish, Fuzzy Dwarf Lionfish, Shortfin Lionfish, Shortfin Turkeyfish, Shortspined Butterfly-cod, Shortfin Firefish, Zebra Firefish, and Featherfish. (Please note that it is not the same species as the Zebra Lionfish, Dendrochirus zebra.)

Dendrochirus brachypterus has not been evaluated for the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Geographical range, habitat and habits

The Dwarf Lionfish is found in the Indo-Pacific. Its range stretches from eastern Africa and the Red Sea to Samoa and Tonga. The northernmost specimens are found in the waters of southern Japan, while the range proceeds southward down to Lord Howe Island, Mariana Islands (Micronesia), the Arafura Sea (between Australia and New Guinea) and Australia.

The Dwarf Lionfish inhabits reef flats, shallow lagoons, and environments where weed-covered rocks are scattered over a sandy bottom. These fishes are chiefly marine, but can be found in estuaries. Their depth range is 0-68 meters / 0-223 feet.

The Dwarf Lionfish is a nocturnal species. Juveniles will often live together in small groups consisting of roughly 10 individuals and are sometimes found on shallow isolated pieces of reef located a distance offshore. Adult fish are fond of living among sponges. 

Size and appearance

The largest scientifically measured Dwarf Lionfish was 17 cm / 6.7 in.
The body colouration varies from red to brown. The body is decorated with vague broad bars and the mid-dorsal spines are shorter than the depth of the body. The pectoral fins are large and feature distinct spotted bands. In most specimens, a short tentacle is present above the eye and there can be more or less well developed leafy appendages on the head and on the lateral line. This fish has venomous spines.
The Dwarf Lionfish can easily be mistaken for the Zebra Lionfish, but you can tell them apart by looking at the pectoral fins. If spotted bands are crossing the pectoral fins of the fish, you are looking at a Dwarf Lionfish, not a Zebra Lionfish. The Dwarf Lionfish will also stay smaller than the Zebra.

Dwarf Lionfish care

Despite its flamboyant appearance, the Dwarf Lionfish is a docile and shy creature that spends most of its time hiding among rocks and corals. It is very important to include plenty of good hiding spots in the aquarium; otherwise your lionfish can become even more shy and withdrawn.

Dwarf Lionfish should ideally be kept in a small group consisting of one male and a number of females, so a fairly large aquarium will be required. A small group will need an aquarium that measures at least 120 cm / 4 feet in length. Do not house them with fish and invertebrates small enough to be considered food. The Dwarf Lionfish will leave all sessile invertebrates alone. Males are territorial and should not be kept together unless you aquarium is huge and cleverly decorated.

The Dwarf Lionfish is usually easier to acclimatise than its relative the Fu Manchu Lionfish (Dendrochirus biocellatus).

When keeping this species, it is important to remember that the Dwarf Lionfish is venomous and can deliver an extremely painful sting. The pain can go on for several hours, and if you are allergic you might develop a serious reaction to the venom. Be very careful when carrying out maintenance work in the aquarium. (It is easy to forget how much pain this timid little creature can inflict and become sloppy after a while.) If you are stung, place the inflicted area in really hot water, as hot as you can stand without getting burned, and seek immediate medical attention.

Feeding Dwarf Lionfish

You should be prepared to provide your Dwarf Lionfish with live food in the aquarium, because training these fishes to accept dead food can take a while. Young fish are usually easier to train than mature specimens and can usually be coaxed into eating thawed shrimps, cut up fish and similar with some training.  

In the wild, the Dwarf Lionfish feeds primarily on small crustaceans and fish. You can for instance give it small crabs, shrimps, and fish in the aquarium.

Breeding Dwarf Lionfish

The Dwarf Lionfish is more inclined to spawn in the aquarium than other lionfishes, but this doesn’t mean that it is easy to breed. As mentioned above, it should be kept in groups consisting of one male and several females. During spawning, the female will lay one or several gelatinous masses containing thousands of eggs. The eggs are really small and you can expect them to hatch within 36 hours. Roughly 12 hours after hatching, the fry will start feeding.

Lionfish articles:

Lionfish - An introduction to lionfish.
Fu Manchu Lionfish – Information in how to care for Dendrochirus biocellatus
Zebra Lionfish – A guide to keeping Dendrochirus zebra
Antennata Lionfish – Keeping Pterois antennata
Radiata Lionfish – Learn to care for Pterois radiata
Red Volitans Lionfish – How to keep and breed Pterois russelli
Volatins Lionfish – How to keep, care for and breed Pterois volitans


Privacy policy
Search AC

AC Tropical Fish