Taxon profile


Cave Grouper
Cephalopholis sexmaculata (Rüppell, 1830)

kingdom Animalia - animals »  phylum Chordata - chordates »  class Actinopterygii - ray-finned fishes »  order Perciformes - perch-likes »  family Serranidae - sea basses and groupers »  genus Cephalopholis

Scientific synonyms

Serranus sexmaculatus Rüppell, 1830
Epinephelus sexmaculatus (Rüppell, 1830)
Cephalopholis sexmaculatus (Rüppell, 1830)
Cephalopholis coatesi Whitley, 1937
Cephalopholis gibbus Fourmanoir, 1955
Serranus zanana Valenciennes, 1828

Other names

= Freckled Rock Cod

Least Concern LC


Body depth contained 2.5 to 3.0 times in standard length (for fish 13 to 39 cm standard length). Head length contained 2.3 to 2.5 times in standard length; interorbital area flat to slightly convex; dorsal head profile of large specimens (more than 30 cm standard length) distinctly concave above the eyes; preopercle rounded, finely serrate in young, virtually smooth in large adults, the lower edge fleshy; subopercle and interopercle with a few small serrae mostly hidden by skin; maxilla scaly, reaching past eye. Gill rakers 7 to 9 on upper limb, 14 to 16 on lower limb. Dorsal fin with IX spines (the fin membranes distinctly indented between them) and 14 to 16 rays; anal fin rounded, with III spines and 9 rays; pectoral-fin rays 16 to 18; pectoral fins clearly longer than pelvic fins, pectoral-fin length contained 1.4 to 1.6 times in head length; pelvic-fin length contained 1.9 to 2.2 times in head length; caudal fin well rounded. Lateral-body scales ctenoid, without auxiliary scales (just a few in very large specimens); lateral-line scales 49 to 54; lateral-scale series 95 to 108.
Colour: Orange-red, with small blue spots sparsely scattered on body but more densely on head and median fins; head also with elongated blue spots and lines; body with 4 dark bars (sometimes very faint) merging dorsally with blackish blotches at base of dorsal fin and extending onto the fin; 2 similar but smaller dark bar/blotches on caudal peduncle; the spaces between the dark body bars sometimes very pale; pectoral fins orange-red.


Red Sea and Indo-Pacific from South Africa (southern Natal) to French Polynesia. Confirmed records from the Indian Ocean include Kenya, Zanzibar, Comoro Islands, Mauritius, Reunion, Maldives, Chagos Islands, and Christmas Island. The reports by Heemstra and Randall (1984) of C. sexmaculata from the Gulf of Oman, Pakistan, India, and Sri Lanka are unsubstantiated; it is absent from the Persian Gulf (Randall et al., 1978; Kuronuma and Abe, 1986) and is not yet known from Lakshadweep Islands (Jones and Kumaran, 1980) and the Seychelles (Smith and Smith, 1963). In the Pacific Ocean, C. sexmaculata is known from Indonesia, South China Sea, Philippines, southern Japan, Palau, Queensland, New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Caroline Islands, Mariana Islands, Marshall Islands, Line Islands, Fiji Islands, Society Islands, and the Marquesas.


Coral reefs in depths of 10 to 150 m; a secretive species, generally seen hiding in caves and crevices on the outer reef slope. C. sexmaculata is active nocturnally in shallow water and diurnally in deeper water (Shpigel and Fishelson, 1989b). Randall and Brock (1960) found that this species (misidentified as C. miniatus) feeds mainly on fishes.


Maximum total length at least 48 cm.


The species described as Serranus zanana by Valenciennes (1828) was recently found to be a senior synonym of C. sexmaculata, but it was not used as a valid species name for the past 150 years. Consequently, the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature (1987: Opinion 1439) has rejected Serranus zanana in favour of the widely used C. sexmaculata.


Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 1993, Heemstra, P.C.; Randall, J.E., FAO species catalogue. Vol. 16. Groupers of the world (Family Serranidae, Subfamily Epinephelinae). An annotated and illustrated catalogue of the grouper, rock cod, hind, coral grouper and lyretail species known to date.
Author: Petr Čech

Links and literature

CH DE EN FR IT NL PR SP FishBase [6453]

Froese R., Pauly D. (eds.): FishBase []
CZ AQUATAB. World Wide Web electronic publication [species/5355]

Plíštil J. (Ed.) (2009): AQUATAB. World Wide Web electronic publication [] [as Cephalopholis sexmaculata (Rüppell, 1830)]
Data retrieved on: 17 January 2010
EN IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2018-1 [132741]

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species [] [as Cephalopholis sexmaculata (Rüppell, 1830)]
Data retrieved on: 3 August 2018
CZ Hanel L., Plíštil J., Novák J. (2011): České názvy živočichů V. Ryby a rybovití obratlovci (Pisces). 7. Paprskoploutví (Actinopterygii) Kostnatí (Neopterygii) [Ropušnicotvaří (Scorpaeniformes) – ostnoploutví (Perciformes) – Percoidei], Národní muzeum (zoologické oddělení), Praha, 148 str. [as Cephalopholis sexmaculata (Rüppell, 1830)]
Data retrieved on: 19 August 2019

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