Dwarf Lionfish Care and Breeding Guide

Dendrochirus Brachypterus commonly known in the aquarium trade simply as Dwarf Lionfish is a marine water aquarium fish that is a native of Indo-Pacific waters. The fish has in the recent years gained much media prominence for due to its invasion of the tropical waters of the Atlantic. Today you will find many more of the fish in the within the Caribbean reef than they are even in their native waters of the Indo-Pacific. The fish goes by many other names such as the shortfin turkeyfish and shortfin turkeyfish. The fish remains popular with many aquarists due to its hardy nature and of course it’s beautiful stripped body.

It is a slow swimmer but it is known to be a perfect hunter that will munch small animals that come across its mouth. It is a solitary fish that can comfortably be kept alone in a tank and still manage to survive. If you need to keep it with other tank mates, it is best to keep it with other fish that are aggressive because any docile fish will find it rough with the Dwarf fish.

Appearance of Dwarf Lionfish

Dwarf Lionfish

The fish exhibits a beautifully stripped body with amazing fins and frills making it a favorite of many aquarists. The scale structure that the fish has usually makes it to appear somewhat indistinct to other larger fish or animals that prey on it. It has got a small size making it easy to be kept even in moderate aquariums. In the wild it usually grows to around 15cm in length. As for coloration, the fish comes in a variety of colors based on the geographic location of the fish. Among some of the colors you can find the fish exhibiting includes; deep red color morph, rare silver color, with striking yellow dorsal and pectoral fin. You however should not expect striking colors from fish you will get from the pet shops.


The Dwarf Lionfish is native to the Indo-Pacific region where it inhabits saltwater although it has spread to areas that were once not it native areas. It is now found in the Caribbean waters where it is considered as an invasive species. Naturally, the fish inhabits coastal areas that are shallow featuring reed-encrusted rocky outcrops where it stays in hiding in order to waylay unsuspecting crustaceans.

These fish have got an attractive fuzzy appearance with a one-of-a-kind scale morphology together with striking patterns that are used as a means of camouflage when hunting.

Tank requirements

This fish does not need to be housed in a very large tank because it is not that big and also it isn’t an active swimmer. Please note that in the wild the fish prefers to lay in wait for its small food rather having to chase it around.

If you need to keep this fish in your home aquarium, it will be best if you replicate for it the rocky habitat that it is used to in the wild. If you can manage to provide for it cave-like structures in the tank with overhangs, then the fish can really feel more at home! Please note that the fish will prefer to spend most of its time lurking in between the rocky caves. You shouldn’t expect much movement from the fish!

Setting up Tank

To have a detailed look into the basic tank requirement for the Dwarf Lionfish please keep reading this article below to find out more:

  • As for aquarium lighting, just make sure that you don’t make it too much but rather subdued lighting is desirable. The fish have been found to suffer from stress under very strong lighting!
  • The aquarium that the fish can be housed in need not to be very large because it is not an active swimmer and therefore will not need lots of room to swim around. They are also not that large and therefore just a small aquarium can do.
  • The minimum tank capacity that is suitable for this fish should be at least 150 liters for a single adult fish.
  • Ensure good water quality for this fish otherwise it simply jus stop feeding and then eventually die.
  • The pH range needs to be kept between 8.1 and 8.4.
  • As for the tank temperature it is best to try and mimic that which is as close to that of its habitat as possible. So in this case setting the temperature to a range of 74 degrees and 82 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • It is best to make the tank feel safe and secure for your fish as much as possible because it will refuse to feed if it feels threatened.


Feeding the Dwarf Lionfish should not be much of a hustle for you because it known to be a predatory fish that feeds on small sea crustaceans. In captivity you can offer the fish live brine shrimp as well as small crabs. While the fish is not a very active swimmer, it will readily eat small invertebrates that it will be offered.

Because the fish is rather too choosy with foods that it is offered it, it is best to have live shrimp ready with you that you will feed during its first days in the aquarium.

It takes long for the fish to finally accept frozen meaty foods and therefore as the new owner you will need to be extra patient with it.


The most difficult part of rearing the Dwarf Lionfish in captivity is getting it to breed and many aquarists have had difficulty achieving this. This is not to say that it will totally fail to spawn in captivity. The male and the female of the fish can still be placed in the same tank by an experienced aquarist and spawning with egg fertilization can still take place. However, it must be noted that this is something that novices cannot achieve and therefore if you are still new in the hobby perhaps working with an expert is desired. You will however enjoy the beauty and elegance of the fish when you introduce it in your home aquarium.

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