Groupers: Types, reproduction, benefits and more

The groupers are a group of about twenty genera of the subfamily Epinephelinae of perciform fish. Today you will learn everything about them

Scientific Classification 🐟

Common Name Grouper Animalia Kingdom Phylum Chordata Class Osteichthyes Order groupers :memotechnical guide for learning hierachiesPerciformes Family Serranidae Genus Species Epinephelus spp.

Etymology 🐟

The word «grouper» comes from the Portuguese name, garoupa, which has been speculated to come from an indigenous South American language.

In Australia, «groper» is used instead of «grouper» for several species, such as the Queensland grouper (Epinephelus lanceolatus).

Groupers : Main Characteristics 🐟

First of all it’s worth mentioning that due to the number of genres of this family it’s impossible to give a unique description for each of them.

In general, it can be said that groupers are robust-looking fish perfectly adapted to life in the bottoms. The lower jaw protrudes with respect to the upper one.

In terms of body color they are brown with white spots, although this coloration can vary incredibly depending on the situation.

Groupers can reach very large sizes, having found in the Mediterranean and in the gulf of Nicoya, Costa Rica, specimens of 150 kg of weight and 1.70 meters in length with an age of 50 years.

Other features

✔️  Their skin, scales, and meat are very hard, being the first inedible.

✔️   They are dark brown in term of body color

✔️   The fins are rounded and their base is flaky

✔️   Groupers have 9 to 11 prominent spines at the front of their dorsal fins and three                        spines behind the operculum.

✔️    The dorsal fin has a clear notch between the spiny and soft rays.

✔️    They can live up to 50 years.

Habits 🐟

Groupers usually live in rocky areas of temperate and tropical waters in depth ranges from four to three hundred and fifty meters. They live in underwater caves or large stones.

As for their behavior, it’s worth mentioning that they are characterized as solitary creatures that feed on small fish and one that other crustaceans, and even octopus.

Curious facts About groupers

The meat of the grouper was appreciated by the Romans and also in the Middle Ages. In         the  book «Cisoria Art» of the Marquis de Villena (XV century) it was mentioned as an usual              food.

Moreover, they have long been the target of underwater fishermen because of their              large   size. although  they are now a protected species.

Regarding their sex, groupers are born as male or female, but can change sex. They are proteroginic      hermaphrodite, that is, they can be born as a  female and then become a male.

How Groupers Reproduce? 🐟

The female can become a male when she reaches  sexual maturity, but only                            some  of the larger females can go through this change. The transformation occurs  when a  large male dies. The ability to change sex  ensures  that there is always  a male  capable of mating with  females.

Groupers: groupers are just wonderful creatures


Other Courious Facts about Groupers

✔️ Groupers tend to vibrate their swim bladders to communicate. This vibration                         produces a roaring sound that drives other animals away.

✔️  The trumpet fish  (Aulostomus chinensis) usually hide floating on large groupers  from where they suddenly emerge to attack their prey by surprise.

✔️  Some groupers are so huge that when they open their mouths to feed, they create a  suction  that is powerful enough to inhale small prey.

✔️ In addition to their possible great size, another defense that some groupers have is the  ability to change the color of their skin. Sometimes this color change is simple,  such  as turning from dark to light in order to blend in with varying  levels of light.

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Most Popular Species Of Groupers 🐟

There are many species of groupers distributed around the warm and tropical seas, we will know some of them in this part of the post.

Epinephelus marginatus :Dusky grouper,  or yellowbelly grouper 🐟

This species measures around 150 cm long with an average weight of 60 kilograms. Epinephelus marginatus has a large mouth with prominent lips; its dorsal fin is long and allows it to move quickly over short distances. Its tail is round and its operculum has three spines.

The life expectancy of this grouper is 50 years, but there is knowledge of specimens that have reached 61 years of life in the wild.

Their Body color is variable since the juvenile specimens have a bluish green color, while that of the adult specimens is dark brown with yellow dots of strong hue and in other cases clear.

These colors may vary depending on the season, age, emotional states or there in the reproductive season. In terms of behavior it’s worth mentioning that they are solitary and territorial specimens, (a bit sullen).

As for reproduction it’s the characteristic of the species however its transformation to male is possible at seven years of age depending on where it’s.

The female looks for the male in his territory and waits for him when she is ready to reproduce.

How to identify it?

To differentiate it from other similar species, the edge of its rounded caudal fin with a convex shape is very a very distinctive trait of this species.  

