American Oceans

How Long Do Goliath Grouper Live?

If you’re curious to know what the goliath grouper lifespan is, you’ve come to the right place! Groupers are heavy fish with big mouths that come from the Serranidae family. 

There are more than 160 different types of grouper in the world. You can find most of them in warmer waters. These fish can experience a sex reversal as they get older. Some groupers are born female but then change into males with age. 

In a few rare cases, groupers can simultaneously present as male and female!

Read on to learn some interesting info on the Atlantic’s biggest grouper fish, including an answer to the question “How long do Goliath grouper live?”

Average Lifespan of Goliath Grouper

Goliath groupers live rather long lives, and the average Goliath grouper lifespan might surprise you. 

Some scientists guess that Goliaths can live for 50 to 100 years in ideal conditions. The oldest recorded Goliath grouper lived to be 37 years old.

A Goliath named Cleatus was one of the oldest recorded groupers in captivity. Cleatus lived to be 30 years old at his home in The Florida Aquarium.  

A necropsy was performed after he passed. It ruled that advanced age was the cause of death. The age of any Goliath grouper can be found using annual growth rings located in its dorsal fin rays. 

About Goliath Grouper

Goliath groupers (Epinephelus itajara) are the largest grouper fish found in the western Atlantic. You’ll hear them referred to as giant sea bass, hamlets, black bass, and esonue groupers as well. 

These fish were once labeled “Jewfish” because legends claim that a Goliath grouper swallowed Jonah in the Old Testament parable. In 2001, The American Fisheries Society ruled to change the name to Goliath grouper. 

“Goliath” is a fitting name for the fish as they can grow to weigh 800 pounds and measure over 8 feet long. Before they reach maturity, young Goliath groupers face predators like moray eels, hammerhead sharks, barracuda, and king mackerel. 

Once they reach adulthood, their only predators are humans and large species of sharks

For most of their lives, Goliath groupers are solitary fish. They only interact with each other during spawning season. 

Spawning season lasts from June through October every year, though in the Gulf of Mexico it tends to happen from July to September. Goliath groupers are known to spawn during new moons. 

The giant fish gather in groups of 100 plus, and their fertilized eggs are scattered throughout the watery breeding ground. The eggs will eventually morph into kite-shaped larvae with dorsal fins. 

As babies, Goliath groupers measure around 2.5 centimeters. 

These gigantic groupers are known to prey on slow-moving fish and bottom feeders. They mostly subsist on fish and invertebrates for nourishment, but they are not known to hunt for quicker, free-swimming fish. 

Usually, Goliath groupers eat spiny lobsters, Calico crabs, octopus, shrimp, and small sea turtles. They also hunt for parrotfish, hardhead catfish, and stingrays. 

These groupers like to ambush their prey and catch it unawares before swallowing it whole. 

Though such occurrences are rare, the largest Goliath groupers have been known to stalk human divers in attempts to ambush them. 

Extreme caution should be exercised when these giants are encountered in the wild.  

Goliaths also “rumble” aggressively with their swim bladders when threatened. This rumble can travel several miles, so this underwater boom is used as a call to locate other Goliath groupers nearby. 

Where Do Goliath Grouper Live?

You can find Goliath grouper fish in a wide variety of regions including the waters around Florida, the Gulf of Mexico, the Bahamas, the Caribbean Sea, and as far south as Brazil. 

Goliath groupers can even be found as far away as the coasts of Senegal and the Democratic Republic of Congo. 

These giant fish are one of the rare groupers that can survive in brackish water habitats because they can tolerate the low oxygen levels. Goliath groupers have been observed living in habitats ranging from 3 feet deep to 328 feet deep. 

In rare cases, Goliath grouper can be found off the coasts of Maine and Massachusetts in the United States. 

It takes about 5 or 6 years for a Goliath grouper to reach sexual maturity. As juveniles, they usually occupy mangrove habitats. When they reach maturity, Goliath groupers tend to occupy limited home ranges. 

Many mature Goliath groupers prefer to live over coral reefs, shipwrecks, and rocky sea floors. They are known to be very territorial. 

What Do Goliath Grouper Look Like?

Aside from their massive size, you can recognize Goliath groupers by their wide bodies and broad heads. Their eyes are very small and sit high on top of their heads. 

Goliath groupers have two dorsal fins. Their spiny dorsal fin sits very low and is the smallest of the two fins. The fish’s fan-like tail is round in shape. 

Color patterns vary from fish to fish. They can be olive, brown, gray, or yellow. Goliath groupers have lots of small, dark spots on their head, body, and fins. 

Their lower jaws boast 3 to 5 rows of teeth, though they have no front canines whatsoever. 

Juvenile Goliaths are much smaller in size. They are brown, yellow, and orange colored with dark bands of blotchy, vertical lines on their sides.

Final Thoughts

The word grouper is derived from the Portuguese word garupa, which means backside, or rump. So, in essence, the Goliath grouper is a “big rump” fish.

Though its name is rather silly, these massive fish can be both awe-inspiring and intimidating when you encounter them face to face. 

Mostly Goliaths are peaceful and lazy fish, but they are wild animals, and you should respect them as such. Rightfully so, seeing as these groupers can live to ripe old ages indeed!

Now you can answer the question “How long do Goliath grouper live?” with confidence. 

If you ever encounter a Goliath grouper in real life, it might just be older than you!

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