Two new lionfish in the Armored and Venomous exhibit add a splash of color—a vibrant red—but also a little danger.

The new fish, a clearfin lionfish (Pterois radiata) and Mombasa lionfish (Pterois mombasae), were added in April to the tank in the Tropical Gallery on Level 1, which also includes common lionfish, scorpionfish, stonefish, and pufferfish.

mombasa lionfish
The colorful Mombasa lionfish can be dangerous as its sting can cause a painful injury.

Although they are more colorful than the common lionfish, they are just as dangerous as their relative. A sting to an unwary aquarist can cause an injury that has been described as the single most painful that is survivable.

So our aquarists wear puncture-resistant gloves and work with a buddy whenever putting their hands in the tank’s water.


mombasa lion fish with common lionfish
The Mombasa lionfish, center, is dramatically more colorful than the common lionfish.

Senior Aquarist Brianne Dent, who is in charge of the Tropical Gallery, learned the fish were available from the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California and decided they would be a good fit here at Central Wharf.

“To my knowledge, we haven’t had these species before,” Brianne said. “This was one of the reasons why I wanted to give them a home. The new fish add a different look and some color to the exhibit. People are so used to seeing the common lionfish and these are more colorful and dynamic.”

clearfin lionfish
The clearfin lionfish can be found on Level 1 in the Armored and Venomous exhibit.

In the wild, all these species of lionfish can be found in the Indian and Western Pacific oceans on rocky reefs, where they spend the day under overhangs and ledges and come out at night to feed. Unfortunately, the common lionfish have also made their way to the Caribbean Sea and parts of the Atlantic Ocean, where they are a voracious invasive species.

At the Aquarium, they are fed shrimp and silversides. But in the ocean, they are opportunistic eaters and will eat almost anything that fits in the mouths.

So make your way down to Central Wharf and see the new lionfish.