Looking for one or two very large and colorful fish for your huge saltwater tank?  Look no further, the Coral Hind is the saltwater counterpart of Oscar Cichlids!

The Coral Hind is a large, deep bodied fish, which has an orange-red to red-brown body covered with small, bright, blue spots.  Some specimens do not have the blue spots on their pectoral fins.  The tailfin is rounded, and their pelvic fins are short.  Juveniles are orange with less numerous blue spots.  Coral Hinds have small eyes that are mounted near the top of the head, which is typical for predatorial fish.  They can reach 17” (44 cm) and groupers are known to live from 9 to 37 in the wild, possibly longer in captivity with proper care.   They are a great beginner’s fish with the correct tank size.

The Cephalopholis genus, commonly referred to as “Hinds,” contain smaller species of groupers which are more appropriate for home aquariums.  They range in size from around 9” to 22.5,” and at least 8 of these species range from 9 to 11.8.”  The Coral Hind, sometimes referred to as the Miniata Grouper, can be confused with the Vermillion Hind, which has spots that are less dense in number and only grows to 11.8.”  The coolest behavior observed by the Coral Hind, observed in the Red Sea, is how it will follow octopuses and Gray Morays who are foraging for food.  If one of them flushes out a prey fish, the Coral Hind will get a free dinner!  Coral Hinds will rest on the ocean floor among corals, or hide between rocks until an unwary fish or crustacean wanders by, then… BAM!  Dinner is served!     

The first challenge an aquarist faces when keeping a Coral Hind is the large tank size, which is necessary for these large fish.  The second challenge would be filtration, since groupers are big eaters and produce copious amounts of waste, requiring a good quality oversized skimmer and two canister filters like Eheim or Fluval.  The canister filters should be cleaned twice as often as the directions suggest in order to keep them working effectively.  The third and final challenge are the tank mates that can be kept with this large fish.  A slender fish and even eels that are the same length as your Coral Hind will be consumed.  How, you ask?  As the Peacock Grouper ingests a long and narrow tank mate, the prey fish/eel coils up in it’s belly.  Think….spaghetti!     

The Coral Hind can be kept with other hinds and groupers that have different colors and patterns.  Due to their aggression, keep one Coral Hind per tank.  They will eat any fish they can get in their mouths.  At times, they will try to eat a fish they can’t quite get down their throat, then the aquarist will have to lend a hand to extract the unfortunate tank mate.  Other tank mates are safer if they are deep bodied and over 1/3 the size of the adult Coral Hind.  Large angelfish, soapfish, larger triggerfish, large butterflyfish, pufferfish, adult Lionfish or other similarly sized and similarly aggressive tank mates are okay.  If attempting to keep with cleaner shrimp from the Lysmata or Stenopus genus, add them first.  Groupers may still possibly eat these shrimp and cleaner wrasses if they are not well fed.  Coral Hinds need to be the last fish added to an aggressive community tank.    

The aquarium should be at least 100 gallons, though 180 gallons is probably more reasonable.  The configuration of the tank can be shallow or deep, reef or fish only.  Provide at least two areas in which the Coral Hind can hide at night, more if there are other groupers, since each will defend their hiding places.  Arrange rock so they cannot see each other.  Well arranged live rock work will help them to adjust and will help provide the biological filtration which needs to be aided by a strong skimmer and two efficient canister filters.  Water movement and light are not as important as offering them a varied diet of crustacean flesh when young, and varied diets of fish flesh when they are adults.  Feed them several times a day as very small juveniles, then once a day as adolescents, and only 2 to 3 times a week to satiety as adults.  They prefer to hide under ledges and in caves, but will sit at the bottom of the tank near their hideout as they become more comfortable.  

