10 Compatible Lionfish Tank Mates (Species Guide)

Lionfishes are predatory, carnivorous fish that might pose risks to the aquarium owners and the other fish cohabiting in the same tank. Its poisonous stings are excruciating for humans to bear. So, you might wonder how come such a toxic fish has become so popular one among aquarists? Well, that is because of its sheer beauty! 

If you look at the fish from the above picture, you will understand its appearance. The intricate body patterns of this saltwater fish have given it the status of “an aquarium celebrity.” 


Though its majestic fins eject a potent venom, its elegant appearance will surely attract you in keeping it in your aquarium. Do you know that the two most popular lionfish species are Fu Manchu (two spots), dwarf zebra lionfish, and dwarf fuzzy lionfish? 

Adding a lionfish to the aquarium is going to be an exciting thing! But, the fish has specific requirements to be met in terms of food, diet, and acclimatization in the aquarium.

On top of that, you should try to choose the best tankmates for this lionfish who’s got a real temper. The best thing is that there are many other fishes around whose presence the lionfishes stay calm and peaceful. 

Lionfishes are not equipped to eat all kinds of fish present in the aquarium. We have come up with this informative article to help you take care of this beautiful striped fish and find its compatible tank mates. So, keep reading!

10 Compatible Lionfish Tank Mates 

Here are the ten most beautiful fishes that can be good tank mates for a lionfish. 

Blue Tang 

Usually, Tangs are strictly vegetarian fishes and cannot withstand fishes belonging to their species. They may even fight each other to death. But, Blue Tang is an exception and has an amiable nature. A lionfish don’t bother a blue tang. So, you can keep it in your tank!

blue tang

Panther Grouper 

Panther Groupers are beautiful fishes having the design of polka dots in their bodies. It is predatory, but it won’t disturb any fish they think to be quite large or unfit for consumption.

They need quite a significant amount of space, say, 250 to 300 gallons of space in the tank. So, it is a compatible fish for the lionfishes.

lionfish tankmates

Foxface Rabbitfish 

Foxface Rabbitfish has got its name due to its similarity in its elongated head to a fox. It is a peaceful fish and makes for a perfect tank mate for the lionfish.

Beware while keeping it in your aquarium. This is because the rabbit fish’s dorsal fin spines are pretty poisonous and highly painful. 

foxface fish

Maroon Clownfish 

A maroon clownfish, in itself, is a large fish. So, it won’t disturb the lionfish tank mates. If you have got a fish tank of mammoth capacity, only then consider keeping this maroon clownfish. Else, in the limited space in the aquarium, they would fight terribly with each other. 

maroon clownfish

Rock Beauty Angelfish 

Rocky Beauty Angelfish is a saltwater fish with a big body size, so the lionfish don’t bother it. Besides, rock beauties are territorial and are partially aggressive so that they won’t create much trouble. 

Rock Beauty Angelfish

Harlequin Tuskfish 

Harlequin Tuskfish might put on a scary appearance with its bright red, glaring eyes and deep blue teeth, but funnily enough, they are pretty shy.

They love to feed on the crustaceans. Neither the lionfishes nor the tusk fishes will trouble each other, thus making them ideal tankmates. 

Harlequin Tuskfish 

Snowflake Moray Eel 

Snowflake Moray Eels are primarily nocturnal creatures. They measure 2 feet in length, are semi-aggressive, and make for the perfect buddy of the lionfishes. Just ensure that your aquarium is wholly sealed with no holes or gaps in them.

Moray eels have a terrible habit of slipping through the holes to hunt shrimps. If it spots any hole in the tank, it will glide through it. And, you will be surprised to see an eel lying on the ground the following day!

snowflake Moray Eel 

Clown Triggerfish 

Clown triggerfishes are beautiful, hardy creatures and can peacefully live with aggressive lionfishes. Triggerfishes are notoriously known for biting their smaller tank mates and humans. So, you need to be more careful with them!

Clown Triggerfish

Threadfin Butterflyfish 

Threadfin butterflyfish is one of the most popular saltwater aquarium fishes. An attractive yellow and white body with a thin stripe of black makes for a beautiful addition to your fish tank.

While they are ideal tankmates for the lionfishes, the butterflyfishes are not reef-safe. If you have got a reef tank, do note that the butterflyfishes are live rock grazers, so this might be a bit problematic.

Threadfin Butterflyfish 


Like lionfishes, anglerfishes are also predatory. Anglerfishes look for a perch among the rocks or corals and then mingle with the surrounding environment by changing their easily changeable skin color and body pattern.

Make sure if you have chosen a larger species of anglerfish, that is, Striated Anglerfish.


The reason is that anglerfishes of any other species don’t grow beyond 4 inches and become a snack for mature lionfishes.  If you own a Jack Dempsey and would like to know which are its best tankmates check out on this article.

