Black Rockcod, Epinephelus daemelii (Günther 1876)

Other Names: Black Cod, Black Rock Cod, Saddled Cod, Saddled Rock-cod, Saddletail Cod, Saddletail Grouper, Saddle-tailed grouper, Southern Rockcod, Spotted Black Grouper

Black Rockcod, Epinephelus daemelii. Source: Dave Harasti / License: All rights reserved


A large cod with a variable colour pattern ranging from uniform dark greyish-black, to a blotched or banded pattern. Juveniles and subadults have a black blotch or 'saddle' on the upper tail base and 5 dark diagonal greyish to black bands that fade with growth. Individuals in clear waters tend to be banded, whereas those in estuaries are usually darker.

Once widespread along the New South Wales coast, Black Rockcod populations declined from the 1950s until the later 1970s due to heavy targeting by spearfishers.

Great video of Black Rockcod in the Port Stephens-Great Lakes Marine Park.

Video of Black Rockcod in New South Wales.

Video of young black cod in rock pools along the coast, including Port Stephens in New South Wales – home to the state’s largest population.

Video of a Black Rockcod at Fish Rock, South West Rocks, New South Wales.

Video of two large Black Rockcods (aka Spotted Black Grouper) at West Macauley Island, Kermadec Islands, New Zealand.

Large Black Rockcods (aka Spotted Black Grouper) in the Kermadec Islands.

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2020, Epinephelus daemelii in Fishes of Australia, accessed 23 Jul 2024,

Black Rockcod, Epinephelus daemelii (Günther 1876)

More Info


Found in warm temperate to temperate waters of south-eastern Australia, from southern Queensland to Mallacoota, Victoria (rarely further westwards), Tasman Sea islands and seamounts – Norfolk Island, Elizabeth and Middleton Reefs, Lord Howe Island, to New Zealand – the Kermadec Islands, the North Island and the Poor Knights Islands. Depth range 1-50 m.

Inhabits caves, gutters and crevices usually to depths of 50 m, although individuals have been collected from below 100 m. Juveniles are found inshore, often in coastal rockpools and estuaries.

Black Rockcod are very territorial and individuals have relatively small home ranges. Smaller individuals are regularly seen in caves and gutters around Lord Howe Island.


Large individuals over a length of 50 cm have distinct canine teeth on both sides of the upper and lower jaws. 


Grows to about 1.6 m and a weight of 81 kg in Australian waters, and to about 2 m in New Zealand.


Highly variable in colour, and able to rapidly change from a uniform dark greyish-black to a blotched or banded pattern. Young fish usually have a distinct black spot or saddle on the upper tail base, and five sloping greyish to black bars which break up and fade towards the belly. Fish in estuaries are uniformly dark, whereas those on coastal reefs are usually banded.


Carnivore - adults feed on fishes, crustaceans and molluscs such as cuttlefish and octopus. Juveniles reportedly feed on crabs and small fishes.


Like many groupers (family Serranidae), the Black Rockcod is a protogynous hermaphrodite, meaning that individuals change sex from females to males during their life cycle. In New Zealand, females change sex at 100 to 110 cm in length.


Once common in New South Wales, including the Sydney region, the Black Rockcod was considered a valuable food fish. Declining numbers due to angling and spearfishing resulted in protection of the Black Rockcod. It is illegal to sell the species in New South Wales.


IUCN Red List: Near Threatened
EPBC Act 1999: Vulnerable
NSW: Vulnerable (NSW Fisheries Management Act 1994 - August 2013 list)

In the past, Black Rockcod were heavily targeted by anglers and spearfishers, resulting in the decline of this speciesand its 1983 protection in New South Wales waters. 
A recent study (Harasti & Malcolm 2013) found that numbers of Black Rockcod remain low despite being protected for about 30 years in New South Wales.
Roughley (1916) reported that “at one time it was fairly plentiful in the vicinity of Port Jackson, but has become very scarce in recent years, owing to the havoc wrought by fishermen…”


Black Rockcod are secretive and usually retreat into caves and crevices when approached. 

Similar Species


Species Citation

Serranus daemelii Günther, 1876, Ann. Mag. Nat. Hist. 4 17(43): 391. Type locality: Sydney, Australia.


Bray, D.J. 2020


Australian Faunal Directory

Black Rockcod, Epinephelus daemelii (Günther 1876)


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Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37311077


Conservation:EPBC Act Vulnerable; IUCN Near Threatened

Depth:3-50 m

Habitat:Reef associated

Max Size:200 cm TL; 68 kg

Species Image Gallery

Species Maps

CAAB distribution map