Highfin Grouper, Epinephelus maculatus (Bloch 1790)

Other Names: Blackfin Cod, Bloch's Rockcod, Brown-spotted Rock-cod, Marbled Rock Cod, Marbled Rockcod, Marbled Rock-cod, Spotted Rockcod, Spotty Cod, Trout Cod

A Highfin Grouper, Epinephelus maculatus, at Kwajalein Atoll, Marshall Islands. Source: Jeanette Johnson / FishBase. License: CC BY Attribution-Noncommercial

A grouper with evenly-spaced brown spots that form hexagonal shapes on adults usually between 25 to 45 cm in length, and very long anterior spines in the dorsal fin (spines about 50% taller than those of other species at all sizes). Small juveniles are black with white blotches, becoming more spotted with age.

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2022, Epinephelus maculatus in Fishes of Australia, accessed 15 Jul 2024, https://fishesofaustralia.net.au/Home/species/4674

Highfin Grouper, Epinephelus maculatus (Bloch 1790)

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Offshore reefs of Western Australia, and Ashmore Reef, Timor Sea, and the northern Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, to at least Sydney, New South Wales; also Cocos (Keeling) Islands in the eastern Indian Ocean, and the Lord Howe Province in the Tasman Sea. Elsewhere the species occurs in the tropical, east-Indo-west-central Pacific, from the Cocos (Keeling) Islands to Samoa, north to southern Japan, south to New Caledonia - including north of the Northern Territory just outside Australia's territorial waters.


Dorsal fin II, 15-17; anal fin III, 8.
Greatest body depth 2.7-3.1 in SL; head length 2.4-2.6 times in SL; interorbital area flattened to slightly convex, dorsal head profile convex; posterior and anterior nostrils subequal; maxilla reaching to or beyond vertical at rear edge of eye, ventral edge with blunt hook-like process distally in fish larger than 35 cm SL; midlateral part of lower jaw with two rows of teeth; preopercle with shallow indentation just above the enlarged serrae at angle; operculum with straight or slightly convex upper edge.
Body scales ctenoid; auxiliary scales present on body.
Caudal fin rounded; pelvic fins 1.7-2.0 in head length.


Body with evenly distributed brown spots; spots packed into hexagonal shapes on adults usually between 25 to 45 cm in length); front portion of spinous dorsal fin about 50% taller than on other species at all sizes; small juveniles black with white blotches, becoming more spotted with age.


Feeds mostly on small fishes, crabs, and octopuses.


The specific name is from the Latin maculatus (= spotted), in reference to the network of spots on the head and body.

Species Citation

Holocentrus maculatus Bloch 1790, Naturgeschichte der ausländischen Fische 4: 96. Type locality: East Indies.


Bray, D.J. 2022


Atlas of Living Australia

Highfin Grouper, Epinephelus maculatus (Bloch 1790)


Allen, G.R. 1997. Marine Fishes of Tropical Australia and South-east Asia. Perth : Western Australian Museum 292 pp. 106 pls. 

Allen, G.R. & Erdmann, M.V. 2012. Reef fishes of the East Indies. Perth : Tropical Reef Research 3 vols, 1260 pp.

Allen, G.R., Hoese, D.F., Paxton, J.R., Randall, J.E., Russell, B.C., Starck, W.A., Talbot, F.H. & Whitley, G.P. 1976. Annotated checklist of the fishes of Lord Howe Island. Records of the Australian Museum 30(15): 365-454 figs 1-2 

Allen, G.R. & Smith-Vaniz, W.F. 1994. Fishes of Cocos (Keeling) Islands. Atoll Research Bulletin 412: 1-21 

Bloch, M.E. 1790. Naturgeschichte der ausländischen Fische. Berlin : J. Morino Vol. 4 128 pp. pls 217-252. 

Choat, J.H., Kulbicki, M. & Sadovy, Y. 2008. Epinephelus maculatus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2008: e.T132723A3433096. http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2008.RLTS.T132723A3433096.en. Downloaded on 11 August 2018.

