It can be expected that when your name has the word goliath in the title, you have massive expectations to live up to. The goliath grouper does not disappoint as it grows to be over 8 feet long and weighs in at 800 pounds during its 40 year lifespan. The goliath grouper is one of 159 species of groupers and remains the largest grouper in the Atlantic.

goliath grouper
Goliath grouper can weigh more than 800 pounds.

These massive fish have a few funky traits about them. For one, they undergo a sex change as they mature. The groupers start off as female, then become a male later in their life. Scientist believe that this transformation occurs once the female has reached a certain sexual maturity, so they switch from growing eggs to fertilizing them. This is a major advantage for the reproduction cycle as it leaves the energy-consuming task of growing eggs to the younger, healthier, and stronger female fish. 

The goliath grouper can be found living along the coast of Florida, through the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico, as well as the eastern part of the Atlantic. However, you can check them out up-close and personal in the Blue Hole exhibit located on the second floor of the Aquarium. Despite its massive size, goliath groupers find much comfort being in tight quarters that allow them to be in touch with the walls, which makes this exhibit a perfect fit.

Goliath Grouper at the Aquarium

Blue hole cave formations in the wild, in which grouper spend most of their time, were once above water but then became submerged over time. They provide groupers a fantastic spot for ambushing prey such as shrimp, fish, octopus, spiny lobsters, and young sea turtles. But don’t be fooled, although these animals would rather sit in a blue hole for a majority of their days, they are also one of the top-level predatory fish on many coral reefs. 

Unfortunately, the destruction of mangrove nursery habitats, overfishing, and increased human activity along the coast lines have threatened this grouper species. For example, since groupers reproduce at a very slow rate, the practice of overfishing in our waters and removing the largest and most valuable groupers from the reproduction process led to rapid declines in their species. It’s estimated that the species has declined by 80% in just 40 years. They are now considered a critically endangered species. How can we save them? It can start with something as simple as eating sustainable seafood. Make sure you make a pit-stop on the second level of the Aquarium to see and learn more about the massive goliath grouper!