Dwarf Lionfish Tank Size

If you wish to keep a dwarf lionfish in your aquarium, you need to make yourself aware of its tank size preferences. Dwarf lionfishes love to inhabit the shallow marine waters where caves and rocks are found in abundance. 

Dwarf lionfish

Do you know the reason? Well, living near the rocks and caves help the dwarf lionfishes to catch prey easily. They feed on the small crustacean creatures swimming near the substrate by camouflaging their texture and color with the stones. 

Since the dwarf lionfishes don’t require too large a space to swim, having a 55-gallon tank, that is, of 208 liters, will be fine. You may even consider adding rock structures in the tank to help them feel more comfortable inside the aquarium. After all, they are great lovers of the rocky outcrops!

However, if you wish to keep a large-sized lionfish from the genus Pterois and not a dwarf one, you will require a tank of at least 75 gallons or 284 liters. In either case, keeping caves and rocky structures is a plus point in making the lionfishes (in general) feel comfortable. 

Acclimation of Your Dwarf Lionfish

Dwarf lionfishes are shy and elusive creatures. When it is newly introduced in the aquarium, you need to put some effort into encouraging them to live freely. This might sound a bit hilarious, but you need to coax them into coming out of their hiding places.

Yes, they have this habit of hiding quietly in the rocky structures of your saltwater aquarium. Here is what you can do to make them adjust to the aquarium surroundings quickly. 

  • Try to reduce the emergence of vibrations from any source near the fish tank and approach the aquarium with a slow movement. 
  • Ensure if the interior of the tank has a proper balance of open areas interspersed with caves and rocks to let the dwarf lionfishes hide. 
  • Introduce compatible tank mates in the aquarium so that the lionfish feels motivated by its tank buddies to swim around and thus get rid of its shyness. 
  • Provide enough room for the dwarf lionfish to swim around freely without having to fight with other fishes for more space. 

Feeding Dwarf Lionfish

Fearfully enough, a dwarf lionfish opens its mouth pretty wide and loves to eat live foods. While eating, it spreads wide its pectoral fins and then pushes the prey back. It traps the prey until it can gulp or swallow it down entirely. Let’s have a look at the best food choices for your lions. 

  • Octopus 
  • Shrimp 
  • Squid 
  • The tail of the Lobster 
  • Crabmeat 

Do you know that dwarf lionfishes are greedy for food? You can also feed it live feeder ghost shrimp as it is cheaply available and packed with nutrients. Small marine fish can also be given to the lionfishes.

To prevent your lions from becoming obese and lazy, make sure to feed them every day but only in minor or moderate amounts. Make sure to devise a diet plan consisting of a rotating variety of essential proteins with a few drops of vitamins and supplement boosters. 

The Lionfish Sting

Here is the thing for which the lionfishes are infamous! Their intense, nasty, painful sting! No one wishes to get stung, right? Though it is unknown how matters will proceed.

All the lionfishes have venomous spines, and a dwarf lionfish is no exception. Do you know that their venom glands are located in their bodies’ dorsal, anal and pelvic spines? 

Whenever the lionfishes sense that they will probably be attacked, they release venom as a part of their unique defense mechanism.

If you wonder how much poison it can eject at a time, do know that its amount depends on the extent of pressure given on the spine and the duration for which it remains in the body tissue. 

Whenever any fish tries to eat a lionfish, the latter releases venom from its spines and protects itself from turning into a snack. If you are planning to keep a lionfish in your aquarium, prepare yourself to prevent getting stung by the lionfish.

The risks of getting stung are more when you feed them, transfer them to some other tanks, or during cleaning. 

Do note that the lionfishes don’t attack because they are aggressive. The reason is that whenever they are touched, they go into a panic mode, and under stress, they shift to a “high alert” situation. Under moments of distress, it ejects venom from its spines to defend itself from being attacked. 

Always take proper precautions before touching or feeding a lionfish. But have you ever wondered what remedial steps you need to take if you get stung? Don’t worry; below are some of the steps to get cured of the sting. 

  • Seek medical attention immediately, without sparing even a minute. 
  • The poisonous sting will hurt you a lot, but you need to immerse the site of the injury in a tub of hot but non-scalding water for about 20 to 30 minutes. 

You might ponder over why we asked you to keep your sting site in hot water. Already you are suffering from the burning pain of the sting, then what’s the reason? Well, this is because the venom of a lionfish consists of “labile” proteins.

Heat is necessary to rob away the power of the powerful proteins and thus prevent these from spreading further into your bloodstream. This is a crucial step to minimize the harm from the painful sting. 

Pain and swelling are common occurrences in the area of the sting. Many people also suffer from severe allergic reactions. Therefore, you must go and visit a doctor as soon as possible. 

How many species of lionfish are there?

Lionfishes belong to the sub-family of Pteroinae. It must be a surprise to discover that there are six different genera of lionfish and almost twenty-two other species of lionfish found globally.

