Coloration can be variable, and is generally associated with the geographic location a given fish hails from. Generally speaking, there are basic two color morphs: white with black body bands or white with red/brown banding. There is also a dark, almost completely black color morph that is a bit more rare, but quite interesting to see. Unlike the Russel’s lionfish, the median and caudal fins of P. volitans have several small dark spots on them. One of the most noticeable traits of “juvie” volitans lions are their very long, individually-sheathed pectoral fin rays. The short membrane at the base of each pectoral fin is clear, and the outer edge is adorned with several ocellae, or “eye spots” in juvenile specimens. These spots mimic the eyes of a small cluster of prey fish, and serve to confuse and calm the baby lion’s prey. However, these spots and the clear membrane disappear as the fish grow. As the fish mature, they also “grow into” their pectorals, thus, you may see some adult specimens with short pectorals and a squatty, bulldog-like body, while others retain a fair amount of their pectoral fin sweep. There is supposition that the difference between shorter and longer-finned specimens may be geographical locale. Juvenile specimens also exhibit two supraorbital tentacles (“antennae”) that typically disappear as the fish ages, although there are some adult fish that keep them for life.
P. volitans is typically very easy to feed and wean, and weaning is often accomplished by simply adding a chunk of food to the water column, as this species has a voracious appetite. Their “maximum prey size” is often underestimated by aquarists who watch in horror as their adultvolitans slurps down a 6”+ long tankmate in the blink of an eye.
This species is probably the most forgiving of all lionfish species in terms of water quality and other forms of negligence visited on them by the aquarist. In fact, in the past, this fish was sometimes used to cycle new setups, as they could handle the various spikes in water chemistry. One of the most often made mistakes with this fish is to “under-tank” it. Even a smaller adult will end up being a 12” cube (including fins), so they require a minimum front-to-back depth of 18” just to be able to turn around comfortably.