Rhinopias Scorpionfish Care

Tide Pool Aquatics

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Hey Reef2Reef Community! Because we currently have a couple of Rhinopias available, I thought it would be a good idea to make a care sheet for them.
Rhinopias Scorpionfish are one of my all-time favorite fish. Everything about them is fascinating. Their camouflage ability, parasite prevention, tranquil hunting behavior, and expeditious strike have perfectly adapted these fish to live as sedentary hunters. They’re enticing to collectors and expensive, but all things considered, Rhinopias are moderately easy to keep.


Species in the Genus

Rhinopias are characterized by a laterally compressed body shape, an upturned mouth, and high set eyes with eyebrow like appendages. They belong to the family Scorpaenidae (Scorpionfish). There are six identified species of Rhinopias Scorpionfish. This genus comprises the Weedy Scorpionfish (Rhinopias Frondosa), Paddle-flap Scorpionfish (Rhinopias Eschmeyeri), Lacey Scorpionfish (Rhinopias Aphanes), Easter Island Scorpionfish (Rhinopias Cea), Japanese Scorpionfish (Rhinopias Argoliba), and the Strange-eyed Scorpionfish (Rhinopias Xenops).


Species in the Trade

The Paddle-flap Scorpionfish(R. Eschmeyeri) and the Weedy Scorpionfish(R. Frondosa) surface in the trade somewhat consistently. The Lacey Scorpionfish(R. Aphanes) is seldom available, and the remaining three are practically never collected.

Paddle-flap Scorpionfish grow to a length of 7.5” and are easily distinguishable because they usually display a single, uniform color. Additionally, Eschmeyeri Scorpions have minimal appendages on their bodies, and their dorsal fins have no notches.
Paddleflap 2.jpg

(RED PADDLEFLAP SCORPIONFISH - RHINOPIAS ESCHMEYERI) photo credit: Vladislav Sagaidak

Weedy Scorpionfish can grow to 9” and come in two varieties. Both variations of R. Frondosa array patterns containing circles and oblong blotches in their coloration. This particular skin pattern is a distinctive trait of R. Frondosa. The first of the two Weedy Scorpionfish has notches in its dorsal fin and limited appendages. The second type of Weedy Scorpionfish has growths canvasing their entire bodies in addition to having incisions in their dorsal fin.
Frondosa 2.jpg

(ORANGE WEEDY SCORPIONFISH - RHINOPIAS FRONDOSA) photo credit: redchanka

R. Eschmeyeri and R. Frondosa are frequently seen in mixed pairs by divers. Because they’re endemic to the same locations, researchers have speculated that they’re the same species but variants of each other. Some have proposed that Rhinopias Eschmeyeri may not even be a valid species, but only a variation of Rhinopias Frondosa. Nothing is confirmed, but could one be female and the other male?
Rhinopias Pair.jpg

MIXED PAIR OF RHINOPIAS - RHINOPIAS ESCHMEYERI(left) x FRONDOSA(right) photo credit: Ribeirodos Santos

Additional Characteristics and Behavior

The Weedy and Paddle-flap Scorpionfish inhabit the broadest range of all Rhinopias. Like all scorpionfish, they exhibit naturally cryptic behavior and have even developed supplementary adaptations to flourish in their environments.

R. Frondosa and R. Eschmeyeri are endemic to Indonesia, the Philippines, East Africa, Northeastern Australia, and Japan. The majority of their time is spent lounging in the same area waiting for prey to come into striking range. Because of this, algae accumulate on their skin. Rhinopias periodically shed their outer cuticle to rid themselves of external parasites and algae. Some Rhinopias shed as frequently as every 12 days while others may only shed once every six weeks.

Rhinopias are adept at camouflage. They can even alter their coloration to mimic their surroundings each time they move. Rhinopias naturally resemble rocks, macro-algae, and debris. Instead of swimming, they clamber on the seafloor using their pelvic and pectoral fins. Even when they’re moving, they camouflage themselves; Rhinopias impersonate pieces of floating debris, tumbling across the seabed, swaying back and forth.
Frondosa 1.jpg

(PURPLE WEEDY SCORPIONFISH - RHINOPIAS FRONDOSA) photo credit: FishTales

Quarantine

Quarantine is necessary for Rhinopias. They can naturally discard their external epidermal layer to aid in averting parasites, but this genus is still susceptible to common ailments afflicting marine fish. They’re not especially prone to parasitic protozoa, but can contract ich, and potentially velvet as well as bacterial and fungal infections. The shedding of their cuticle is not a panacea for external parasites, especially when kept in a closed environment like an aquarium.