Scientific Classification


Miniatus Grouper – Quick Aquarium Care

Aquarist Experience Level:Beginner
Aquarium Hardiness: Very Hardy
Minimum Tank Size:100 gal (379 L)
Size of fish – inches: 16.0 inches (40.64 cm)
Temperament:Large Aggressive – Predatory
Temperature: 72.0 to 82.0° F (22.2 to 27.8&deg C)
Range ph:8.0-8.4
Diet Type:Carnivore
miniatus grouper
Image Credit: antos777, Shutterstock

Habitat: Distribution / Background

The Coral Hind, Cephalopholis miniata, was first described by Forsskal in 1775.  The common names and various spellings this fish is known by are Coral Hind, Coral Grouper, Miniatus Grouper, Miniata Grouper, Coral Cod, Blue-spot Rock Cod, Blue-Spotted Rockcod, Coral Rockcod, Coral Trout, Grouper, Red Coral Perch, Red Grouper, Reef Cod, Round-Tailed Trout, Seabass, Vermillion Grouper, Vermillion Seabass, and Vermillion Sea Bass.   Though the Australians refer to them as “cods” or “rock-cods,” they have no relation to cold water cods that are commonly eaten from the Gadidae family that we find in our local grocery stores.  So far, there are 22 species in the Cephalopholis genus, and this particular genus is referred to as the “Hinds” by some.

Distribution – Habitat:

The Coral Hind is found in the Indo-Pacific from the Red Sea to Durban, South Africa, then east to the Line Islands and most island groups in the Indian Ocean and West-Central Pacific Oceans.  They are found in southern Japan and then south to Lord Howe Island.  They prefer clear waters within coral reefs that are exposed and are found at depths from 7 to 492 feet (2 to 150 m), although they are most commonly found at 56 to 108 feet (17 to 33 m).  In the wild, Coral Hinds feed mostly on Lyretail Anthias (Pseudanthias squamipinnis), but will also eat Tobies (Canthigaster margaritata), Cardinalfish (Apogon), Blue Green Chromis (Chromis viridis), sweepers, tangs and Stenophus sp. shrimp, crabs, mantis shrimp, cephalopods and prawns.  Coral Hinds in the Red Sea hunt with Gray Morays (Siderea grisea) and octopuses who are foraging for food.  Juveniles will eat small fish and benthic crustaceans. Similar to others in this genus, juveniles probably prefer hiding deep within dense coral thickets.  

As adults, Coral Hinds are in harems that consist of one male and 2 to 12 females. These harems will cover 475 square miles which are divided into secondary territories and defended by a female.   Coral hinds will viciously defend their territory.  They will first perform lateral displays. open their huge mouths and them push their opponent.  Next, they will start to chase and nip until the other fish is driven out of their territory.  If a rival grouper wants to fight, both fish will face each other and lock jaws for up to 5 minutes!  The loser, typically the weaker fish, will then swim away. 

The Coral Hind is listed as Least Concerned on the IUCN Red List for Endangered Species, with a decreasing population. 

Similar Species:

  • Vermillion Hind (Cephalopholis oligosticta) – This grouper is smaller, reaching only 11.8” and has fewer spots than the Coral Hind. 
  • Scientific Name: Cephalopholis miniata
  • Social Grouping: Solitary – Although they can be found in harems in the wild, only one Coral Hind per aquarium.
  • IUCN Red List: LC – Least Concern – With decreasing population trend.


The Coral Hind is a very deep bodied fish, with an orangish red to reddish brown body with blue spots all over the body and fins.  The tailfin is rounded, pectoral fins are orangish yellow and may or may not have the blue spots.  The pelvic fins are short and orangish red like the body.  Coral Hinds have small eyes that are mounted near the top of the head, which is typical for predatorial fish.  An adult will take on a mottled appearance that is a mix of bright red and orange (juvenile coloring) when hunting or interacting with other hinds.  

Juveniles are orange with more space between their blue spots. They can reach 16” (41 cm) and groupers are known to live from 9 to 37 in the wild, possibly longer in captivity with proper care. 

  • Size of fish – inches: 16.0 inches (40.64 cm) – 16” (41cm)
  • Lifespan: 37 years – Groupers are known to live 9 to 37 years in the wild.

