Tag Archives: Soldier Lionfish

Russels Lionfish

The below Lionfish profile is based on what I have learned and observed about the Russels Lionfish.  They certainly are beautiful fish to keep and will add a lot of interesting viewing pleasure to any aquarium.

Common Name: Russel’s Lionfish, Red Volitan Lionfish, Soldier Lionfish,
Scientific Name: Pterois russelii
Reef Safe: Yes
Temperament: Predator, but peaceful in the right set-up
Care Level: Moderate
Max Size: 8 to 10 inches (refers to the body size excluding the fins)


This is one of smaller of the larger bodied lionfish.  They have all the typical fins as with any of the larger lionfish.  The coloring of their stripes will be red to brown in color.  It can be easy to mistake a Russels Lionfish with other larger bodied lionfish if you do not know what to look for. There are three key differences to look for. 1) The tailfin will not have any spots on it as other large bodied lionfish will have.  2) The Russels bottom jaw and chin will also be white which is another difference from the other larger bodied lionfish. And finally 3) The spins along the dorsal, pectoral and anal fins are not banded and more fleshly than other lionfish.



They will do perfectly fine with other fish of similar size and can be a very peaceful community fish when kept with the correct tankmates.  However, when kept with fish that have a body of about ½ of the lionfish’s body size; it will only be a matter of time before the lionfish will try to eat it.  They are among the better predators common in the hobby.  Although you can keep multiple Lionfish in the same aquarium, you should use caution when doing so.  You would need to ensure they are bith a very similar size and added at the same time to increase your chances of success.  One of the Lionfish can become very dominant and will bully the others steeling all the food when you feed the tank



I would suggest a 90 gallon aquarium would be the minimum size for a single Russels. The need swimming space both around rocks and out in the open.  The do best when provided shelf like structured that they can hang up-side from as well as cave structures they can sit in.  The below is an example of both.  Lionfish can be kept with corals.


Recommended water conditions:

I would refer you to the below article for the typical water conditions that a Russel’s Lionfish will do best in:




Getting this Lionfish to eat a healthy diet for it’s long term health is one of the biggest reasons for hobbyist having difficulties keeping lionfish. As the lionfish is a predator, they are used to eating live fish that are anywhere about ½ their body size or less.  It can be difficult to get them to switch to eating meaty frozen foods and/or pellets for marine carnivores

I have had great success by using a very long pair of tweezers to take a smaller and longer peace of frozen food and wiggling it in the aquarium near the lionfish.  This makes it look alive and the lionfish will typically eat it after a few days to a week of trying.  Other hobbyist has also had great success with this approach by sticking the food on a small wood stick (like you use to make shish kabob).  Once they are eating the wiggling food and have gotten used to it, I will start to wiggle the food less and less slowly getting them used to eating food that doesn’t look alive.  Once they are at this point, you can just add the food to the tank and they will “hunt” it down and eat it.  This is why I always suggest buying a lionfish that is already eating frozen foods so the above process will be a lot easier for you.

The above process is a proven one that works.  Many people get frustrated and give up trying only to offer the lionfish live foods like feeder goldfish.   I do not recommend feeding your lionfish feeder goldfish for two reasons; 1) freshwater fish to not have the same mineral and fatty tissues that marine fish have which will not provide the lionfish with the proper nutrients it will need for long-term health, and 2) The lionfish will always favor live food over frozen as that is instinctive to them.  This will set-back your efforts to get the lionfish to eat frozen foods.  I would not even offer a lionfish live foods as the occasional treat.

Once you get your lionfish eating frozen foods, they will need a variety of different meaty foods like: prawns, large Mysis shrimp.  The below thread will give you some better ideas for feeding a lionfish a diet that will help them have along and healthy life in your tank.



Be careful not to overfeed a lionfish as they have been known to overeat to the point of creating an internal blockage if given the chance.  Just feed enough until you see a slight bulge in their stomach.  Feed every second day as juveniles and about three times a week as adults.

Special considerations

1)      Feeding by hand

I never recommend feeding your lionfish by hand.  Although they will readily take the food form you, over time they will learn to associate your hand with feeding.  When you try to put your hands in the tank for reasons other than feeding, the lionfish will still think they are about to get fed and swim up very close to your hand.  That can put you at some risk of getting bit or stung depending on the exact personality of your lionfish

2)      Venomous Spins

The long dorsal fin of the lionfish contains venomous spins.  If you get stung by one, it is going the hurt a lot like a very bad bee sting, or at least that is what I have heard.  If you get stung by one, soak the stung part in hot water (as hot as you can stand it) for about 15 or 20 minutes.  If you see any signs of a allergic reaction, seek medical attention immediately.  I have found the best way not to get stung (accidently or otherwise) is to make sure you do not spook or corner the lionfish when you put your hands in the tank.