During quarantine, do not prophylactically treat for any condition. Observe daily and account for any changes in appearance or feeding response. If their condition or behavior shifts, then contemplate potential treatments. Keep in consideration that these fish can slowly alter their coloration. Do not be alarmed if this occurs. Additionally, Rhinopias may even develop a few harmless, black or white blotches in their coloration.

Bacterial Infections
Bacterial infections are a common hindrance when housing Rhinopias. This ailment is one of the most typical obstacles that Rhinopias Scorpionfish encounter in aquariums. Often during transport, Rhinopias will abrade their chin on the shipment bags and form a blister under their mouth. This habit is a frequent occurrence, and the blisters can quickly develop an infection. Additionally, Weedy Rhinopias housed with tangs or angels may be agitated or bitten as these fish graze for algae. Even their appendages, if damaged, can harbor diseases.

These injuries tend to be minor and heal over time in clean water. Antibiotics are not always necessary, but to treat bacterial infections either dose antibiotics to the water column directly or soak them in the food. When feeding antibiotics, Metroplex and Kanaplex, use with Seachem Focus and feed as instructed. If the Rhinopias will only eat live foods, then gut-pack the live feeders with the antibiotic soaked food first, then feed the live food to the Rhinopias.

If there is space for a quarantine system or the bacterial infection is incessant, start an antibiotic treatment in the water column. The use of solely Furan 2 (Nitrofurazone) is usually sufficient. However, if the infection is severe, begin a full spectrum antibiotic treatment. An effective combination includes mixing Metroplex(Metronidazole), Kanaplex(Kanamycin), and Furan 2(Nitrofurazone) in the water column. The use of all three in amalgam will perform the broadest range of treatment. Implementing this treatment on Rhinopias does tend to suppress their appetite, but it’s still safe. Be attentive to use as directed and not to overdose.

Orange Paddleflap.png

(ORANGE PADDLEFLAP SCORPIONFISH - RHINOPIAS ESCHMEYERI)
Ich
Rhinopias are not especially sensitive to ich, and in most cases, the infestation will be mild. When treating, it’s best to avoid copper. Rhinopias and all other Scorpionfish are highly sensitive to all copper products; this includes both chelated copper and ionic copper. There are three options for treating ich. The first option is to implement hyposalinity. It’s an innocuous and effective treatment for most saltwater aquarium fish, and rhinopias handle it well. The second potential treatment is the Tank Transfer Method. This process is also safe for your Rhinopias, but these fish are venomous. It seems best to keep handling to a minimum, and the TTM requires frequent contact. Lastly, Chloroquine Phosphate is a safe and efficient treatment for scorpionfish with ich or velvet. CP is the treatment of choice if the ich infestation is harsh(very rare for Rhinopias) or if diagnosing between ich and velvet is too equivocal.

Velvet
Just like ich, it’s not prevalent for Rhinopias to succumb to velvet, and there are very few sources describing an experience with this. The treatment options are finite and must be quickly started for it to be effective. Chloroquine phosphate is the only velvet treatment tolerable for Rhinopias. In fact, scorpionfish handle chloroquine phosphate quite well. The standard dose recommended for CP is 15ppm or 15mg per liter(roughly 60mg per gallon). Successful treatment ranges from 12ppm to 20ppm, but should never exceed 30ppm, especially for sensitive fish such as Rhinopias. Lastly, many aquarists have stated that chloroquine phosphate and praziquantel will contradict when dosed simultaneously; praziquantel can prompt a bacterial bloom and oxygen depletion when mixed with other medications.

Diet

Like the majority of scorpionfish, most Rhinopias will only respond to live food initially. Our goal is to condition them to eat frozen foods, but this is a tedious process. All specimens have diverse appetites; some will eat frozen after a few weeks while others may never wean onto a frozen diet.

