Does Lionfish Have Scales?

Lionfish are some of the most unique-looking fish in the oceans. Most people marvel at their long and pointy dorsal spines. However, you might be wondering if Lionfish have scales.

Lionfish have scales. These scales are cycloid in shape, meaning they are oval and have smooth edges. Such scales offer Lionfish more flexibility than other scale types.

In this guide, we will discuss whether Lionfish have scales. We will also go over what your Lionfish’s scales can tell you about your pet.

Do Lionfish Have Scales?

Lionfish have maroon or brown oval-like scales with smooth edges. These are known as cycloidal scales.

The scales neatly overlap with one another and have an even and organized appearance. These fish also have white scales arranged in stripes that cover their head and body.

Scaled Fish vs Scaleless Fish?

Before learning about the importance of a Lionfish’s scales, it is worth learning about the differences between scaled and scaleless fish.

The primary purpose of a fish’s skin is to protect its internal organs from environmental elements and potential predators. Therefore, some fish have evolved with skin covered in scales. 

Other types of fish have evolved to be scaleless. Such fish typically possess bony plates or thick leathery skin that is difficult to pierce.

Examples of Scaled Fish

Some common scaled fish species include Carp, Tilapia, Catla, Trout, Salmon, Sardine, and Halibut. 

Examples of Scaleless Fish

Some common scaleless fish species include Catfish, Sturgeon, Hagfish, and Swordfish.

Scale Types

There are thousands of scaled fish species out there. These aquatic creatures typically possess one of four scale types. These are:

Cycloid Scales

Cycloid scales are one of the most common fish scale types and can be seen on Lionfish, Salmon, and Carp. These scales consist of smooth round plates. 

Their upper portion consists of a hard tissue. Their lower portions are made of softer tissue with a muscular fiber-like appearance.

Cycloid scales stand out because they are thin and flexible, but they are also robust. They are generally larger than other scale types.

Ctenoid Scales

Ctenoid scales are less common than Cycloid scales. They are generally found on spiny-rayed fish such as Sunfish and Perch. 

Ctenoid scales stand out for their unique comb-like edge. They have tiny teeth known as Cteni along their margin. 

Ctenoid scales are relatively similar to Cycloid scales in that they overlap and provide the fish with flexible movement. These scales typically grow as the fish gets older.

Therefore, it is possible to estimate a fish’s age by observing the number of rings on its Ctenoid scales.

Placoid Scales

Placoid denticles aren’t true scales. They are found on Rays and Sharks, but have a very different appearance from true scales.

Placoid denticles are actually a modified form of teeth that cover the fish’s skin and form a tough protective layer. Their outer layer has dentin with an outer enamel. 

The scale’s inner tissue contains nerves and blood vessels needed to keep the fish alive.

Placoid scales are arranged in a uniform matter and have surfaces that reduce friction and drag. This allows fish such as Sharks and Rays to swim through the water quickly.

Ganoid Scales

Ganoid scales are special scales that are diamond-shaped. They are typically seen on Sturgeons, Bowfin, and Paddlefishes.

The most unique aspect of Ganoid scales is that their base layer is made from bone. The layer above this is made from dentin, which is also found in Placoid scales.

The Ganoid scale’s topmost layer is made from an inorganic bone salt known as Ganoine. Unlike Cycloid and Ctenoid scales, Ganoid scales do not overlap.

Instead, these scales have peg and socket portions that interlock with one another. Therefore, the Ganoid scale arrangement is a single non-overlapping layer.

Ganoid scales are hard and inflexible. This means they offer the fish excellent protection, but they can’t maneuver with the kind of flexibility that fish with Cycloid and Ctenoid scales can. 

Taking Care of Your Lionfish’s Scales

Like most fish, Lionfish tend to be independent. This means you don’t need to perform any special care activities to look after their scales.

Despite this, it is still important to provide your Lionfish with the right living environment and diet. This will ensure they maintain a healthy set of scales.

