Sailfinned Scorpionfish

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Name: Sailfinned Scorpionfish; Sailback Scorpionfish; Waspfish
Scientific name: Tetraroge barbata
Range: Pacific Ocean,Tropical waters
Habitat: Sea floor in shallow waters near reefs and rock ledges.
Status: Not threatened 
Diet in the wild: Sedentary Fish
Diet in the zoo: Sedentary Fish
Location in the zoo:  James R Record Aquarium
(Not currently on exhibit)

Physical description:

                         Photo courtesy of Phil Slosberg

  • Body length: 10 to 20 inches long
  • Weight: 1 to 5 lbs
  • Large head, mouth and jaws, tapering to a small tail
  • Color:  red, orange, yellow, and black. 
  • Dorsal, pelvic, and anal fins have sharp spines with venom; venom glands lie alongside the spines. 
  • Irregular surface and patchy colors hide the fish's body contours and make it look like a patch of weed-covered rock. 
  • They crawl along the bottom of the ocean, using their pectoral fins.  Because of their relative inactivity and effective camouflage, some are also called "stone fish." 
General information: 

Although the Sailfinned Scorpion Fish is small it is still very deadly to other fish.  The Scorpion Fish carries venom in its dorsal fin which is what it uses against predators.  This venom will kill most small fish and hurt most regular size fish (the venom if stepped on will not kill humans, but will hurt us pretty badly!).   The venom is used primarily for defense, not for hunting.  Most Scorpionfish are opportunistic predators, lying on the sea floor disguised as a rock.  Its color makes it look almost identical to the ocean floor or to reefs where it is lying.  There are seventeen species of Scorpion Fish and all of them are able to adapt themselves to living on the ocean floors. The Sailback Scorpionfish or Waspfish is a livebearer and may produce hundreds of young fry in a single brood. 

Special anatomical, physiological 
or behavioral adaptations:

Scorpion fish have several adaptations that suit  a great adaptor to the ocean.  The scorpion fish lives most on reefs and rocks.  It adapts itself to look like rocks as a protection device against predators.  Its stays mostly on the bottom of the ocean so that it won't use its energy swimming around.  Scorpion fish use venom in its dorsal fin to protect itself from predators.  It also uses its large mouth which has teeth to catch its prey and also protect itself.


(Photo courtesy of Steve Norvich)

Comments about the Scorpion Fish of the Fort Worth Zoo:

The Sailfinned Scorpionfish is currently off exhibit. 

Personal Observations: 

Fish is off exhibit and could not be observed. 

Source Materials and Related Links:
  • Scorpion fish entry:
  • Kapunahala Elementary School:  Scorpion Fish Page
  • Mark Strikland's Scorpion Fish Page
  • Burden, Maurice and Robert.  Encyclopedia of Fish.  Octopus Book Ltd, 1975. 
  •      Page author: Anthony Estorga

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