When offering live food to your Rhinopias, there are many things to consider. It’s more intricate than just dropping in a handful of goldfish a couple of times a week. In fact, circumvent feeding goldfish altogether. Raw goldfish contain the enzyme thiaminase. In excess, this causes thiamin(Vitamin B1) to be rendered inactive. A constant diet of goldfish will eventually cause your Rhinopias to be thiamin deficient and experience lethargy during feedings.

The best and most practical live foods to give to Rhinopias are freshwater livebearers: feeder guppies and mollies. The Rhinopias eats whatever you feed to the live food. It’s beneficial for scorpionfish if keepers fatten the live food prior to offering it to the predatory fish. Feed guppies frozen PE Calanus soaked in selcon. Feeder fish should receive routine feedings throughout the week and a substantial meal before being offered to the Rhinopias scorpionfish.

Some of the especially finicky specimens will only respond to familiar prey items, only consuming damsels or chromis initially. Ideally, Rhinopias will eventually devour frozen foods like silverside, jumbo mysis, chopped shrimp, clam, and squid. Feeding primarily frozen foods is an objective that every aquarist housing a Rhinopias, or any species of scorpionfish, should have. Feeding live foods long term is not as pragmatic as feeding frozen foods.

Before attempting to feed frozen foods to a Rhinopias, be confident that it displays an active appetite, and eats live food with enthusiasm. From there, offer dead specimens from the live feeder tank(dead guppies or damsels). Once Rhinopias react to dead prey items, they may be more receptive to frozen preparations. It seems best to focus on the frozen foods that most resemble a Rhinopias’ natural prey first. Typically, the best frozen foods, to begin with, are silverside, jumbo mysis, and krill(don’t feed krill regularly). Sometimes Rhinopias will mistake these frozen foods for live fare if you wiggle them enough(use feeding tongs). Progressively Rhinopias may show further interest in other frozen foods like chopped clam and squid, but this takes time and a considerable amount of patience.

Rhinopias are mostly nocturnal hunters, but overall they are opportunistic eaters. When food is available or within reach, they’ll strike. Their naturally enthusiastic response to food makes it easy to overfeed them. It’s optimal to feed Rhinopias two-three times a week until they have a slight bulge in their abdomen.
Frondosa Mouth.jpg

(YELLOW WEEDY SCORPIONFISH - RHINOPIAS FRONDOSA) photo credit: AndamanSE


Housing and Cohabitants

Rhinopias are instinctively sedentary animals. They seldom swim and prefer to remain still, waiting for prey. Therefore, they do not require large aquariums. However, there are many things to consider when deciding if a Rhinopias is a suitable addition to your tank. They can do well in an array of aquariums but will not coexist with some fish.

Rhinopias are compatible with other scorpionfish and anglers. Only combine predatory ambush fish that are akin in size. Otherwise, the larger specimen may attempt to engulf the smaller one. Additionally, the aquarium size should allow for both fish to have their territory — about 20-30 gallons per scorpionfish or anglerfish is adequate.

Do not combine Rhinopias; they are naturally solitary animals and only amass to breed. Divers have recorded witnessing mixed pairs of R. Frondosa and R. Eschmeyeri situated near one another, but the final details of their social and sexual dynamics are a mystery. The only available information is that divers often find mixed pairs and that they gather each summer in deep water to broadcast their spawn.

The successful combination of R. Frondosa and R. Eschmeyeri in an aquarium is possible, but this combination is risky and sometimes futile; compatibility issues often arise immediately. Mixing Rhinopias is nebulous and should not be attempted unless they’re a collected pair.

Potential Aquariums

Species Only Aquarium
An ideal system to house a Rhinopias is a 20-40 gallon species only tank. These fish don’t require a large aquarium and mixing Rhinopias with other fish can be complicated and precarious. Simple tank setups are suitable. Salinity, temperature, and pH requirements all fall within the standard levels.

