Taxon profile


Greasy Grouper
Epinephelus malabaricus (Bloch & Schneider, 1801)

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

Scientific synonyms

Holocentrus malabaricus Bloch & Schneider, 1801
Cephalopholis malabaricus (Bloch & Schneider, 1801)
Epinephelus abdominalis (non Peters, 1855)
Serranus crapao Cuvier, 1829
Epinephelus cylindricus Postel, 1965
Serranus estuarius Macleay, 1883
Epinephelus malabrica (Bloch & Schneider, 1801)
Serranus polypodophilus Bleeker, 1849
Holocentrus salmoides Lacépède, 1802
Epinephelus salmoides (Lacépède, 1802)

Other names

= Black-spotted Rockcod
= Malabar Grouper
= Malabar Reefcod
= Malabar Rockcod

Near Threatened NT


Body elongate, the depth contained 3.0 to 3.7 times in standard length (for fish 15 to 69 cm standard length); body width contained 1.4 to 1.9 times in the depth. Head length contained 2.3 to 2.6 times in standard length; snout length contained 1.7 to 2.0 times in upper jaw length; interorbital width contained 4.5 to 6.5 times in head length and 2.1 to 3.0 times in upper jaw length; interorbital area flat or slightly convex; preopercle subangular, with enlarged serrae at the angle; upper edge of operculum almost straight; nostrils subequal, except in large adults which have the posterior nostrils slightly larger; maxilla extends past vertical at rear edge of orbit, maxilla width 4.5 to 6.5 % of standard length; upper jaw length 17 to 22% of standard length, midlateral part of lower jaw with 2 to 5 rows of teeth. Gill rakers 8 to 11 on upper limb, 14 to 18 on lower limb, 23 to 27 total; rudiments difficult to distinguish from small bony platelets on outer face of first gill arch. Dorsal fin with XI spines and 14 to 16 rays, the third to fifth spines usually slightly longer than posterior spines, their length contained 3.1 to 4.0 times in head length and distinctly shorter than longest rays, the interspinous membranes incised; anal fin with III spines and 8 rays, the third Spine usually longest; pectoral-fin rays 18 to 20; pectoral-fin length contained 1.7 to 2.2 times in head length, pelvic-fin length contained 2.1 to 2.6 times in head length; caudal fin rounded. Lateral-body scales ctenoid, with auxiliary scales; lateral-line scales 54 to 64; anterior lateral-line tubes of large adults with 2 to 4 branches; lateral-scale series 101 to 117. Pyloric caeca numerous (more than 80 branches).
Colour: Head and body brownish, covered with small, well-separated, blackish brown spots which extend onto chest, lower jaw and gular area and roof of mouth; head and body also with scattered white spots and blotches; 5 irregular, oblique, dark brown bars (more or less interrupted by pale spots) often visible on body; fins with scattered small black spots. On preserved fish the blackish spots are conspicuous against the drab background.


E. malabaricus is known from the Red Sea and Indo-Pacific area (South Africa to Japan, Australia, Palau, Yap and Fiji). It occurs in continental and insular localities: Gulf of Aqaba, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Zanzibar, Tanzania, Mozambique, Oman, Madagascar, Comoros, Seychelles, India, Sri Lanka, Andaman Islands, Indonesia, Singapore, Philippines, Taiwan, China, Papua New Guinea, New Ireland, Caroline Islands, New Caledonia, and Tonga. In Australia, it occurs from the Northern Territory to New South Wales. It is not known from the Persian Gulf, where the closely related E. coioides is common. E. malabaricus was reported from the Mediterranean coast of Israel by Randall and Ben-Tuvia (1983), based on the record of “Epinephelus tauvina” by Ben-Tuvia and Lourie (1969); but their “E. tauvina” were said to have “Head and body covered with bright orange spots more or less regularly dispersed...” which would rule out E. malabaricus. The specimen in question, which is now deposited at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, was recently reexamined by P. C. Heemstra and identified as E. coioides, which does have orange or reddish brown spots, is very similar to E. malabaricus, and has recently been reported from the Mediterranean (Heemstra, 1991). Although the original record of “E. malabaricus” in the Mediterranean (Randall and Ben-Tuvia, 1983), was based on E. coioides (which Randall and Ben-Tuvia (1983) confused with E. malabaricus), Heemstra and Randall (1993) have recently examined a specimen of E. malabaricus (deposited at the Hebrew University in Jerusalam) that was collected at Nahariya on the Mediterranean coast of Israel in June 1966. Heemstra and Randall (1993) also saw a live specimen that was collected in Haifa Bay and is presently residing at the National Center for Mariculture in Eilat.


