10 Lionfish Tank Mates – List of Compatible Fish

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If you’re a Lionfish lover, let me state it clearly and in plain sight – you’re weird. Welcome to the family.

But if you don’t really know much about the Lionfish, other than you like how it looks, here is some additional info to help you better understand this species:

  • The Lionfish can grow between 8 to 16 inches depending on the species (Dwarf Fuzzy Lion, Spot-Finned Lionfish, Russel’s Lionfish, etc.)
  • They are solitary creatures that will easily adapt to living alone, although they can cohabitate with other fish species under certain conditions
  • Lionfish are voracious predators that will often prey on smaller fish that they can kill with ease
  • The Lionfish requires a water volume of 30 to 85 gallons depending on the species and its size
  • Lionfish possess poisonous dorsal spike-like fins used for protection against predators like human hands, for instance

As you can see, the Lionfish checks all marks of a fish species that doesn’t do well in a community setup. However, that can be misleading because you can find some viable tank mates for them.

Here are 10 fish species to consider as tank mates for your lionfish:

1. Marine Angelfish

This is a group containing several species of Angelfish that will vary in size, color, patterns, and personalities. Some good options here include King Angelfish, Rock Beauty Angelfish, Queen Angelfish, Bermuda Blue, and many others. However, you should choose your Angelfish species carefully since marine species are more pretentious when it comes to maintenance.

I would suggest King, Black Velvet, Indian Yellowtail, Masked Angelfish, and Rock Beauty as being more fit for beginners and intermediates and all others for advanced aquarists. These fish are overall larger, growing between 8 to even 20 inches in some cases.

If you have a handful of Lionfish, I suggest investing in a large tank if you plan on adding 1 or 2 Angelfish into the mix. You will probably need at least 150 gallons to accommodate both species.

Compatibility Level – Medium

Angelfish are territorial, so they might get into some rough play with your Lionfish or other tank inhabitants. Fortunately, both fish can stand their ground to prevent the situation from escalating. The Lionfish is generally calmer and will rely on its dorsal spikes to keep combative or overly curious Angelfish away. So, you shouldn’t worry about things getting out of hand.

It’s also important to note that Angelfish and Lionfish have different dietary preferences, so they will most likely not compete over food.

2. Threadfin Butterflyfish

This is a coral-loving fish that will spend most of its time near coral structures, searching for food around its environment. These can grow up to 7-8 inches in captivity in ideal conditions. Some will even go slightly above that with a great feeding plan and a nutritious diet. As an omnivorous species, the Butterflyfish can consume a variety of fish foods, most of which are readily available in all fish shops.

However, keep in mind that not all species of Butterflyfish are great picks. Some are more pretentious than others and more difficult to feed. I recommend the Auriga Butterflyfish if you don’t want any headaches regarding its feeding and overall maintenance routine.

The Auriga Butterflyfish is a peaceful creature that requires a lot of space to remain comfortable and healthy. I suggest investing in a 150-gallon tank or more to accommodate both the Butterflyfish and its Lionfish companion(s).

Compatibility Level – High

The Butterflyfish is a great companion for the Lionfish. They are both fairly peaceful and calm and won’t get on each other’s nerves too often. Especially if they have a lot of room at their disposal. Overcrowding will make both species more stressed and more aggressive, so having a larger than is always a good idea.

The extra room is also necessary for the live rock system that you will hopefully decorate your tank with. This layout is necessary as it provides the Butterflyfish with hiding and a lot of feeding opportunities.

3. Tangs

Tangs are a double-edged sword. On one hand, they are astounding fish, providing an unmatched variety of colors, shapes, patterns, and sizes. Some of the most noticeable Tangs to consider for your aquarium include Sailfin, Scopas, Convict, Powder Brown, Blue Hippo, etc.

There’s a Tang for every taste, environment, and tank size within certain limits, of course.