When designing a species-only system for Rhinopias, keep three tank components in mind. First, filtration should be substantial. Although Rhinopias are not especially sensitive to ammonia as species like angelfish, they produce a considerable amount of waste(excrement and shed cuticle); proper filtration or consistent water changes are required. Secondly, they are not strong swimmers and prefer medium flow. However, when shedding, they perch in high flow areas to expedite the process. Lastly, Rhinopias favor residing on the bottom half of the tank, so keep the rock-work to a minimum and provide bare sandy spots.

Frondosa 3.jpg

(PINK WEEDY SCORPIONFISH - RHINOPIAS FRONDOSA) - wuttichok

Reef Aquarium
Certain reef tanks can be a suitable aquarium for Rhinopias, but a typical reef system is not. They will never bother any coral. However, Rhinopias must not be kept with any small ornamental invertebrate or fish because they will become food. Don’t underestimate how robust and large the prey of a Rhinopias can be.

Keeping them in high flow and high light SPS systems is not advisable. They’re feeble swimmers and can’t handle the perpetual high flow. When housing them in mixed reefs with sand-dwelling LPS, make sure to maintain open areas in the sand for them to perch.


FOWLR Aquarium

Fish Only with Live Rock aquariums are a potential satisfactory environment for a Rhinopias. Once again, avoid housing them with small fish because they will devour them. Exercise caution when combining them with angelfish, tangs, butterflyfish, or parrotfish. These fish may confuse the Rhinopias for a rock covered in encrusting invertebrates or algae.

Additionally, algae accumulate on the bodies of Rhinopias, and this leads grazing fish to gravitate towards them naturally. This attraction can cause two potential negative scenarios. First, the Rhinopias may be injured and develop an infection, or, second, the grazing fish may be stung by the Rhinopias’ venomous spines. In most cases, these grazing fish bypass Rhinopias because of their vibrant colors, but aquarists must exercise caution. R. Frondosa (Weedy Scorpion) are most at risk of being nipped because they resemble a rock covered in algae. Sizable wrasse, hogfish, rabbitfish, and other substantially sized community fish will coexist with Rhinopias peacefully in a FOWLR aquarium.


Predator Aquarium

Avoid keeping Rhinopias in large predator tanks. Although they’re venomous ambush predators, they’re also cryptic by nature, and other large predators will outcompete for food or even consume small specimens. Predators to avoid housing with Rhinopias include large eels, large triggerfish, large groupers, sharks, and rays. However, Rhinopias will usually peacefully coexist with smaller predatory fish such as puffers, tuskfish, sizable wrasse, and similarly sized triggers, groupers, anglers, and other scorpionfish.



Venom!

All scorpionfish are venomous. The family Scorphiadae includes the most venomous fish in nature, the stonefish. Although Rhinopias don’t deliver as potent a sting as stonefish, and they’re in separate subfamilies, exercise extreme caution when handling or transferring these fish. They’re more virulent than lionfish and can deliver a powerful and piercing sting.

Scorpionfish have venomous, hypodermic spines in their dorsal, anal, and pelvic fins — venom producing glands that release under pressure, line the spines about a third of the way up. Their venom causes a sudden, moderate to severe burning sensation at the puncture site. This pain can last anywhere from a few hours to a couple of days. Systemic symptoms may include nausea & vomiting, headaches, hypotension, chest pain, irregular heartbeat, and possible loss of consciousness. These symptoms and reactions can and do lead to hospitalization.

The venom of scorpionfish is heat-liable, meaning the proteins that comprise the toxins deactivate in the presence of heat. When treating a sting, first immerse the affected area in hot water — as hot of water as tolerable. Typically, 110 degrees is sufficient, but increase the temperature to 113 degrees if possible. Soak the wound from 30-90 minutes or until removal from the water doesn’t result in pain. Venom can remain active on a dead specimen for up to 48 hours after death.

CURRENTLY AVAILABLE RHINOPIAS (WYSIWYG)
Available Paddleflap.png

(PADDLEFLAP SCORPIONFISH - RHINOPIAS ESCHMEYERI)
Available frondosa.png

(WEEDY SCORPIONFISH - RHINOPIAS FRONDOSA)

Gosnell, Jeremy. “Rhinopias Scorpionfish” Tropical Fish Hobbyist Magazine, Aug. 2010, www.tfhmagazine.com/details/articles/rhinopias-scorpionfish-full-article.htm.

