Zebra Lionfish
Zebra Lionfish

Zebra Lionfish

Dendrochirus zebra

Zebra Lionfish

Dendrochirus zebra is known under several different names in English, such as Zebra Lionfish, Zebra Firefish, and Zebra Turkeyfish. It is a member of the family Scorpaenidae where you will find the scorpionfishes.

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

Geographical distribution, habitat and habits

The Zebra Lionfish lives in the Indo-West Pacific. Its geographical range stretches from East Africa and the Red Sea to Samoa. The northernmost specimens are found south of Japan, while the southernmost specimens inhabit the waters of Australia. This species is found from 30°N to 15°S. During the pelagic stage, the offspring can travel great distances since they are transported by currents and they can reach sub-tropical parts of the ocean.  

The Zebra Lionfish is primarily found on corals, among rubbles, and over reef flats with rocky bottoms, but you can also encounter it in coastal as well as outer reef environments in sheltered lagoons and caves. Most specimens stay in the 3-60 m / 10-197 feet range, but some have been encountered at a depth of 80 meters / 262 feet.  

Zebra Lionfishes will sometimes form small aggregations in the wild. 

Size and appearance

The largest scientifically measured Zebra Lionfish was 25 cm / 9.8 in.

The pectoral fins are big and fan-shaped and the dorsal fins are tall and quill-like.

The Zebra Lionfish has a reddish body decorated with five dark bars. In large specimens, the five major dark bars will alternate with thin dark bars. There is a dark spot on the cheek of the fish. The flamboyant colouration is a warning signal that lets other animals know that the Zebra Lionfish is venomous.

The Zebra Lionfish can be confused with the Dwarf Lionfish, but you can tell them apart by looking at the pectoral fins. If the pectoral fins are adorned with spotted bands, you are looking at a Dwarf Lionfish, not a Zebra.

Zebra Lionfish care

It is not advisable to house Zebra Lionfish in an aquarium smaller than 30 gallons / 115 litres. It is important to include numerous suitable hiding spots in the set up. Don’t worry if your lionfish spends most of its time hiding when newly introduced to your aquarium; it will become braver eventually if the aquarium contains enough hiding spots into which it can retreat.

This species is semi-aggressive and is considered reef safe with caution. Keep the pH-value between 8.1 and 8.4 and the specific gravity at 1.020-1.025. The water temperature should be 72-78º F / 22-25.5º C.

When handling this fish and carrying out maintenance work in the aquarium, it is imperative to keep in mind that this fish has venomous spines. Being stung feels like being stung by a really powerful wasp. Keep the affected area in really hot water (as hot as you can stand without burning your skin) and seek prompt medical attention. If you are allergic, you may develop a severe reaction to the venom.  

Feeding Zebra Lionfish

The Zebra Lionfish is a carnivore species that should be kept on a meaty diet in the aquarium. You can for instance feed it live fish and various types of live shrimp. It is important to keep the diet varied and include many different animals. Some specimens can be trained to accept crustacean flesh.  

Breeding Zebra Lionfish

The Zebra Lionfish is an egg-layer. It has spawned in captivity.

Lionfish articles:

Lionfish - An introduction to lionfish.
Fu Manchu Lionfish – Information in how to care for Dendrochirus biocellatus
Dwarf Lionfish – Learn to care for Dendrochirus brachypterus
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


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