Black Grouper (Mycteroperca bonaci)

Black Grouper (Mycteroperca bonaci)

The black grouper is a fairly large and hard-fighting member of the Serranidae family. It is an excellent food fish, although the flesh is occasionally toxic and can cause ciguatera.


Depending on location, the black grouper may be olive, gray, or reddish-brown to black. It has black, almost rectangular blotches and brassy spots. It can pale or darken until its markings are hardly noticeable.

It has a thin, pale border on its pectoral fins, a wide black edge and a thin white margin on its tail, and sometimes a narrow orangish edge to the pectoral fin; the tips of the tail and the soft dorsal and anal fins are bluish or black. The black grouper has a squared-off tail and a gently rounded gill cover.


Regularly reaching 40 pounds, black grouper can grow to more than 100 pounds; the all-tackle world record is shared by two 114-pound fish, one from Texas and the other from Florida. The average length of the black grouper is 1.5 to 3 feet; the maximum is 4 feet.

Life history/Behavior

Black grouper spawn between May and August. As in many species of grouper, the young start out predominantly female, transforming into males as they grow larger.

Food and feeding habits

Adult black grouper feed mainly on fish and sometimes squid, and juveniles feed mainly on crustaceans.

Other Names

rockfish; Portuguese: badejo-ferro, badejoquadrado; Spanish: bonaci, cuna bonací, cuna guarei.


Black grouper occur from Bermuda and Massachusetts to southern Brazil, including the southern Gulf of Mexico, and occur commonly to occasionally in the Florida Keys, the Bahamas, and Cuba and throughout the Caribbean. Adults are unknown on the northeastern coast of the United States.


Black grouper are found away from shore, near rocky and coral reefs and dropoff walls in water more than 60 feet deep. Although black grouper typically drift just above the bottom, young fish may inhabit shallow water inshore, and adults occasionally frequent open water far above reefs.