Tangs can live up to 20 years in captivity and measure around 6 to 24 inches, depending on the species and environment. To accommodate your Tangs properly, consider the following:

  • Tank size – Consider at least 50 gallons as the ideal tank size for small Tang species (around 6 inches in size). You will most likely require double or triple that for larger specimens, getting close to 15-20 inches. The extra space is necessary due to the Tang’s layout requirements. As rock dwellers, these fish thrive near coral systems and demand both caves and open spaces to feel at peace.
  • A good tank layout – Make sure your Tangs have a lot of caves and crevices to explore since it’s in their nature to do so. Their flat, biscuit-like body composition speaks volumes about their predilection toward tight crevices. So, you want a tank with a bit more volume, enough to accommodate all the various decorative elements designed to make your Tangs feel at home.
  • The Tang’s territorial behavior – These fish can be quite territorial and aggressive, especially against species with similar behaviors. Fortunately, the Lionfish is not one of them. Even so, you want to minimize the interactions between the 2 species as much as possible.

Compatibility Level – Medium

The most predominant problem with Tangs is their aggressive and territorial behavior. They are especially aggressive towards new fish being added to their habitat. I recommend saving your Tangs for last. First, introduce your Lionfish into its new environment and allow the fish some time to accommodate and find its place into the habitat.

You can add the Tang several weeks or months later, preferably while still a juvenile. This way, the Tang won’t become immediately aggressive since it hasn’t established its territory yet. The newcomer has already accommodated with the Lionfish’s presence by the time that happens, minimizing the risks of unwarranted or unhinged violence.

4. Harlequin Tuskfish

The Harlequin Tuskfish is an ideal addition to your Lionfish tank, provided you take some precautions along the way. This is primarily due to the fish’s biological composition. The Tuskfish is largely omnivorous but steers more towards a carnivorous diet. So, it requires more protein than your average omnivorous tank species.

The main problem here is that Harlequins have quite scary teeth, generally colored in blue, hanging out of their mouths. They use these to kill their live prey and as weapons against aggressive and invasive species that trespass the Harlequin’s boundaries. Fortunately, both the Harlequin Tuskfish and the Lionfish are generally peaceful, which is another way of saying they’re semi-aggressive.

They will keep to themselves for most part and will only interact aggressively when overcrowded or stressed.

Compatibility Level – Medium

The Harlequin Tuskfish is more aggressive and territorial towards other Harlequins and is generally acceptant of other fish species. The only problem comes with lack of space, which can increase the Harlequin’s aggression levels. This fish can grow up to 8-12 inches, depending on its environment, diet, and other factors.

As a result, you need at least 75 gallons of water to accommodate one adult Harlequin. Since you also have a Lionfish in the picture, go for at least 125 gallons for both of them. If you cannot afford that type of an investment, you’d be better off looking for a different tank mate.

Remember, if the Harlequin gets aggressive, it has all the tools to inflict serious damage to your Lionfish. On the other hand, the same can be said about the latter, thanks to its poisonous dorsal fins.

5. Panther Grouper

If you feel more daring than usual, I recommend the Panther Grouper. When it comes to this fish species, there are several aspects to consider:

  • Very aggressive – The Panther Grouper is a carnivorous predator. It will actively hunt and kill anything swimming around its environment, so long as it’s small enough to be consumed. It’s never wise to pair the Panther fish with small fish, crustaceans, or other tiny aquatic creatures that you like more when they’re alive. This species is also notoriously aggressive in general, especially due to its territorial instincts.
  • Very large – Panther Groupers can grow up to 27 inches which is impressive, to say the least. They also grow extremely fast. Some keepers have reported juvenile Panthers (around 3 inches in size) growing to 20+ inches in a matter of 6 to 8 months. This is unheard of among most tank fish and even fish in general. While I wouldn’t necessarily consider such a growth rate a staple, it is clearly possible for Panther Groupers. So, you’ll need to invest in a large tank from the get-go.
  • A mixed layout – This fish species requires a sandy substrate with a reef-like structure, caves, and open swimming space. The mixed environment will stretch your tank space to the maximum. As a result, you will require at least 300 gallons of water for one Panther Grouper. The reason for that is that Panthers spend their lives in the middle-to-top area of the tank but will also revolve around caves and rocky formations.

