Epinephelus Itajara, commonly known as the Goliath Grouper, is among the largest living bony fish and an aquatic member of the grouper genus. Epinephelus, the grouper’s genus name, is a Greek phrase meaning “hazy”, and with a history of different terms referring to its appearance and even alleged connections to people of the Hebrew faith.

In the Caribbean Sea and nearby areas, as well as off the West African coast, the Atlantic Goliath Grouper thrives over both ends of the Atlantic Ocean. The eastern tropical Pacific Ocean, between Mexico and Peru, is the only place where a nearly comparable genus, the Pacific Goliath Grouper, may indeed be observed. Due to their somewhat differing genetic make-up, experts have just lately classified the species distinctly.

Featured Image Credit: Gerald Carter


The hue of Goliath Groupers varies from yellowish brown to grayish and bluish-green. Most notably, they have tiny dark spots on their head, bodies, and spines. The specimens with a length compared with fewer than 3.3 ft have 3 to 4 very weak vertical lines on their flanks. Its body is elongated, and its skull is flattened and broad, featuring squinty eyes. Three to five rows of teeth without front canines make the bottom jaw. The Goliath Grouper has a maximum length of 8.2 ft and a maximum weight of 800 lbs.

The Goliath Grouper has a maximum length of 8.2 ft and a maximum weight of 800 lbs
The Goliath Grouper has a maximum length of 8.2 ft and a maximum weight of 800 lbs

Credit: FWC photo by Angela Collins


Goliath Groupers are carnivores that do not bite; instead, they consume their target completely. They swiftly and successfully consume entire animals or larger invertebrates by applying adequate negative pressure through their huge mouths to do so. They don’t have particular food preferences and will usually eat what is most easily accessible to them in a given location. 

Whereas greater Goliath Groupers typically feed large fish, smaller ones have been seen to consume crustaceans mostly. For Goliath Groupers, some of the most frequent prey are snapper, moray eels, crabs, cephalopods, and squid, with some instances consuming whole sharks.


Rock-covered reefs, wreckage, man-made coral reefs, and decommissioned oil rigs are the preferred habitats for Goliath Groupers. Although the species may additionally be located in coral reef settings, rocky reef conditions are far more prevalent. This is despite the fact that they can be spotted in crevices or under ledges of rapid subtidal that discharge mangroves; juveniles mostly live in mangrove forests. 

Goliath Grouper can be found swimming in tropical waters near the Gulf of Mexico
Goliath Grouper can be found swimming in tropical waters near the Gulf of Mexico

Credit: Tom keylargo_diver

Mostly in moderate tropical waters around natural and man-made reefs, Goliath Groupers can be found. The United States Gulf of Mexico and the Florida Keys, the Bahamas, the entirety of the Caribbean, and the majority of Brazil’s coast all fall within its area of distribution.


Broadcast spawning is a mode of reproduction used by Goliath Groupers. While multiple male Goliath Groupers impregnate the eggs instantaneously, the female discharges the eggs into the surrounding water.

The Goliath Grouper’s reproductive season typically lasts from June to August, depending on the location. The lunar cycle may also have an impact; however, it’s still debated. For the Goliath Grouper, mangrove forests are a key nursery environment. Healthy, long-lasting Goliath Grouper populations need an assortment of acceptable water variables that the mangroves facilitate.


Goliath Groupers are quite large fish, and they inhabit areas that are secluded from most predators; however, that’s not to say that they are exempt. Larger predators, such as sharks, will see them as slow-moving targets and encircle them before taking turns attacking.

Although Goliath Groupers are large fish, apex predators, such as sharks, see them as easy prey
Although Goliath Groupers are large fish, apex predators, such as sharks, see them as easy prey

Credit: Florida Fish and Wildlife

Because of excessive fishing and the destruction of breeding grounds, goliath groupers are particularly vulnerable to a large decrease in number. Due to the species’ short yearly larval settling period, environmental factors like bad weather can have a significant impact on its distribution. Excessive levels of mercury in older males can cause liver damage, even death, and lower egg viability. The destruction of mangroves, a crucial habitat for the species’ young, is a grave risk to the preservation of the young.

Facts about the Goliath Grouper

  1. Goliath Groupers can survive for up to half a century.
  2. Goliath Groupers will swallow whole sharks if they’re less than 4 ft.
  3. Goliath Groupers are quite gentle creatures, despite their size.
  4. Goliath Groupers produce notable sounds underwater.
  5. The official record for the heaviest Goliath Grouper is 800 lbs, with potentially heavier specimens roaming the ocean. 


How fast can a Goliath Grouper swim?

In addition, although not the most active fish, this species swims by itself in search of food near coral and man-made corals during the non-spawning season. It is unknown just how fast these fish swim, though. During the spawning season, goliath grouper are reported to travel a considerable distance to find the ideal reproductive location and establish mating groupings.

How long does a Goliath Grouper live?

The maximum lifespan is greater than 40 years old, which is a very good amount of time. According to some scientists, the typical Goliath Grouper lifecycle can increase all the way to 100 years in the correct conditions.

Are Goliath Groupers dangerous to humans?

Goliath Groupers have a menacing size, easily larger than a human; however, they are docile creatures that are completely harmless to humans; they don’t have adequate means of harming, such as venom or very sharp teeth. If encountered while scuba diving, they might approach you because they are curious; however, that’s it.

Can you spot Goliath Groupers underwater?

While being bulky fish, they are also quite loud, with reports of divers describing a notable “sonic-boom” type of sound that Goliath Groupers can create underwater; while at first, it might be difficult to visually spot them, the sound is unmistakable. 

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