Lionfish are a group of fish known for their regal appearance, hence their nickname as the 'kings' and 'queens' of the coral reefs. With their flowing fins; maroon, black or white stripes; and venomous spikes, these creatures have been the object of admiration for years. Lionfish are native to the warm tropical waters of the South Pacific and Indian Ocean, including the Red Sea, and can have a life span of up to 15 years. They prefer to live in rocky terrain or within coral reefs so that they can camouflage easily and, like many other fish, they group together in schools. Ready to learn more about these royal creatures? Read on for our roundup of ten lionfish facts…

Two lionfish swimming in deep blue water

1. They are venomous

The 13 long dorsal fins along the spine of the lionfish are venomous, and the perfect deterrent for predators. The beautiful appearance of these creatures beckons a closer look, but get too close and you'll have a nasty surprise. While not fatal to humans, if you step on one of these fellas in the water, expect some intense nausea and difficulty breathing. Apply some heat to the area once you've removed the stings and keep it clean and, of course, seek medical help if the pain doesn't start to go away.

Lion Fish in the Red Sea in clear blue water hunting for food .

2. Lions of the water

The name 'lionfish' comes from their resemblance to the majestic mane of a lion. Lionfish are easily recognisable with their flowing dorsal fins, spindly pectoral fins and strikingly striped features.

Lionfish with an open mouth

3. Fierce predators

With few natural known predators (thanks to their venomous spikes) and a voracious appetite (they're known to hunt over 50 species including small fish, invertebrates and molluscs) lionfish can easily reign as king or queen in most marine waters. These fierce predators typically corner their prey and, in one clean strike, will engulf their meal in a swift gulp. This leads us onto one of our favourite lionfish facts: their stomach can expand up to 30 times to make room for all of the gobies, snappers and groupers that they enjoy feasting on. When other fish don't quite satisfy their (30 times the size) stomach, they have been known to be carnivorous - eating their fellow travellers.

close up of a lionfish in black water

4. Males are territorial

Their fierceness doesn't end with their food. Male lionfish are known to be very territorial and will frequently challenge other males to protect their space. How do they fight? One male lionfish will charge at the other, aiming their spines at their opponent to scare them off.

lionfish on white sand at night

5. Creatures of the night

A lionfish fact that is not yet fully proven, but it widely believed, is that lionfish are nocturnal, preferring to hunt at night. That being said, full bellied lionfish have been found during the daytime as well - so perhaps they also enjoy some daylight hunting too.

6. They exhibit bioluminescence

Another cool lionfish fact is that some deep-sea lionfish species exhibit bioluminescence, a fascinating adaptation that enables them to produce their own light. This ability is thought to be used for communication among lionfish or to attract prey in the dark depths of the ocean.

Close up image of a lionfish

7. Scales

Like trout and carp, lionfish have cycloid scales that are thin and oval shaped with smooth edges.

School of lion fish swimming over coral reef and watching their prey

8. Courting lionfish

Here's a lionfish fact that you may not have heard before: during the mating season, male lionfish perform an intricate courtship dance to attract females. This involves synchronised swimming and fancy fin work to demonstrate their fitness as potential mates.

9. Females can lay thousands of eggs at once

Once the dance has had its desired effect, a female lionfish will lay a 'clutch' of eggs - 2,000 to 15,000 at a time. Once hatched, it takes around 18 months for a lionfish to reach full maturity.

Lionfish swimming over coral in blue water

10. Curbing the invasion

Capable of adapting to a wide range of marine environments and water temperatures, lionfish have captured the world's attention as an invasive species, and of the 12 species of lionfish, two are currently classified as such (the red and common lionfish). In some parts of the world affected by lionfish invasions, conservation organisations host 'lionfish derbies' as a way to control their populations. These events involve divers competing to catch the most lionfish, promoting both conservation and awareness. Once caught, the lionfish can be eaten and are said to be very tasty. Just make sure to prepare it correctly and don't sting yourself in the process!