Michael, Scott. “Aquarium Fish: The Rhinopias Spp. - The Ultimate Scorpionfish” - Advanced Aquarist | Aquarist Magazine and Blog, 18 Sept. 2010, www.advancedaquarist.com/2003/5/fish.

Saen, Bruno Van, and Els Van Den Borre. “Rhinopias: There Are 6 Different Species of Rhinopias …" There Are 6 Species of Rhinopias, www.elsvandenborre.be/duiken-wist-je-dat-rhinopias-EN.html.

Rowlett, Joe. “Rare Rhinopias Species” Reefs.com, 20 Nov. 2015, reefs.com/2015/11/20/rare-rhinopias-species-part-1/.

Scott, Brian. “Conservative Look at Rhinopias Scorpionfishes” Tropical Fish Hobbyist Magazine, May 2017, www.tfhmagazine.com/details/articles/a-conservative-look-at-rhinopias-scorpionfishes.htm.

Rensch, Gage, and Heather Murphy-Lavoie. “Lionfish, Scorpionfish, And Stonefish Toxicity” StatPearls, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 25 Mar. 2019, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK482204/.
 
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lion king

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By far the best write up on the Rhino I've ever read. I keep a rhino frondosa and have known friends unsuccessfully keep them long term. I agree with everything and can not find any contradictions to my own experience. Thank You.

016.jpg
 
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OP
Tide Pool Aquatics

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By far the best write up on the Rhino I've ever read. I keep a rhino frondosa and have known friends unsuccessfully keep them long term. I agree with everything and can not find any contradictions to my own experience. Thank You.

016.jpg
I really appreciate the feedback. Thanks! That's a great looking purple Frondosa!
-Blake Lewis
 
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If anyone else has photos of their own Rhinopias, please share! We'd love to see them!
 

WMR

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Excellent write up on Rhinopias, thank you. Never kept Rhinopias, but have kept all the lions, some scorpions, leaffish, wasp fish, and one stonefish. When I was in the business, been stung by lions, let me tell you, doesn’t matter if it was 1” or 14”, burned like H, soaking it in hot water eventually denatured the venom, but sometimes hot water was too hot, had to use warm water & Benadryl, just in case
 
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Excellent write up on Rhinopias, thank you. Never kept Rhinopias, but have kept all the lions, some scorpions, leaffish, wasp fish, and one stonefish. When I was in the business, been stung by lions, let me tell you, doesn’t matter if it was 1” or 14”, burned like H, soaking it in hot water eventually denatured the venom, but sometimes hot water was too hot, had to use warm water & Benadryl, just in case
I've never been stung, just heard stories. Fingers crossed haha.
That's interesting that small specimens and large specimens had the same effect/potency in your experience. I've always wondered when venom production started in their lifecycle.
I'm sure the hot water was difficult. It takes a while for the venom to be denatured completely, but heat is the best remedy.
- Blake Lewis
 
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SALE ALERT!
The prices of the currently available Rhinopias have dropped sharply. This sale will last through the weekend! Also, an additional 15% will be deducted automatically at checkout.

 

WMR

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I've never been stung, just heard stories. Fingers crossed haha.
That's interesting that small specimens and large specimens had the same effect/potency in your experience. I've always wondered when venom production started in their lifecycle.
I'm sure the hot water was difficult. It takes a while for the venom to be denatured completely, but heat is the best remedy.
- Blake Lewis
We used to get lions weekly, 30+ years in the business, venom production probably starts as soon as they settle out on the reef, yes the little ones burn just as much as the big ones. All of my stings were from volition lions, not any of the other lions. Yes, hot/warm water denatures it, usually within 1-2 hours the pain starts to subside
 
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We used to get lions weekly, 30+ years in the business, venom production probably starts as soon as they settle out on the reef, yes the little ones burn just as much as the big ones. All of my stings were from volition lions, not any of the other lions. Yes, hot/warm water denatures it, usually within 1-2 hours the pain starts to subside
I really appreciate the input!
 

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This is absolutely awesome, guys!! Thanks for sharing it!!
 

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