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Francis, M. 1993. Checklist of the coastal fishes of Lord Howe, Norfolk, and Kermadec Islands, southwest Pacific Ocean. Pacific Science 47(2): 136-170 figs 1-2 

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Grant, E.M. 2002. Guide to Fishes. Redcliffe : EM Grant Pty Ltd 880 pp. 

Günther, A. 1873. Andrew Garrett's Fische der Südsee, Heft I. Journal des Museum Godeffroy, Hamburg 2(3): 1-24 pls 1-20 (as Serranus medurensis)

Heemstra, P.C. & Randall, J.E. 1993. Groupers of the World (Family Serranidae, Subfamily Epinephelinae). An annotated and illustrated catalogue of grouper, rockcod, hind, coral grouper and lyretail species known to date. FAO Fisheries Synopsis No. 125 Vol. 16. Rome: FAO. pp. 1-382 

Heemstra, P.C. & Randall, J.E. 1999. Family Serranidae. pp. 2442-2548 in Carpenter, K.E. & Niem, T.H. (eds). The Living Marine Resources of the Western Central Pacific. FAO Species Identification Guide for Fisheries Purposes. Rome : FAO Vol. 4 pp. 2069-2790. 

Hutchins, J.B. 2001. Biodiversity of shallow reef fish assemblages in Western Australia using a rapid censusing technique. Records of the Western Australian Museum 20: 247-270 

Johnson, J.W. 1999. Annotated checklist of the fishes of Moreton Bay, Queensland, Australia. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum 43(2): 709-762.

Johnson, J.W. 2010. Fishes of the Moreton Bay Marine Park and adjacent continental shelf waters, Queensland, Australia. pp. 299-353 in Davie, P.J.F. & Phillips, J.A. Proceedings of the Thirteenth International Marine Biological Workshop, The Marine Fauna and Flora of Moreton Bay. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum 54(3) 

Kuiter, R.H. 1992. Tropical Reef-Fishes of the Western Pacific, Indonesia and Adjacent Waters. Jakarta : PT Gramedia Pustaka Utama 314 pp. pls. 

Kuiter, R.H. 1993. Coastal Fishes of South-eastern Australia. Bathurst : Crawford House Press 437 pp. 

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Randall, J.E. 2005. Reef and shore fishes of the South Pacific. New Caledonia to Tahiti and the Pitcairn Islands. Honolulu : University of Hawaii Press 707 pp. 

Randall, J.E., Allen, G.R. & Steene, R. 1990. Fishes of the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea. Bathurst : Crawford House Press 507 pp. figs. 

Randall, J.E., Allen, G.R. & Steene, R. 1997. Fishes of the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea. Bathurst : Crawford House Press 557 pp. figs. 

Randall, J.E. & Heemstra, P.C. 1991. Revision of Indo-Pacific groupers (Perciformes: Serranidae: Epinephelinae), with descriptions of five new species. Indo-Pacific Fishes 20: 1-332 

Rhodes, K.L., Taylor, B.M., Hernandez‐Ortiz, D. & Cuetos‐Bueno, J. 2016. Growth and reproduction of the highfin grouper Epinephelus maculatus. Journal of Fish Biology 88: 1856-1869. https://doi.org/10.1111/jfb.12953 Abstract

Russell, B.C. 1983. Annotated checklist of the coral reef fishes in the Capricorn-Bunker group, Great Barrier Reef, Australia. Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. Special Publication Series 1: 1-184 figs 1-2 

Sainsbury, K.J., Kailola, P.J. & Leyland, G.G. 1984. Continental Shelf Fishes of Northern and North-Western Australia. Canberra : Fisheries Information Service 375 pp. figs & pls.

Unsworth, R. & Cullen-Unsworth, L. 2012. An inter-specific behavioural association between a highfin grouper (Epinephelus maculatus) and a reef octopus (Octopus cyanea). Marine Biodiversity Records, 5: E97. https://doi.org/10.1017/S1755267212000735

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37311011


Conservation:IUCN Least Concern

Depth:1-100 m

Habitat:Reef associated

Max Size:60.5 cm TL

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CAAB distribution map