Fish Keeping Difficulty

Coral Hinds are easy to care for as long as their needs are met.  Provide them with a tank that is at least 100 gallons and several hiding places within the live rock.  Some websites suggest the tank needs to be 180 gallons, and this is not out of the question, especially if you are considering more than one grouper.  These large fish produce a lot of waste and higher water volume will help keep up the water quality.  A 15” grouper is a much bigger fish and needs more water volume than a 15” wrasse.   Once full grown, they will require at least 2 hiding places, which they will defend.  The tank should have a heavy duty skimmer and two external canister filters that are cleaned often, due to the large amount of waste this fish produces.  Although some individuals may need live foods to elicit a feeding response, aquarists can easily switch them over to prepared foods.  Feeding groupers fresh water fish will cause health issues if continued for too long.  Do not house them with other Coral Hinds, although they will be fine with other groupers as long as the tank is large enough.  Arrange the live rock in a way that two groupers cannot see each other, which will help with aggression.

  • Aquarium Hardiness: Very Hardy
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Beginner – Aquarist needs a tank that is 100 to 180 gallons.
miniatus grouper fish
Image Credit: Fotokon, Shutterstock

Foods and Feeding

The Coral Hind is a carnivore.  They will eat any meaty foods and as juveniles they will even eat flake food.  If an individual will not eat, offer feeder fish or ghost shrimp.  Once they are eating, quickly switch over to prepared foods such as freeze dried or frozen krill, mysid shrimp and pellets for carnivores.  Also offer a varied diet of raw crustacean and fish flesh which can be obtained from the grocery store.  Feed very small juveniles (who eat 30% of their body weight a day) several times a day, average sized juveniles twice a day, adolescents once a day and eventually feed adults 2 to 3 times a week until full.  Higher temperatures will make for a hungrier grouper.

  • Diet Type: Carnivore
  • Flake Food: Yes – Juveniles will sometimes eat flake food for carnivores.
  • Tablet / Pellet: Occasionally – Sinking pellets for carnivores
  • Live foods (fishes, shrimps, worms): Some of Diet – Live ghost shrimp or feeder shrimp to get a new grouper to start feeding.
  • Meaty Food: All of Diet
  • Feeding Frequency: Daily – Juveniles several times a day, adolescents once a day and adults 2 to 3 times a week until full.

Aquarium Care

Groupers are hardy and fairly easy to keep, although they do need good filtration.  Live rock and a strong skimmer are a start.  Two good canister filters like Eheim that can be cleaned regularly, not every 3 or 4 months but bi-weekly to monthly to stay effective. They do well when provided good water conditions and a well maintained tank. Guidelines for water changes with different types and sizes of aquariums are:

  • Fish only tanks:
    • Large Tanks 100 gallons and over, once water is aged and stable can be changed 20% to 30% every 6 weeks depending on bioload.
  • Reef tanks:
    • Large Tanks 100 gallons and over, once water is aged and stable can be changed 10% bi-weekly to 20% monthly, depending on bioload.

For more information on maintaining a saltwater aquarium see: Saltwater Aquarium Basics: Maintenance. A reef tank will require specialized filtration and lighting equipment. Learn more about reef keeping see: Mini Reef Aquarium Basics.

  • Water Changes: Bi-weekly – Standard maintenance is bi-weekly water changes of 15% every 2 weeks or 30% a month. If there are corals in the tank then 5% weekly to 15% every 2 weeks, depending on the tank size.
  • Water Changes: Bi-weekly

Aquarium Setup

In a 100 gallon tank (378 liters), arrange live rock, forming several places like overhangs and caves for the Coral Hind to hide, especially if the fish is a juvenile.  As the fish grows, resize their hiding places, and as an adult, provide at least two places for them to hide.  Each grouper in the tank will need 2 places to hide to help tone down aggression.  Also, arrange live rock so the two groupers cannot see each other. The Coral Hind is not picky about substrate or lighting.  Keep the water at a stable temperature, which can be 72˚F to 82˚F (22˚ to 28˚C) .  Normal seawater salinity around 1.023 and normal pH between 8.0 to 8.4 is preferred.  Groupers have spawned in captivity in very large outdoor saltwater ponds.  They may be induced to spawn indoors if they are conditioned with more feedings, then the temperature is raised 2˚F, and there is a longer daylight period.  Of course, the tank would probably need to be hundreds of gallons.  Coral Hinds prefer the bottom of the tank near their hideout.

