Zebra Fans

The Lembeh Strait, North Sulawesi, Indonesia

A zebra lionfish with its fins spread wide, seen from above
Zebra Fans (Lionfish)

Lionfish come in an incredible array of shapes and sizes. The common lionfish is brown, round, and stubby with feather-like fins — also called “turkey fish.” Turkey fish move languidly, casually spreading their spined fins if approached but otherwise generally daring divers to try. Others are pretty, pink and salmon-colored. Some have long long, graceful spines sweeping the water around them; on others the spines are enclosed in broad fins.

In Lembeh we found the small zebra lionfish. Shades of red, salmon-pink, and orange are striped with white and the fish’s fins are webbed. The dorsal fin is largely clear so the spines on top seem to ripple like brightly colored porcupine quills, but the other fins are bright, colorful orange and red fans. Like most sea life in Lembeh, these are small. Probably because there really aren’t many places to hide on a sandy bottom, they are not very shy. Like all members of the lionfish / scorpionfish family, the spines in their fins are venomous but exclusively defensive. Like all fish, they can get away from a diver with an impossibly quick sprint.

This little fish stands out as a gorgeous addition to an otherwise monotonous dark sand bottom. They are often seen holding station or slowly crawling along the bottom using the hooked spines on their fins. In the daytime, they hunt casually a little above the bottom. Approached too closely, they dart away seeking cover; the one above had to settle for the center of a nearby barrel sponge. In the inadequate cover of the sponge, it spread out to look bigger and present me a frame of poisonous spines. I loved the unique and colorful view. A small zebra lionfish on the black sand bottom of the Lembeh Strait at night
Zebra Lionfish

At night they are quiet and slow, resting quietly on the sand bottom. Approached gently, the photographer can get quite close and frame against the dull brown or black sand bottom. I think the little fellow here might have been asleep.

(Top photo [“Zebra Fans”]: Canon G11 in Ikelite housing with twin DS-125 strobes set to TTL; integrated lens at 13.8mm, ISO 200, f/4.5 at 1/60 sec.)

(Second photo [“Zebra Lionfish”]: Same camera setup; lens at 10.8mm, ISO 200, f/3.2 at 1/60 sec.)

Zebra Fans is a post from: the Photo Tourist

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