E. malabaricus is a common species that is found in a variety of habitats: coral and rocky reefs, tidepools, estuaries, mangrove swamps and sandy/mud bottom from shore to depths of 150 m. It feeds equally on fishes and crustaceans and occasionally on octopuses. No information is available on age and growth of this species.


Tan et al. (1982) illustrated a 97.4 cm standard length specimen (= 115 cm total length). Attains at least 25 kg. The maximum size is uncertain because of confusion with other species of large groupers.

Interchangeable taxa

Morgans (1966) distinguished E. malabaricus from E. coioides and E. tauvina, but he used the wrong names for these species: his “E. tauvina” is E. malabaricus; he described E. tauvina as a new species, E. chewa; and he identified E. coioides as "E. malabaricus."”He also appears to have mistaken large (greater than 150 cm total length) specimens of E. lanceolatus for E. malabaricus (which he identified as his “big drab” stage of “E. tauvina”). Differences between E. malabaricus, E. coioides, and E. tauvina are as follow:

Spots on head and body:
E. coioides - orange or reddish brown, no white spots or blotches
E. malabaricus - dark brown or black; also with irregular white spots and blotches
E. tauvina - dull orange-red to dark brown, also with small faint white spots and blotches

Midlateral-body scales:
E. coioides - ctenoid (rough)
E. malabaricus - ctenoid (rough)
E. tauvina - smooth on fish 30-60 cm SL

Head length:
E. coioides - 2.3-2.6 times in standard length
E. malabaricus - 2.3-2.6 times in standard length
E. tauvina - 2.1-2.3 times in standard length

Interorbital width:
E. coioides - 5.0-6.2 times in head length
E.malabaricus - 4.5-6.5 times in head length
E. tauvina - 6.8-8.1 times in head length

Upper jaw length:
E. coioides - 17-20% of standard length
E. malabaricus - 17-22% of standard length
E. tauvina - 21-24% of standard length

Maxilla width:
E. coioides - 4.2-5.5% of standard length
E. malabaricus - 3.9-5.3% of standard length
E. tauvina - 5.4-6.5% of standard length

Upper jaw snout length:
E. coioides - 1.8-1.9
E. malabaricus - 1.7-2.0
E. tauvina - 2.0-2.4

Upper jaw interorbital width:
E. coioides - 2.1-3.2
E. malabaricus - 2.1-3.0
E. tauvina - 3.1-4.0

Lower-limb gill rakers:
E. coioides - 14-17
E. malabaricus - 14-18
E. tauvina - 17-20

Lateral-line scales:
E. coioides - 58-65
E. malabaricus - 54-64
E. tauvina - 63-74

Pyloric caeca:
E. coioides - 50-60
E. malabaricus - more than 80 branches
E. tauvina - 16-18

Bony platelets on lateral side of first gill arch:
E. coioides - present
E. malabaricus - present
E. tauvina - absent

Preopercle shape:
E. coioides - angular
E. malabaricus - angular
E. tauvina - broadly rounded


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 [6439]

Froese R., Pauly D. (eds.): FishBase []
CZ AQUATAB. World Wide Web electronic publication [species/8491]

Plíštil J. (Ed.) (2009): AQUATAB. World Wide Web electronic publication [] [as Epinephelus malabaricus (Bloch & Schneider, 1801)]
Data retrieved on: 17 January 2010
EN IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2018-1 [61338]

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species [] [as Epinephelus malabaricus (Bloch & Schneider, 1801)]
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 Epinephelus malabaricus (Bloch & Schneider, 1801)]
Data retrieved on: 19 August 2019

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