Goliath Grouper

By: Tom Harrah

Recently while out scuba diving to collect marine specimens for universities, the staff at GSML saw a goliath grouper. Our collectors don’t usually get to see many goliath grouper. It’s not that they are uncommon for divers to see but we don’t usually collect specimens in habitat where they are found. We were slowly making our way along a nice patch of sponge and gorgonian bottom in only 25 feet of water. There were 3 divers swimming in a row side by side about 10 to 20 feet apart. In my peripheral vision I saw the shape of a large fish. It was barely close enough to see the vague form of it. I swam toward it to see what it was. To my surprise it was a decent size goliath grouper! The grouper was about 300 to 400 pounds and 6 or 7 feet in length. I quickly swam back to get the attention of the other divers. We slowly swam back together so as not to spook the fish. The huge fish had two remoras also called shark suckers attached to its head. Each remora was about a foot in length.


Goliath grouper are a very impressive and pretty fish. They have a mottled color composed of dark shades that helps them to blend into their environment. It was surprising how well a fish this large blended into the sponge and gorgonian bottom that surrounded us. It would have been easy to pass it by without noticing. We were surprised to find this creature in only 25 feet of water and nowhere near any sort of structure type habitat. In all our years of diving in this particular spot we had never seen this species. Goliath grouper are known to open their mouth in a threat display if approached too closely. They will also produce a rumbling sound. This sound is produced by the muscular contraction of their swim bladder. In rare instances they have also been known to mock change. When mock charging they open their mouth and charge at a diver very quickly then back off. This is to let the diver know “You’re too close to me. You need to back off.” I would imagine experiencing a mock charge from one of these fish would just about cause you to have an accident in your wetsuit. The grouper that we saw did not do any of these displays. It simply slowly turned and swam away.

The goliath grouper is totally protected from harvest and listed as “critically endangered” by the World Conservation Union.” This grouper’s large size, slow rage of growth, slow reproductive rate and spawning behavior has made them susceptible to overfishing. If you would like to see a small goliath grouper for yourself come visit our aquarium and see our baby goliath on display. We’re trying to raise funds to set up new nice big display that will be his permanent home. We’re also currently having a contest on our Facebook page to name him. Drop by our Facebook page and enter your suggestion for our grouper’s name. He will be around for a long time and eventually be a really big impressive fish.

By: Tom Harrah
Gulf Specimen Marine
Lab and Aquarium Biologist/Diver/Collector/Marine Life Educational Programs/Sales P.O. Box 237/222 Clark Drive Panacea, FL 32346
(937) 478-4514 www.gulfspecimen.org