Overall, I would say that the most prominent problem to consider is that of space. One Panther Grouper alone requires 300 gallons of water

Compatibility level – Medium

Given its aggression level, it may sound weird to rank the Panther Grouper as medium in terms of compatibility. However, there are 2 things that facilitate the relationship between Panthers and Lionfish. The first is the size. While Panther Groupers can reach rather obscene sizes (around 27 inches), the Lionfish isn’t exactly tiny either, packing a respectable 8-12-inch size themselves.

This makes the Lionfish too large for the Panther to view it as prey. And even if it does, that’s where the second point comes into effect, and that’s the Lionfish’s defensive mechanism. The Panther Grouper will discover pretty soon that the Lionfish isn’t the ideal prey due to its poisonous dorsal fins.

These aspects will allow the 2 to coexist, provided they have sufficient space and hiding spots available. So, either invest in at least a 300-gallon tank or forget about the Panther altogether.

6. Clown Triggerfish

Despite this species’ aggressive demeanor, there’s no denying that the Clown Triggerfish is one of the most astounding creatures you’ve ever seen. The Clown Triggerfish can grow up to 20 inches in the ideal conditions and will mature fairly fast. It’s a carnivore and a predator, so you might want to avoid pairing them with smaller fish species.

This is not an issue with the Lionfish since these can take care of themselves. One of the best things about the Clown Triggerfish is that it can live up to 15 years or more, especially with adequate care and a nutritious diet. Despite its overly active and aggressive demeanor, this fish is also relatively easy to keep.

Compatibility Level – Medium

The main problem to mention is the Clown Triggerfish’s propensity towards rearranging its habitat. This powerful, energetic, and ferocious animal will berserk through its environment whenever it feels like it. A 15-20-inch Clown Triggerfish will have no problems breaking more fragile coral systems or reefs, tipping over various aquatic elements, and causing havoc everywhere.

This can cause problems for the Lionfish since it can affect its habitat’s layout. If you are getting a Clown Triggerfish, make sure that the reef system is solid and sturdy. This will prevent the Triggerfish from performing its usual demolishing job.

Other than that, the Lionfish will hold its own against the Triggerfish’s more unhinged behavior.

Also, buy your Clown Triggerfish when still juveniles. An adult specimen can take you to $150 easy.

7. Maroon Clownfish

The Maroon Clownfish isn’t as large as the last few specimens, but it makes up for it in via its volcanic temperament. This is probably the most aggressive of all Clownfish, but it also knows its limitations. In other words, this fish will typically bully smaller, more timid, and weaker fish that won’t pose that much of a threat.

Knowing that this Clownfish can only reach 7 inches in size, it’s safe to say that it will pose no danger to your Lionfish. The Maroon Clownfish also doesn’t require that much space, as 30 gallons should cover the fish’s needs.

Compatibility Level – Low to Medium

There’s a problem that’s worth mentioning here. Many people would advise against pairing Maroon Clownfish with Lionfish because of the risk of Lionfish eating the former. This is a risk, indeed, but only if your Clownfish is way smaller than the Lionfish.

If they’re both full-grown adults, you have nothing to fear.

8. Anglerfish

This is another head-scratcher for many since Anglerfish can vary dramatically in size and capabilities. These fish can grow between 4 to 40 inches and weigh more than 110 pounds. Some wild specimens can even double in size and reach a size of 4 feet.

This is a rock-dweller that will hunt and kill pretty much any living creature floating around its habitat. So long as it fits the anglerfish’s mouth. To prevent any issues in this sense, choose a species of Anglerfish that matches the Lionfish’s size, more or less. This will prevent bullying from both sides since large Anglerfish can bully smaller Lionfish, but the reverse is also true.

