Zebra Lionfish-Facts and Photographs

Zebra Lionfish Dendrochirus zebra or Dwarf Lionfish

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. With their fins spread out they make a colourful sight.

Zebra Lionfish Dendrochirus zebra or Dwarf Lionfish


The Zebra Lionfish is a distinctive looking lionfish and easy to distinguish from the other lionfish species because of the large fan shaped pectoral fins.  At a quick glance they may resemble the Fuzzy Dwarf Lionfish pictured below which also has enlarged pectoral fins. On the Fuzzy Dwarf Lionfish the body is covered in an elaborate pattern of lines whereas on the Zebra Lionfish the body is more uniformly colored with vertical bars on the body.

Fuzzy Dwarf Lionfish(Dendrochirus brachypterus) is also called the Shortfin Lionfish, the shortfin turkeyfish and the Dwarf Lionfish

On both species 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.

Zebra Lionfish Dendrochirus zebra or Dwarf Lionfish

Colouration on the fins varies from brown to reddish brown and orange . 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.

Zebra Lionfish Dendrochirus zebra or Dwarf Lionfish

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.

All Lionfish and Scorpionfish have a thin outer cuticle of skin which constantly sloughs off . Being slow moving and sedentary, various marine organisms as well as algae tend to grow on them and to prevent this growth from taking too much of a hold, the outer layer of skin is replaced regularly.

Dendrochirus 7


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.

Dendrochirus 6


Zebra Lionfish are found across the Indo Pacific area, all the way up the East coast of Africa to the Red sea and across to southern Japan and northern Australia. They are usually found on sandy areas of reef tops ranging from between 5 meters to 25 meters in Tanzania.

Dendrochirus 5


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.

Dendrochirus 4


Lionfish are oviparous with females producing eggs that when fertilized are released and float near the surface. Little else is known about their reproduction.

Dendrochirus 3


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.

Dendrochirus 2


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 and keeping them well fed. They are relatively easy to get across onto prepared foods but require good filtration.

Dendrochirus 1





Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Scorpaeniformes
Family: Scorpaenidae
Genus: Dendrochirus
Species D. zebra