With their lethal spines and amazing ability to blend into their natural surroundings, scorpionfish are no doubt a subject of fascination for us humans.
The marine environment harbors an indefinite number of lifeforms, some of which are waiting to be discovered. Of these, the fish are perhaps the most common, with over 28,000 types found in the world. Some of these are quite peculiar; say the species of scorpionfish for instance.
The term ‘scorpionfish’ is used for those species that belong to the Scorpaenidae family. That they are highly poisonous in nature, is perhaps the most fascinating thing about the members of this family. They are similar to scorpions in their stings. There are about 380 species spread across 48 genera known to us. While most of these belong to the marine habitat, there are a few that live in freshwater habitats.
Some of the most prominent members of the family are stonefish, lionfish, dragonfish, firefish, turkeyfish, and stingfish. As for the characteristic features of the family, they include a highly compressed body, large mouth, spines on the head, operculum, preopercle, and the dorsal and pectoral fins.
Facts about Scorpionfish
The most distinctive feature of a scorpionfish is that it “stings” with the help of its sharp spines. The spines are poisonous, because they are coated with toxic mucus. These fish are not violent, but very gentle. If they are threatened though, they protrude their dorsal spines in order to defend themselves.
Since the lifestyle of scorpionfish is sedentary, cyanobacteria, algae, and other parasites are often seen thriving on them. In this case, the ability to shed their outer skin layer helps them get rid of the attached organisms.
They have a large, heavily ridged head that is covered with spines, and a compressed body.
Scorpionfish are attractively colored (brown or reddish-brown) and have the ability to camouflage themselves by changing their color to match their surrounding environment. Sometimes, they look like pieces of corals or rocks and thus, are often misidentified. The phenomenon of changing colors helps them attack their prey and defend themselves.
Scorpionfish usually inhabit shallow waters, but a few species are even known to reside at a depth of 7200 ft. They are solitary in nature and reside in caves, crevices, and among the coral reefs.
Scorpionfish have a typical way of feeding. Normally, they wait for their prey to come across them. Once the prey passes, they create vacuum with their mouth and suck their prey in. This happens within a fraction of a second and the prey has no time to react. They possess jaw teeth and feed on crustaceans, small fish, and cephalopods.
Like many other fish, the scorpionfish are oviparous, i.e., they lay eggs. During the process, they produce a gelatinous, floating mass in which the eggs are embedded. They usually breed in late spring or early summer.
They are widespread in the tropical and temperate seas and found in the Red Sea, Caribbean Sea and the Indo-Pacific Ocean as well.
Scorpionfish in Aquariums
Due to their attractive color, scorpionfish have been a subject of interest for hobbyists who rear them as aquarium fish, despite them being poisonous. Taking care of them is very easy, provided that you fulfill the basic requirements.
One of the most important thing is feeding. There are specific foods you can feed your pet scorpionfish. You can feed them live foods, which can be freshwater fish or marine fish. However, care should be taken while choosing food for them. Feeding them gold fish continuously, for instance, leads to thiamin deficiency, which can results in death due to the loss of nervous system coordination. To prevent this, one can supplement with prepared foods.
Care should be taken while pairing them with other fish in the aquarium. Scorpionfish will eat the toadfish and vice versa; so you should refrain from keeping them in the same aquarium.
Another point to be kept in mind while making an aquarium, is to keep a natural environment based on the requirements of your particular species.
Swimmers in the shallow sea may come in contact with these fish and accidentally step on it. In a fraction of a second, the scorpionfish protrudes its spines and stings. The effects of the sting are very risky. The first and foremost thing to do, is wash the area with warm water. It is always recommended to seek medical attention immediately. Effects of a scorpionfish sting include pain, swelling, diarrhea, fainting, vomiting, paralysis, delirium, and nausea.