What Do Lionfish Eat? {The Ultimate Lionfish Food List}

What’s on the menu today for your pet Lionfish? Would you like to add more variety to the diet of your Lionfish? In this article, we’ll go over an extensive list of foods that your Lionfish could eat.

What Do Lionfish Eat? Lionfish are carnivores and apex predators in the wild who will eat anything up to half their body size. They like to corner prey ranging from invertebrates like crustaceans to a plethora of marine fish.

Did you know that even though a Lionfish carries venomous spines, they only use them for defense? They choose to hunt with their non-venomous pectoral fins and their patient, cornering ability to trap prey and gobble them up.

What Do You Feed Pet Lionfish?

The process of training a Lionfish in captivity to switch from a wide variety of live foods to a balanced diet of prepared food can be challenging. It’s best to find out what your Lionfish was eating before you picked it up and brought it home.

Here are some popular live foods to feed a pet Lionfish:

  • krill
  • squid
  • ghost shrimp 
  • silversides
  • goldfish 
  • guppies
  • platies
  • minnows

The following frozen or packaged foods could be introduced to wean your Lionfish from live foods:

  • brine shrimp
  • bloodworms
  • daphnia
  • mysis shrimp
  • beefheart
  • cockle
  • cyclops
  • mussels
  • shrimp pellets
  • blended carnivore pellets

Make sure to thaw out any frozen foods before dropping them into the tank. It’s best to use a feeding stick and mimic the movement patterns of live food to entice your Lionfish or capture its attention. If the food drops to the bottom, it may go unnoticed or your Lionfish won’t care to eat it.

How Do Lionfish Eat?

Lionfish like to patiently stalk their prey. They are slow swimmers and are in no rush to catch their prey. Lionfish can go weeks without eating in the wild, but we can’t assume they will do the same in captivity.

The general consensus is to feed a Lionfish as much as twice a day or at least once every two days depending on their size and disposition.

A Lionfish will eat prey as much as half its size. They have a large head and mouth that is disproportionate to their body size. They can crunch the shells of crabs, lobster and shrimp, but prefer to enjoy preying on fish such as grouper and snapper.

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Are Lionfish Apex Predators?

Lionfish do not have predators in their native habitat. They are invasive species that can multiply without any other animal trying to hunt it down.

Reef sharks have been able to choke a Lionfish to death by consuming it from its mouth to avoid the venomous tentacles. Large groupers could also attempt to prey on Lionfish, but it’s extremely rare.

Their invasive range is generally free for them to roam without any worry of being eaten. If they need to defend themselves, they can do so with their venomous spines.

What Do Lionfish Naturally Eat?

A Lionfish in the wild can consume over 70 types of marine fish and invertebrates in their native habitat. The list is long, but we would like to share more than a few for your interest and curiosity:

  • Snapper
  • Grouper
  • Parrotfish
  • Sea Bass
  • Grunts
  • Damselfish
  • Clownfish
  • Basslets
  • Gobies
  • Blennies
  • Wrasse
  • Cardinalfish
  • Filefish
  • Goatfish
  • Sand divers
  • Jawfish 
  • Silversides
  • Juvenile lionfish
  • Shrimps
  • Crabs
  • Lobsters
  • Worms
  • Seahorses
  • Octopus

How Do I Feed My Lionfish?

Make sure your Lionfish sees the food you are offering and keep it moving. You can do with:

  • a feeding stick
  • flowing current
  • cornering the food
  • holding it and moving it

A feeding stick allows you to grip onto live or packaged food and move it around in front of your Lionfish. You can also dip the food in garlic to make it more attractive and enticing.

A current in your tank can keep krill or other foods moving along in a natural way to be snatched up by your Lionfish. Corner any smaller fish or shrimp for your Lionfish to feel like it trapped it against a rock or the glass.

Hold a feeder fish or any other food and move it around the top of the tank. If your Lionfish notices it, it may swim and take it.

Fun Facts About Lionfish:

  1. Lionfish are not easily recognized as predators. Many marine animals are gobbled up because they swim too close without knowing it.
  2. Reef cleaners aren’t able to do their job before Lionfish show up and snatch them away from their duties.
  3. Algae eaters in your tank won’t stand a chance near a Lionfish. You will not be able to clear algae with algae eaters before a Lionfish eat them.
  4. Lionfish can expand their stomach up to 30 times and eat prey half their size.
  5. 40-60 different types of prey have been found in the digestive tract of a single Lionfish in the wild.
  6. They can slow down their metabolism to the point where they can go without eating for up to 3 months.
  7. A Lionfish in captivity can abstain from eating in your tank for over 2 weeks.
  8. A krill only diet can cause lockjaw for a Lionfish.


We hope the tips and information provided today can help you decide what to feed your Lionfish. Always go for variety and try to transition your Lionfish from live food to prepared meals that are well balanced for their carnivorous needs.

You will save money and the lives of many aquatic animals with a successful transition. Make any food move around with a stick, by hand or by current to engage your Lionfish in the process of artificial hunting while it remains hardy and healthy for years to come.


Thank you for stopping by at HelpUsFish.com. We have plenty of articles on a wide variety of aquatic life that may also pique your interest. See you again soon!

Brian Arial

Brian Arial has kept fish for leisure and worked with fish stores for most of his life. He enjoys writing and caring for aquariums and ponds.