Scientific Classification

Common Name
Genus Species
Epinephelus spp.

Fast Facts

Varies by species
Up to a length of 3 m (10 ft) for some species
Can reach weights greater than 454 kg (1,000 lbs.)
Other fishes, squids, and crustaceans
Oviparous (egg laying)
Sexual Maturity
No data
Life Span
Relatively long-lived; some groupers have lived at SeaWorld, San Diego for more than 30 years
Varies by species
Varies by species
GLOBAL No data
IUCN: Several species listed as Vulnerable or Threatened
CITES: Not listed
USFWS: Not listed

Fun Facts

  1. Some fish in this family can grow to incredible sizes, such as the jewfish (Epinephelus itajara) of the tropical Atlantic Ocean and the Queensland grouper (E. lanceolatus) of Australia. Both of these fishes can reach lengths of more than 3 m (10 ft) and weights greater than 454 kg (1,000 lbs.). 
  2. E. itajara grows so large that some believe it was the great fish that swallowed Jonah, the Jewish prophet of the Old Testament, hence the name "jewfish." 
  3. 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. 
  4. 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. The Caribbean coney (Cephalopholis fulva) demonstrates a more advanced color shift. Normally this fish is chocolate brown with blue-rimmed black spots. If disturbed, the Caribbean coney will try to hide in a coral crevice, which normally has a white, sandy bottom. To blend in with this environment, this fish alters its color so that its lower body fades to white and its spots contract to tiny pinpoints. Other groupers have developed color patterns composed of stripes, spots, or blotches that help them to blend in with the bottom of coral reef areas. 
  5. Groupers may undergo a sex reversal as they age. All young yellowmouth groupers (Mycteroperca interstitialis) are born females, but as they grow larger they change into males. Only small percentages survive long enough to become a male, thus ensuring the greater majority are egg-laying females. Even more surprising, some in the genus Serranus are rare examples of fishes that can be male and female at the same time. 
  6. For more information about bony fishes, explore the Bony Fishes InfoBook. 

Ecology and Conservation

Groupers have been over fished in many parts of the world. Depending on the country and species, groupers may be protected. In the United States, jewfish and Nassau groupers (E. striatus) are protected from all harvesting. Bag limits and size restrictions have been placed on other grouper species in the United States as well.


Andrews, A., Parham, D. and W. Street. Bony Fishes. SeaWorld Education Department Publication. San Diego, SeaWorld, Inc. 1995.

Burgess, W. and H.R. Axelrod. Pacific Marine Fishes. Books 1 & 2. Neptune City, NJ. T.F.H. Publications, Inc. Ltd. 1971.

Eschmeyer, W.N., Herald, E.S. and H. Hammann. Peterson Field Guide to Pacific Coast Fishes. New York. Houghton Mifflin Co. 1983.