Creating a lionfish experience

It is the first time in Aquarium history that an exhibit has been created solely for lionfish. Creating the exhibit takes approximately three days and the main habitat for the fish, the artificial reef inside the exhibit, was created by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources’ artificial reef program. The artificial reef is made out of concrete and mirrors what lionfish would call home in the wild, a coral reef or rocky crevice.

The process of building the exhibit takes a lot of work, earlier this week staff from the Aquarium drained and cleaned the exhibit tank and added the artificial reef structures and saltwater. Each of those structures weighs approximately 85 pounds!
On Friday morning (July 18, 2014) before the lionfish are added to the exhibit, a water quality test will be performed. Once the water quality is approved, the animals will individually be placed  in their new home. Our animal care team uses extreme care because the spines of the lionfish deliver a venomous sting that can last for days and cause extreme pain, sweating, breathing difficulty and even paralysis!

The importance of lionfish

Lionfish are an invasive species to South Carolina. They are native to the tropical Indo-Pacific region but started showing up along our coast in the early 2000’s. It is unclear as to how they were introduced to the Atlantic Ocean but biologists fear they will affect our native fish population in a negative way. That’s because they have no natural enemies, meaning their numbers will flourish. Divers and fishermen are being encouraged to capture these fish while out on the water in hopes of reducing the population along our coast. It also turns out that these fish are pretty darn tasty and have been turning up on local restaurant menus.

Be sure to stop by the new lionfish exhibit during your next visit to the Aquarium. Learn more about how you can help prevent invasive species from our waters and experience these beautiful fish that are definitely a sight to see!
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