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Aquarium of the Pacific - Online Learning Center - Species Print Sheet

Conservation Status:  Data deficient

AquaticReef Stonefish

Synanceia verrucosa Bony Fishes, marine

Stonefish Stonefish are on view in the Jewels exhibits in the Tropical Pacific Gallery. | Andrew Reitsma/Aquarium of the Pacific
Stonefish
Stonefish are on view in the Jewels exhibits in the Tropical Pacific Gallery. Andrew Reitsma/Aquarium of the Pacific

Species In-Depth | Print full entry

At the Aquarium

Reef stonefish are found in the Jewels exhibits in the Tropical Pacific Gallery.

Geographic Distribution

This species lives in the Indo-Pacific Ocean, from the Red Sea and East Africa to French Polynesia, north to the Ryukyu and Ogasawara Islands, and south to Queensland, Australia.

Habitat

Reef stonefish live in reef flats and shallow lagoons with rubble or sandy areas and in small pools during low tide, where they are well camouflaged on the substrate.

Physical Characteristics

Their warty, scaleless skin is commonly brown or grey, possibly with patches of orange, red, or yellow and occasionally covered in algae. Reef stonefish have a robust body. The eyes are separated by a deep depression. They have a large upturned mouth and fleshy pectoral fins. It has twelve to fourteen needle-sharp, dorsal spines with a venom sac at the bottom of each of spine.

Size

Commonly grows up to 16 inches (40 centimeters).

Diet

These fish feed on other reef fishes and bottom-dwelling invertebrates.

Reproduction

Reef stonefish are solitary except during the mating season, when they will aggregate with others. The female will lay her gelatinous egg mass while swimming across the seafloor. Males will then follow, releasing their sperm as they swim over the newly laid eggs.

Behavior

Except for the mating season, this is a solitary fish. It will use its pectoral fins to scoop out sand to partially bury itself and stay motionless, waiting for prey to pass by. When prey passes by, the fish will suddenly open its large mouth, sucking in the prey. It is more active at night than during the day.They only use their venomous spines for defense, injecting venom into its victim like hypodermic needles.

Adaptation

The stonefish’s coloration, skin texture, and upturned mouth help it blend in perfectly with rocky areas on the seafloor. This camouflage is an adaptation that allows the fish to use ambush to capture prey.

Longevity

This species can live between five and ten years.

Conservation

While this species has not been evaluated by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), it faces threats from pollution and habitat loss.