Compatibility Level – Low

I was just about to rule this species as a compatible tank mate for your Lionfish. The main reason for that is the Anglerfish’s predilection towards killing and eating pretty much any fish. This species even kills and consumes fish up to 2 times their size. So, if you mess up the Anglerfish species and get one that reaches larger sizes than you intended to, problems may arise for your Lionfish.

That being said, I didn’t count the Anglerfish out for 2 reasons. One is the fact that it is unlikely for the Anglerfish to consume a Lionfish even if the size difference between the 2 is substantial. The latter’s defense mechanisms will prevent that.

The second one is that Lionfish don’t behave as prey. They will fight back and will intimidate their attackers, should any test them. As a plus, you can decrease the risk of incidents by providing both species with sufficient space and an optimal environmental layout to minimize interactions between them.

9. Other Lionfish

Yes, Lionfish can live together, but only under certain conditions. Here are the most noticeable 3 to consider:

  • The size – Large Lionfish will always hunt, kill, and eat smaller Lionfish. These fish don’t have any moral issues with cannibalism, since everything smaller than them is worth consuming. They won’t see smaller Lionfish as being part of the same species. So, you want all your Lionfish to be as close in size as possible. The safest and easiest way to achieve this is by bringing them together while they’re still juveniles. Thy way, they will grow together and won’t see each other as food.
  • Available space – The tank’s size depends on your Lionfish’s size. If you have Dwarf Lionfish (up to 8 inches in size), you can keep 2-4 in 30-55 gallons. Devil, Antennata, and other 10-inch-long Lionfish will require at least 55 gallons for 2 specimens. And, finally, Volitans and Russell’s Lionfish need at least 75 gallons per pair, since these species can reach 16 inches in size. The more space, the lower the aggression between the fish.
  • More females, fewer males – Lionfish males are more aggressive and territorial and won’t play nice with each other. This is common behavior among all fish males. To prevent excessive male aggression and competition, only keep 1 male with several females, preferably at least 2-3. This should keep the male calmer and contribute to a more stable social dynamics between the fish.

Compatibility Level – High

Lionfish will quickly accommodate to one another, especially since they belong to the same species. Just make sure they are all of a similar size and they have enough room to go about. If they’re crowded, Lionfish can become stressed and aggressive. The same will happen if you don’t feed them often enough or the diet is lacking in nutrients.

10. Snowflake Moray Eel

This is clearly my favorite specimen on this list. Nothing beats the sight of a cave-dwelling Moray eel peeking its head from underneath the rocks. This carnivorous beast can measure up to 24 inches, it is very aggressive and will protect its territory fiercely. It will also hunt anything moving around its cave since it’s an ambush predator with a knack for stealth killing.

The Moray eel is mostly active during nighttime, but it will come out during daytime occasionally to check its surroundings and even feed.

But the most important thing to remember is that Moray eels are extremely powerful, agile, and inventive. They have been known to escape their tanks on some occasions, especially when they grow too big for their environment. So, either use a tank lid or make sure that their environment is large enough to prevent that.

Compatibility Level – High

Despite their enormous size and violent temperament, Moray eels make for ideal tank mates for your Lionfish. The Lionfish is too big to eat, and that’s without mentioning its natural defense mechanisms. The Moray eel only preys upon small fish that won’t exceed 2-3 inches in size.

So, don’t bring damselfish or guppies into the mix as tank mates.

Conclusion

Lionfish are generally peaceful fish so long as you provide them with optimal environmental conditions. Keep their habitat clean, feed them properly, and make sure their tank mates aren’t overly aggressive towards them.

avatar I’m Fabian, aquarium fish breeder and founder of this website. I’ve been keeping fish, since I was a kid. On this blog, I share a lot of information about the aquarium hobby and various fish species that I like. Please leave a comment if you have any question.

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