In addition, the brown color of the light-colored lateral stripes on its head is more pronounced than in other species.

The Dusky grouper feeds on mollusk especially octopuses and crustaceans  and  some small fish occasionally.


Epinephelus marginatus has two distribution centers, the main one being the eastern Atlantic from the west coast of Iberia south along the western coast of Africa to the Cape of Good Hope, extending east into the south-western Indian Ocean, as far as southern Mozambique, with doubtful records from Madagascar and possibly Oman. It’s found throughout the Mediterranean too.

The second population occurs in the south western Atlantic off the coast of South America in southern Brazil, Uruguay and northern Argentina.

In the eastern Atlantic it’s not normally found further north than Portugal but there have been rare records from the Bay of Biscay and in the English Channel as far north as northern France, Great Britain and Ireland. 

here it’is

Atlantic goliath grouper 🐟

This species measures on average 175 cm. length; although males can reach 250 cm. of total length. The Atlantic goliath grouper weighs more than 300 kg, with specimens of up to 455 kg having been reported.

Its anatomy has 11 spines; 15 or 16 dorsal soft rays; 3 anal spines and 8 soft anal rays.

The head is elongated and has three spines. The pelvic fins are smaller than the pectorals.

The bases of the dorsal and anal fins are covered with soft scales and thick skin. Juveniles are tawny with vertical bands irregulares.

Geographic Distribution and Habitat

It’s found in the western Atlantic (from Florida – United States – to southern Brazil, including the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea); in the eastern Atlantic (from Senegal to Congo, rare in the Canary Islands) and the eastern Pacific (from the Gulf of California to Peru, including the gorgon island) .2

Biology and behavior

The Atlantic goliath grouper inhabits an average of 46 m deep and generally less than 100 m, in a wide variety of habitats, including reefs, mangroves, underwater grasslands, estuaries or deeper waters.

He lives in a limited area with a large number of hiding places available. Some of them are their usual homes, while others are only momentary shelters.

Juveniles are found in areas of mangroves and brackish estuaries; large adults can be found in estuaries and appear to occupy limited distribution areas with little movement between the reefs.

It feeds mainly on crustaceans, (specially on spiny lobsters) as well as turtles, octopus and fish, including rays and even sharks.

It reproduces in summer, when up to 100 mature individuals congregate in a small area to spawn at a depth of 15 to 30 m. Young specimens are born females, but between the ages of 10 and 12 they change sex, becoming males.

Fishing and meat

Atlantic goliath grouper is quite coveted because of its exquisite meat.

Due to the weight and size they can reach, only adult specimens that have already fulfilled their reproductive function are fished.

It’s usually fished in the depths of the sea and offers a lot of resistance when viewed in dangerous situations.

Its meat is highly prized in all places where this species occurs. In fact, it’s so exquisite that has motivated the famous saying: «from the sea the grouper and from the earth the lamb».

In the Mediterranean it’s becoming increasingly scarce due to overfishing and it’s  also threatened by pollution and the destruction of its juvenile habitat: mangroves

Let’s enjoy them

The Nassau grouper (Epinephelus striatus) 🐟

This is a common benthic fish in the coral reefs of the western Atlantic Ocean, between Florida (in the US) and northern Brazil, also occupying the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea.  Epinephelus striatus normally swims at depths between 1 meter and 90.

Although its normal size is around 70 centimeters, it’s not uncommon to see specimens of more than 1meter or more with a weight of around 25 kilograms.

Their scales are small and appear much superimposed on each other.

The bases of the dorsal and anal fins are covered with scales on a thick skin.

In terms of body color, Nassau groupers are earthy or pink, with dark vertical bands, which draw a «W» under the lateral line, although they can change color at will in a very short time.  Moreover, they have a distinctive black spot around the eyes.

Behavior and Reproduction

It worth mentioning that this a solitary predator that feeds mainly on other fish and various invertebrates, such as crabs and mollusks.

They are protoginous hermaphrodites (adult females can become males). To reproduce, they gather in large concentrations to perform the annual spawning, on nights near the new moon.

Red Grouper (Epinephelus morio)🐟

This species is typical in the coastal areas of the western Atlantic from southern Brazil to North Carolina in the USA existing also specimens in the Gulf of Mexico.

The red grouper fish has a moderate size; the standard specimen is 1.25 meters long and weighs approximately 23 kilos.

The coloration of his body is a reddish brown tone, although white spots are frequent.

It should be noted that there is also the possibility of changing color in the head or other part of the body which may turn white.