Some considerations to keep in mind when owning a Lionfish include:

Tank Considerations

You must ensure the tank you purchase your Lionfish is large enough to accommodate them comfortably. Lionfish species vary in size, so you will need to choose your tank size accordingly.

For example, Dwarf Lionfish are the smallest Lionfish species. They grow to a length of around 6 inches. You can comfortably house these fish in a 30 gallon tank.

Large Lionfish species such as Volitan Lionfish can grow to a size of 15 inches. You will need to get a 120 gallon tank at minimum to house these fish.

Once you have purchased the right sized tank for your Lionfish, you must start adding rocks and decorations to it.

Lionfish need a combination of open space as well as caves for hiding. You should also include many rocks in the tank.

Water Conditions

You must ensure that water conditions stay within a particular range to ensure your Lionfish remains healthy and comfortable.

Consider getting a high-quality filter to keep your Lionfish tank’s water clean. You can choose between different filter types such as canister filters, internal filters, and hang on back filters.

Canister filters are generally the best type of filter for such tanks. These filters do a great job of filtering the water at a gentle pace. This ensures your Lionfish doesn’t get disturbed.

Lionfish inhabit tropical waters that range from 72oF to 78oF throughout the year. Therefore, you will need to invest in a reliable fish tank heater to maintain the water in this range.

You will also need to maintain a water pH between 8.1 and 8.4. Many fish tank owners add baking soda to the tank water to raise the pH to these levels.

Tankmate Considerations

You will need to be careful about the type of fish you house your Lionfish with. Lionfish typically eat herbivores that are smaller than them. 

For this reason, you should ensure the fish your Lionfish is housed with are at least as big as they are. This includes fish such as Blue Tang, Butterflyfish, Maroon Clownfish, and Tusk Fish.

Diet Considerations

Lionfish are generally accustomed to eating live food. However, they can be tricked into eating nonliving food with the right strategy.

When you first acquire your Lionfish, you should feed them live food such as Crawfish, Mollies, Fiddler Crabs, and Damselfish. 

After a few weeks, you can try feeding your Lionfish nonliving food such as fish parts. To do this, you should tie the fish parts to a string and move it around the tank.

Your Lionfish will then perceive these fish parts as belonging to live fish and go after them. Lionfish need to be fed only two or three times per week, so this task is easy to manage.

What Can a Lionfish’s Scales Tell You?

As mentioned earlier, Lionfish possess Cycloid scales. You can learn a lot about your Lionfish by simply examining these scales. This includes:

Your Lionfish’s Age

Cycloid scales are unique because they grow with age. Each scale gains a new outer “ring” with each passing year.

If you can safely remove one of your Lionfish’s scales, you can examine these rings under a magnifying glass and count the rings. The total number of rings will tell you the fish’s age.

The gaps between ring edges also tell you how much your Lionfish grew each year. You can use this to estimate whether they grew faster before or after you purchased them.

Your Lionfish’s Health

Like all living creatures, fish can become sick from time to time. This includes Lionfish.

Determining if your fish is ill can be tricky. However, their scales may tell you more than you think.

Fish don’t naturally “shed” their scales over time. So any Lionfish that is losing its scales is likely sick. Similarly, your Lionfish’s scales may change color when they are ill.

You should keep a close eye on your pet Lionfish’s scales and consult a vet if you notice any changes in their scales. 

Are Lionfish Scales Venomous?

Lionfish are famous for their pointy dorsal spines. These spines look intimidating because they are sharp. However, they also contain a dangerous toxin called Ciguatera.

If a Lionfish spine pierces your skin, you will experience extreme pain and swelling. In some cases, you may have convulsions or become paralyzed. 

You might be wondering if Lionfish scales are also venomous. The answer is no. The Lionfish’s dorsal spines are its only body part that contain the Ciguatera toxin.

Learning More About Fish Scales

As you can see, Lionfish have beautiful scales that can tell you a lot about them. So consider examining your Lionfish’s scales up close to get to know your pet better. 

Please visit our blog to learn more about marine life and owning a pet Lionfish.

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