  • Minimum Tank Size: 100 gal (379 L) – 100 gallons (378 liters) Some websites suggest 180 gallon tanks.
  • Suitable for Nano Tank: No
  • Live Rock Requirement: Typical Plus Hiding Places
  • Substrate Type: Any
  • Lighting Needs: Any
  • Temperature: 72.0 to 82.0° F (22.2 to 27.8&deg C) – 72˚ F (22˚ C) 82˚ F (28˚ C)
  • Breeding Temperature: – Raise temperature 2˚F and feed heavily to induce spawning.
  • Specific gravity: 1.023-1.025 SG
  • Range ph: 8.0-8.4
  • Brackish: No
  • Water Movement: Any
  • Water Region: Bottom – They tend to stay on the bottom near their hiding/sleeping spots.

Social Behaviors

Coral Hinds, although found in harems in the wild, are best kept singly in a captive environment.  In very large 500 to 1000 gallon systems, outside saltwater ponds or public aquariums, a few females can be kept with a male.  Other groupers can be kept with the Coral Hind, as long as they are a different coloring and there are 2 places to hide for each grouper.  With more than one grouper, the aquarium should be 180 gallons or more since they are very territorial.  Also, arrange the live rock to provide barriers where their vision of each other is blocked from their normal hangout.

Most other fish will be eaten.  Long, thin fish or even eels that are the same 17” length as the Coral Hind will be easily consumed, since the prey fish coils up in the stomach of the grouper!   Even larger wrasses are usually consumed due to their more narrow bodies.  Keep Coral Hinds with fish of similar size if they are not as deep bodied, such as tangs and triggerfish who should be at least 13” long and fish who are deep bodied like butterflyfish and angelfish who are at least 7” long.  Full grown large lionfish, soapfish, large angelfish, large butterflyfish, larger adult tangs species and larger triggerfish species are usually ignored.  The only time the Coral Hind becomes a threat, is if it is full grown and these other fish are not, and they fit in their mouth!  Keeping your grouper well fed will keep them from attempting to eat other fish.  It has been noted that a zealous grouper may attempt to eat a larger fish than it can handle if it is very hungry, causing the fish to be stuck in the mouth of the grouper.  This will require intervention by the aquarist to remove the lodged fish.  Add the Coral Hind as the last fish into an aggressive reef or fish only tank.  Coral Hinds will occasionally eat a cleaner wrasse like the Bluestreak Cleaner Wrasse (Labroides dimidiatus) and the Fourline Cleaner (Larabicus quadrilineatus).

Coral Hinds will not bother corals, and juveniles will hide within their branches.  Due to their size, they may knock a coral over, so secure any corals firmly to the rock.  If the coral needs very clean water, you may not want to buy it, since these large fish foul up the water rather quickly.  Figure out what kind of water quality you can maintain and only buy corals that are not picky.

Starfish are safe, but snails, shrimp, and crabs will be eaten.  If you want to keep the cleaner shrimp that are often found cleaning the grouper, such as the Lysmata species or the Stenopus species, add the shrimp first and make sure the fish is well fed.  A hungry Coral Hind may eat the shrimp! 

  • Venomous: No
  • Temperament: Large Aggressive – Predatory
  • Compatible with:
    • Same species – conspecifics: No
    • Peaceful fish (gobies, dartfish, assessors, fairy wrasses): Threat
    • Semi-Aggressive (anthias, clownfish, dwarf angels): Threat
    • Threat
    • Large Semi-Aggressive (tangs, large angels, large wrasses): Monitor – Only tangs and triggerfish should be 13,” and large angelfish and butterfly fish should be 7″ No wrasses since they are narrow and will be consumed.