This fish is usually sedentary and like the other groupers change sex between seven and twelve years of age. Their diet is based on crabs, young lobsters, and shrimps  and occasionally feeds on some fish.

This species has an extended pelagic larval phase of forty days before settling in the coastal habitat as juveniles. The spawning takes place on the high seas between the months of January to June, reaching its maximum level in May.

(Epinephelus nigritus) Warsaw grouper 🐟

Commonly known as black grouper, this fish is classified as a mere deep water and this is because they live in reefs on the continental platforms of water breaks at a depth that is between 55 meters to 525 meters.

Some young specimens are sometimes observed at the piers. It’s worth mentioning that it’s the only grouper that has ten spines.

Its color is dark reddish brown or brown gray to almost black on its dorsal side and a brown gray tone on the ventral.

The main danger for this species is fishing and also the mortality due to the release of catches. This is due to the change in pressure that the animal suffers; most of the catches are made in the Gulf of Mexico.

IUCN classifies the species as critically endangered and the American fisheries society lists it as endangered. The corresponding actions must be taken by the pertinent agencies to take care of their conservation and prevent them from becoming extinct.

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Spotted Grouper (Epinephelus analogus)🐟

This fish measures around 40 centimeters, although 75 cm specimens have been obtained. Its weight can reach up to  22.3 kilograms.

Its coloration is reddish brown with dark spots and bars and is the most abundant small grouper in the northern Gulf of California. It is located in waters of the continental shelf on rocky bottoms between 30 meters to 120 meters deep.

Their diet is based on fish and crustaceans, for example, blackberry crab, and studies have shown that this specimen has the characteristic solitary behavior of the mere species.

Malabar Grouper (Epinephelus malabaricus)🐟

The Malabar grouper fish is distributed along the tropical waters of the Indo-Western Pacific area from the east coast of Africa to the Tonga Islands, including the Red Sea.

Sightings of this species have also been reported in the Levantine Sea and in the eastern Mediterranean, as occasional migrants through the Suez Canal, although it’s still quite rare in the Mediterranean

This grouper lives in diverse habitats, such as lagoons, mangroves, coral and rocky reefs, sandy and muddy bottom areas between 2 and 150 meters deep. On the other hand, juvenile specimens prefer lagoons or brackish areas, which is why it has been considered as a freshwater grouper.

The  Malabar Grouper can reach a length of up to 234 cm, but the average size is usually around 100 cm.

It has a color that ranges from light gray to light brown on its skin, with a series of randomly scattered dark brown spots, which increase in number with age, the body also has a pattern with several brown diagonal stripes.

Younger specimens have a series of wide and broken vertical bands of darker shade across their bodies, but at maturity they appear to become a darker uniform color.

This species of grouper fish is a protogynous hermaphrodite, since at some point in their life they change from female to male sex. Moreover, they are voracious predators that feed on fish, crustaceans and occasionally cephalopods.

On the other hand, the Malabar  grouper houses a variety of parasites and this is considered of special care for human consumption, among them it is possible to highlight the following:

✔️ Diplectanide monogene.

✔️ Pseudorhabdosynochus manifestus.

✔️ Pseudorhabdosynochus maaensis.

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Are Groupers in Danger of Extinction 🐟

Groupers in all their species are exposed to a great danger of future extinction. In fact, many of them are currently on the IUCN red list due to overfishing.

The majority of fishermen take this fish in reproductive age which results in a considerable reduction in the number of specimens of groupers in the world’s oceans.

In addition to this, it should be remembered that their reproduction is late and they mate in groups being this at high risk for the groupers since fishermen take advantage of such a time to fish a large number of fish of reproductive age.

In 2011, some studies showed that the groupers had suffered a reduction of 80% of its total population; although there are no signs that overfishing has decreased, in the USA. In the 1990s, a regulation of this fishing was carried out, also in Brazil since 2002 but apparently it has not yielded positive results.

Groupers and the Ecosystem 🐟

There are currently a large number of invasive species in marine ecosystems that are found around the world the Ragged finned firefish being one of them which has been distributed throughout the ocean of the coast from the Caribbean.

The relevance of this fact is that the diet of this fish includes the consumption of native species from different regions, so this fish has been classified as a pest.

It’s also poisonous and can cause problems with its spikes to many bathers who find on the coast.

Many biologists indicate that groupers are a possible solution to this problem, because of their big size. Moreover, groupers can eat this pest fish without any inconvenience because the poison that it expels does not affect them. For this reason groupers represents an aid to the marine ecosystem of the Caribbean coast.

