What is a turkeyfish?

'Turkeyfish' is another name for lionfish.

lionfish images

Lionfish (also known as turkeyfish) have venomous spines that can be very painful.

Viewed from the right angle, the ornate fins of the lionfish resemble turkey plumage. That's why 'turkeyfish' is one of the many imaginative names people use when referring to the lionfish. Depending on where you live, you may also hear the lionfish called a devil fish, red lionfish, scorpion-cod, zebrafish, ornate butterfly-cod, featherfins, butterfly cod, Indian turkeyfish, soldier lionfish, or poisson scorpion!

Lionfish are native to the Indo-Pacific, but are now established along the southeast coast of the U.S., the Caribbean, and in parts of the Gulf of Mexico.

Since lionfish are not native to Atlantic waters, they have very few predators. They are carnivores that feed on small crustaceans and fish, including the young of important commercial fish species such as snapper and grouper.

How lionfish will affect native fish populations and commercial fishing industries has yet to be determined. What is known is that non-native species can dramatically affect native ecosystems and local fishing economies. Experts are carefully studying these invaders to better understand their role in, and threat to, Atlantic Ocean ecosystems.

Search Our Facts
Get Social

More Information

Did you know?

Did you know that lionfish happen to be quite tasty? Once stripped of its venomous spines, cleaned, and filleted like any other fish, the lionfish becomes delectable seafood fare. Avoid consuming lionfish from locations known to be affected by ciguatera toxins. Check with local and state authorities if in doubt.

Last updated: 08/08/19
Author: NOAA
How to cite this article

Contact Us