Leaf scorpionfish, Taenianotus triacanthus

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Dave Wolfenden on a venomous predator that's a real oddball, and can actually be kept in a reef aquarium — without small fish!

Common name: Leaf scorpionfish.

Scientific name: Taenianotus triacanthus.

Origin: A widespread distribution around the Indo-Pacific, from East Africa right round to the Western Pacific. It is benthic and inhabits reef areas to around 140m/460’. They are common in their natural biotope, but an oddity in the trade.

Size: To around 10cm/4”.

Diet: An ambush predator of small fish, prawns and other crustaceans which wander too close to this master of disguise

In the aquarium, offer a regular supply of live 'river shrimp' as a first food until they can be trained to accept some frozen meaty foods.

Movement is important in detection of prey and a fair amount of coaxing and persistence will be required to start them on meaty foods, so wave some on a pair of tongs. Some individuals are, however, frustratingly reluctant to ever eat anything other than live feeds.

Aquarium: This is an aggressive predator, ideally suited to a species tank aquascaped with live rock. Allow around 100l/22 gal volume per fish.

Alternatively, it may be more exciting to keep it in a community biotope with other similar-sized aggressive fish, especially many lionfish or other members of the Scorpaenidae.

Because it won’t predate on corals or other sessile invertebrates, it may even be kept in a mixed reef aquarium, provided small fish or crustaceans aren’t housed with it.

Taenianotus triacanthus is highly variable in coloration, ranging from yellow to brown via stunning reds and pinks.

Their appearance, when mimicking dead leaves, is perfected by gently swaying from side to side in the water. This behaviour is more pronounced when the fish is threatened.

The species is widely accepted to be venomous and care should be taken when netting. They also regularly shed skin into the water.

Availability: These were on sale at Heritage Aquatics, Wallington, Surrey.

Price: £149.99 (breeding pair).