Benefits Of  Consuming Groupers 🐟

As you may have noticed in the nutritional content detailed above, the Grouper Fish is semi-fatty since it contains six grams of fat per hundred grams of food. The proteins found in this fish are not high, but it has a high biological value.

It also has essential amino acids for the body, and the vitamins that stand out are those of B such as B2, B3, B6, B9 and B12.

However the nutrients found in groupers aren’t that considerable compared to other foods such as whole grains, legumes, liver among others.

The vitamins it has allow the total use of energy nutrients, minus vitamin B12.

Such nutrients are carbohydrates, fats and proteins which are very important for the formation of red blood cells, the transformation of genetic material, the proper functioning of the nervous system among others.

It worth mentioning the groupers’ meat also has an interesting amount of vitamin E that has an antioxidant action in the body.

Among the minerals available in this fish, potassium, phosphorus and magnesium stand out.

Potassium is necessary for the nervous system to function properly. In addition, it also positively affects muscle activity and helps in the creation of energy. As for magnesium it also has the aforementioned qualities and intervenes in the balance of water inside and outside the cell.

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Risk of Consuming Groupers 🐟

Most fish contain methylmercury which is a very toxic organic compound. Some researches that have been carried out shows heavy metal concentrations in fish due to the contamination of the water where they live.groupers: mercury levels in fish

Long-lived species, together with fish that occupy a high place in the marine food chain have higher concentrations of mercury and this can negatively affect the health of the human being.

In this sense, mercury poisoning can occur, with pregnant or suspicious women being pregnant and mothers who are breastfeeding the most affected.

The danger of eating contaminated mercury foods depends on the species, its size and life time. In the case of grouper, all species have a high amount of mercury since they live close to 50 years and consume a wide variety of marine organisms.

It’s suggested to consume this fish moderately and preferably fresh so as not to suffer from mercury poisoning.

In pregnant women, fetal methylmercury syndrome may occur, which is a group of symptoms that can be observed in the fetus or in a newborn baby when the mother has consumed large amounts of methylmercury during her pregnancy.

In the 50s the toxicity of methylmercury was made public after an outbreak of cerebral palsy and microcephaly in some newborns in a fishing village in Minimata Bay located in Japan.

Risks of mercury in fish 🐟

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) together with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends that pregnant women or who plan to be as well as young children avoid eating more than 180 grams of fish per week to decrease the risk of mercury poisoning.

Cases of ciguatera (food poisoning) have also been reported following the consumption of Epinephelus lanceolatus meat.

You already know the danger of extinction that this fish faces, you also know the benefits of its meat, the pros and cons of its consumption, it’s up to you to choose whether or not to eat this species or eat it to a lesser extent.

Baked Grouper Recipe 🐟


✔️ 1 kilogram of grouper fillet

✔️ 2 Lemons

✔️  1 white onion

✔️  2 teaspoons olive oil

✔️  1 pinch garlic paste

✔️    4 potatoes

✔️    2 teaspoons breadcrumb

✔️   1 pinch of salt

✔️    1 pinch of black pepper

Steps to follow to make this recipe: 🐟

✔️  The first step in making the baked grouper recipe is to prepare the ingredients. Peel the potatoes and cut them into not very thick slices. Then, put them in water so they do not rust.

✔️   Mix the juice of lemons, salt, black pepper and garlic paste.

Trick: As an additional ingredient put a splash of white wine.

✔️ Cut the white onion into feathers and place it in a previously greased refractory. Add the                     potatoes on the onion with a little salt and pepper to taste.

✔️    Cover with foil and take the baked potatoes for 45 minutes at 180 ° C. Remove the foil and let  the potatoes brown for 10-15 more minutes.

✔️  Now we are going to prepare the fish. To do this, cut the groupers into individual fillets and  bathe them in the mixture you prepared in step three of lemon, salt and pepper. Thenbatter each of the steaks with a bit of breadcrumb and reserve.

✔️ Place the grouper fillets on the potatoes and bake the fish for 15 minutes at the same                             temperature as before.

✔️ While the grouper with bakers is in the oven, we will take the olive oil with a little garlic paste over low heat so that it is infused.

✔️  Remove the grouper with potatoes from the oven and serve the recipe by adding a little of the oil infused with the garlic on top of each of the fish fillets. Accompany the dish with lemon and parsley hulls, as well as a sauce for potatoes such as barbecue sauce.

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