Greasy grouper (Epinephelus tauvina)

Greasy grouper on the sea bed
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Greasy grouper fact file

Greasy grouper description

GenusEpinephelus (1)

A relatively large reef fish with a wide, upward-facing mouth and thick lips, the greasy grouper (Epinephelus tauvina) looks spectacular in its natural habitat. Its head and body range from a pale greenish-grey to brown, and are covered with circular spots of orange-red to dark brown, which are darker towards the middle. One or more large dark blotches are often present on the body at the base of the last four dorsal fin spines. The juvenile greasy grouper has dark spots on its soft dorsal, caudal and anal fins (4).

The greasy grouper looks very similar to its close relative the coral grouper (Epinephelus corallicola). However, the greasy grouper’s body is more elongated than that of the coral grouper, and the spots on its body are closer together (4).

Also known as
estuary rock-cod, giant grouper, greasy rockcod, green grouper, reef cod, speckled rockcod, spotted grouper.
Cephalopholis tauvina, Epinephalus tauvina, Epinephelus chewa, Epinephelus elongatus, Epinephelus megachir, Epinephelus salmoides, Holocentrus pantherinus, Perca tauvina, Serranus goldei, Serranus jansenii, Serranus pantherinus.
Loche Mouchetee, Merou Loutre, Vielle Lutre, Vielle Negre.
Mero Lutria.
Length: 50 - 75 cm (2)
600 - 700 g (3)

Greasy grouper biology

This long-lived fish has a very slow growth rate and a complex life-history (2). It is a protogynous hermaphrodite, meaning that it begins its life as a female and then, in some cases, shifts sex to become a male later on in its lifecycle. It is often the older and larger females that change sex. The advantage of the greasy grouper changing sex is presumed to be to increase its reproductive output (5).

The greasy grouper’s main spawning period is between April and May in Kuwait (5) and between October and February in India (1). Like other groupers, the greasy grouper is likely to produce many offspring (2).

The greasy grouper is a top predator on the reef and is known to eat mainly fish such as clownfish and damselfish (4), although it also takes some crustaceans (1). This species is known to be ‘ciguatoxic’, which means it contains toxins that are very poisonous to humans and larger predators. Fish in the grouper family are often eaten by sharks, barracudas and moray eels (1).


Greasy grouper range

The greasy grouper is widespread in the waters between Thailand and Australia, where it is often found around atolls, and is particularly common in the Philippines Sea. The greasy grouper is also found off the coast of East Africa, from the Red Sea to South Africa, where reefs are present (4).

There have also been recordings of the greasy grouper near the Minor Outlying Islands of the United States such as Javis Island and Kingman reef, in the central Pacific Ocean (1).


Greasy grouper habitat

The adult greasy grouper inhabits coral reefs at depths of 30 to 100 metres (2) in clear subtropical waters (4). The juvenile greasy grouper is found in tidal pools, mangrove root systems and reef flats in much shallower water than the adult greasy grouper (1).


Greasy grouper status

The greasy grouper is classified as Data Deficient (DD) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Data Deficient


Greasy grouper threats

Little is known about the population size and trends of the greasy grouper due to confusion with similar species in the past, together with a general lack of data (1).

Like other groupers, the greasy grouper is likely to be threatened by overfishing, due to its large body size, long lifespan and slow growth rate (2). Groupers are caught by many different methods, including spears, traps and hook and line (1). Fish in the grouper family often inhabit shallow waters and this makes them vulnerable to highly destructive fishing methods in South East Asia, such as dynamite fishing (2).

The greasy grouper is traded in live fish markets in Hong Kong, where its commercial value is high for consumption, medicinal and spiritual uses (6).


Greasy grouper conservation

There are no current conservation actions specifically aimed at protecting the greasy grouper. However, the greasy grouper is found within some Marine Protected Areas which regulate fishing activity, such as the Great Barrier Reef and Ashmore Reef Natural Nature Reserve in Australia (1).

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.

Find out more

Learn more about the conservation of the greasy grouper:



This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:

This species information was authored as part of the Arkive and Universities Scheme.


Anal fin
In fish, an unpaired fin on the under surface of the fish, behind the anus.
Caudal fin
The tail fin of a fish.
Diverse group of animals with jointed limbs and a hard external skeleton, characterised by the possession of two pairs of antennae, one pair of mandibles (mouthparts used for handling and processing food) and two pairs of maxillae (appendages used in eating, which are located behind the mandibles). Includes crabs, lobsters, shrimps, woodlice and barnacles.
Dorsal fin
The unpaired fin found on the back of the body of fish, or the raised structure on the back of most cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises).
Protogynous hermaphrodite
An animal that begins its life cycle as a female, but later changes sex to become a male. This change may be based on internal or external triggers.
Reef flat
The shoreward, flat, broadest area of a coral reef.
The production or depositing of eggs in water.


  1. IUCN Red List (August, 2011)
  2. Morris, A., Roberts, C. and Hawkins, J. (2000) The threatened status of groupers (Epinephelinae). Biology and Conservation,9: 919-942.
  3. Aguru, P. (1985) Report to the Government of Malaysia on Aquaculture Activities. Fisheries and Aquaculture Department, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome.
  4. Fishbase – Greasy grouper, Epinephelus tauvina (August, 2011)
  5. Abu-Hakima, R. (1987) Aspects of the reproductive biology of the grouper, Epinephelus tauvina (Forskal), in Kuwaiti waters. Journal of Fish Biology,30: 213-222.
  6. Lee, C. and Sadovy, Y. (1998) A taste for live fish: Hong Kong’s live reef fish market. NAGA, The ICLARM Quarterly, 1: 38-42.

Image credit

Greasy grouper on the sea bed  
Greasy grouper on the sea bed

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