The most popular genus of the lionfishes in this entire world of aquarium trade is Dendrochirus and Pterois.

Lionfishes belonging to the Volitan species are widely disputed in whether they are indeed a part of the genus Pterois. Compared to the Volitan lionfish, the other species of lionfish in Japan (Kodipungi, Russell’s, Longspine, and Indian) are virtually identical.

Various lionfishes species are differentiated by considering the parameters of several spines, length of the dorsal spine, and stripes or markings on the median fins. 

Do you know that while Pterois volitan are primarily found in the Pacific Ocean while Pterois muricata are native to the Indian Ocean? The subtle differences in the physical appearance of the lionfishes belonging to various species almost go unnoticed even by expert aquarists. 

What do lionfish consume in the wild, and when do they do it? 

Lionfishes belong to the genus Dendrochirus love to munch on the crustaceans. However, in the case of the Pterois lionfish species, this is not the case. They love to have a large number of fish in their diet.

The juvenile Pterois lionfishes are also fond of crabs, shrimps, and other crustaceans, as well as various marine fishes. 

Often, the lionfishes have a particular time slot in the day when they like to go hunting for prey. While some feed at dawn, others hunt at dusk.

Interestingly, they also take part in cooperative hunting. An amazing fact, right? Individual lionfishes work together to track and enhance their chances of catching much fish, shrimp, and crabs. 

How often should I feed my lionfish?

Depending upon the aquarium temperature, you may have to feed your lionfish about two to three times a week. However, if the water temperature is low, you may have to provide them a lot more and quite frequently.

It is essential that you include variations in the fish diet. If you do not do so, it might lead to fatty liver degeneration and liver failure.

Their immune systems are compromised, leading to anemia and hemorrhaging. To best care for them, give the lionfish small prey items in large quantities but never make them consume colossal prey.

Which lionfish are most difficult to keep?

The Fu Manchu Lionfish or Two Spot Lionfish, whose scientific Name is Dendrochirus biocellatus, is probably the most demanding lionfish species and is very difficult to maintain. They are very sly and secretive and make the act of feeding them an arduous task. 

It is preferable to keep the lionfish of this species alone in a smaller tank of 20 to 30 gallons. It would help if you fed it living fish like shrimp, and you may have to continue doing so, as making them eat non-living or frozen foods becomes a struggle.

Is it possible to keep lionfish in a reef aquarium?

Keeping lionfish in a reef aquarium will add to its beauty and vibrancy. Though they won’t eat up the sessile invertebrates such as corals or sponges, they will not spare any chances of feeding upon the crustaceans.

If you don’t keep any shrimp or crab, you can introduce a lionfish in the reef tank. Else, it will consider the crustaceans as its snacks and gobble them up. 

As much as a lionfish adds to the beauty of any kind of aquarium- be it a reef or fish-only; if you intend to add this gorgeous fish in your fish tank, you need to maintain several precautions and ask your younger ones to not put their fingers or hands inside the tank.

Besides, it would help if you also did some research about the foods you need to provide. 

Antennata Lionfish Species Profile

Antennata Lionfish has an ornate body with several intricate body patterns and bright, vibrant body colors. Its splendid beauty and charm make it a popular fish among aquarists.

The best thing about this lionfish is that it can be easily cared about as they are pretty hardy and resilient. It is also able to live alongside a diverse array of tank mates. Let’s have a complete look at the species profile. 

  • Scientific name of the fish: Pterois antennata 
  • Family: Scorpaenidae 
  • Trait: Partially aggressive 
  • Growth/Body Size: 8 inches 
  • Nick Names: Banded Lionfish, Rough Scaled Firefish, Ragged Finned Firefish
  • Diet: Carnivore 
  • Required Tank Size: 50 gallons 
  • Breeding Nature: Oviparous 
  • Area Of Origin: Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and Africa 
  • Water Quality/Parameters: 72 to 78 degrees Fahrenheit, pH of 8.1 to 8.4, and dKH of 8 to 12
  • Effect: Venomous and harmful 
  • Reef Compatibility: Semi-compatible 
  • Pricing: above $35 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can Lionfish Have Tank Mates?

 Yes, lionfishes can have tank mates. Just have a look at the first sub-topic of this article. You can easily choose any fish from the list of compatible tank mates and keep them with your lionfish in the aquarium. 

What Fish Can Live With A Dwarf Lionfish? 

Tangs, puffers, and triggers are good fish choices that can be kept with a dwarf lionfish. 

Can you keep two lionfish together? 

Yes, you can keep two lionfishes together in the tank. But, you need to keep two lionfishes of the exact same size in the aquarium to prevent the bigger one from eating up, the smaller one. 

About the author

I'm Gulshan, a passionate pet enthusiast. Dive into my world where I share tips, stories, and snapshots of my animal adventures. Here, pets are more than just animals; they're heartbeats that enrich our lives. Join our journey!