    • Large Aggressive, Predatory (lionfish, groupers, soapfish): Safe
    • Threat
    • Anemones: Monitor – Water quality must be kept up to keep these creatures healthy.
    • Mushroom Anemones – Corallimorphs: Monitor – Water quality must be kept up to keep these creatures healthy.
    • LPS corals: Monitor – Water quality must be kept up to keep these creatures healthy.
    • SPS corals: Threat – Water quality must be excellent for these corals.
    • Gorgonians, Sea Fans: Monitor – Water quality should be monitored.
    • Leather Corals: Monitor – Water quality should be monitored.
    • Soft Corals (xenias, tree corals): Monitor – Water quality should be monitored.
    • Star Polyps, Organ Pipe Coral: Monitor – Water quality should be monitored.
    • Zoanthids – Button Polyps, Sea Mats: Monitor – Water quality should be monitored.
    • Sponges, Tunicates: Monitor – Water quality should be monitored.
    • Shrimps, Crabs, Snails: Threat
    • Starfish: Safe
    • Feather Dusters, Bristle Worms, Flatworms: Safe
    • Clams, Scallops, Oysters: Monitor – Water quality must be kept up to keep these creatures healthy.
    • Copepods, Amphipods, Mini Brittle Stars: Safe

Sexual differences

Males are larger than females.

Breeding / Reproduction

The Coral Hinds are born female and some become males.  This orientation is called protogynous hermaphrodites.  Unlike clownfish, hawkfish and many others, many females do not change to male just because the alpha male of the group dies or leaves.  Age, not size determines when sex change occurs.  They are found in harems of one male and up to six females, with the male’s territory encompassing all the territories of the females.  When spawning, the male and four or five females will darken the coloring of their bodies, and a white keyhole-shaped mark will appear on both sides of the body. This starts at dusk, with a peak in spawning happening at the new or full moon.  Males will spawn with each of the four or five females in the same night, with both releasing their gametes into the water column.  The eggs are spherical and can number from several thousand to over a million eggs depending on the size of the female.

Groupers have been known to spawn in captivity, although there is not much information as to whether they are being purposely aqua-cultured. 

  • Ease of Breeding: Moderate

Fish Diseases

Typically groupers are extremely hardy, but do tend to come in with multiple parasites.  A culture was done on wild-caught groupers and there were 11 to 16 different species of parasites found on their bodies, including nematodes and cryptocaryon.  Quarantining a grouper is absolutely necessary.  Happily, the grouper will respond to treatments for any parasites they are carrying.   

The most easily cured parasite is Crypt (salt water Ich), but they are all treatable if caught in a timely manner. Marine Velvet is a parasitic skin flagellate and one of the most common maladies experienced in the marine aquarium.  It is a fast moving that primarily it infects the gills.  Then there is Brooklynella, which kills within 30 hours, however, an even nastier killer is Uronema, which will kill fish overnight!   Uronema is often contracted when the aquarist doesn’t lower their salinity to the proper level of 1.009.  The Uronema parasite thrives in mid-level brackish water salinity, which is a specific gravity of around 1.013 to 1.020.  Treat for any illness at a normal salinity with a specific gravity of about 1.023 if the fish cannot handle low salinity, otherwise, lower the salinity to exactly 1.009, no less, no more.  Quick Cure and other 37% Formalin products will work perfectly well in both salinity ranges, but the lower 1.009 will help with the oxygen level. The amount of oxygen in the water increase as the salinity level is reduced.   

Anything you add to your tank from another system that has not been properly cleaned or quarantined, including live rock, corals, equipment and fish can introduce diseases.  A few other ways to proactively prevent disease are to provide quality foods, clean good quality water, and proper tank mates. 


Coral Hinds are sometimes available online and can be pricey.



Featured Image Credit: Cierva coral (Cephalopholis miniata) (Image Credit: Diego Delso, Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 4.0 International