The Zebra Lionfish Dendrochirus zebra or Dwarf Lionfish is also known as the Zebra Turkeyfish. They are not commonly seen on the East African coast and are fairly rare in the area.
The Zebra Lionfish is a distinctive looking lionfish and easy to distinguish from the other lionfish species because of the pectoral fins. The fins are fan shaped and the fin membranes extend almost all the way to the end of the rays. In most species of lionfish the rays extend out past the fin membranes.
Colouration on the fins varies from brown to reddish brown and there are rows of dots across the fin. The body colour is usually a red brown colour with thin white vertical stripes except in the caudal area where there is a thicker white stripe. They are one of the smaller Lionfish and grow up to 20 cm in length.
The juveniles pictured above tend to be much darker in coloration, this specimen was approximately 2 cm in length. These tend to be very difficult to spot and were this one not sitting on the bottom of a barrel sponge , would have been difficult to find.
ZEBRA LIONFISH IN THE WILD
The Zebra Lionfish are not commonly seen during recreational diving on the East African coast, when they are seen they tend to be on sandy areas interspersed with small coral heads. It seems they prefer more open sandy areas. The juveniles seem to prefer areas with more pebbles which give them more hiding spots. When a diver approaches they usually raise their pectoral fins to make themselves appear larger.
Zebra Lionfish are found across the Indo Pacific area. ocean, all the way up the East coast of Africa to the Red sea and across to Japan and northern Australia. They are usually found on sandy areas of reef tops ranging from between 5 meters to 25 meters in Tanzania.
Zebra Lionfish prey on small fishes and crustaceans and pretty much anything that fits in their mouth. They use their proportionally large mouths to create a vacuum and suck in and swallow the prey. Being smaller than other Lionfish they go after smaller prey. They often use their pectoral fins to herd prey into a position where they can trap them.
Lionfish are oviparous with females producing eggs that when fertilized are released and float near the surface. Little else is known about their reproduction.
Zebra Lionfish are collected in some areas for the commercial aquarium trade and are sometimes caught by indigenous fishermen. The meat is edible although it is not commonly eaten.
Zebra Lionfish are kept by some collectors and make an attractive feature in the right type of aquarium. They will eat anything that fits in their mouths and will occasionally try their luck with things that will not fit in if they are hungry enough. As a consequence care has to be taken in choosing their tank mates. They are relatively easy to get across onto prepared foods but require good filtration.
ZEBRA LIONFISH CLASSIFICATION
Species D. zebra
- The Reef Guide fishes, corals, nudibranchs & other invertebrates: East and South Coasts of Southern Africa by Dennis King & Valda Fraser