Tag: Tomato Grouper (Cephalopholis sonnerati)

The Tomato Grouper (Cephalopholis sonnerati) is a shy and elusive member of the Grouper family with a preference for deeper locations such as Sail Rock, which hosts a small "resident" group of only two or three individuals who rarely seem to stray far from their territory at the South-East corner (although they have occasionally been seen at the East Pinnacle, this may have been a rare excursion from a member of the group mentioned above).

Apart from those at Sail Rock, the species is rarely seen at other offshore dive sites and is either absent, or very rare at the shallower inshore local reefs.

Growing to a maximum length of around 50cm, Tomato Groupers may be protogynous hermaphrodites, a common trait amongst many Serranids.

This would explain what appears to be sexual dimorphism within the group found at Sail Rock, with the smaller individual(s) likely to be female, and slightly larger, more robust individual(s) being male.

Assuming this is a case of both protogynous hermaphroditism and sexual dimorphism, the main distinguishing features of the species are as follows:

The larger male has a more robust shape, with a quite distinctive "hump-headed" appearance. It also appears to have a more uniform, and darker red/brown general colouration with dark brown/red spots than the smaller/female individuals, which tend to be a paler olive green/grey with numerous dark brown/red spots.

As with many fish species, the Tomato Grouper has the ability to rapidly change its skin pattern and/or colouration. Therefor, it may be found with a more "blotchy" appearance.

One characteristic of the species, which is shared by all individuals regardless of size or gender, are the distinctive bright red eyes, although as with the overall redish skin colouration and spots, this is not apparent at depth unless viewed with a camera flash or other artificial light source.

The Tomato Grouper (Cephalopholis sonnerati) is a shy and elusive member of the Grouper family with a preference for deeper locations such as Sail Rock, which hosts a small "resident" group of only two or three individuals who rarely seem to stray far from their territory at the South-East corner (although they have occasionally been seen at the East Pinnacle, this may have been a rare excursion from a member of the group mentioned above).

Apart from those at Sail Rock, the species is rarely seen at other offshore dive sites and is either absent, or very rare at the shallower inshore local reefs.

Growing to a maximum length of around 50cm, Tomato Groupers may be protogynous hermaphrodites, a common trait amongst many Serranids.

This would explain what appears to be sexual dimorphism within the group found at Sail Rock, with the smaller individual(s) likely to be female, and slightly larger, more robust individual(s) being male.

Assuming this is a case of both protogynous hermaphroditism and sexual dimorphism, the main distinguishing features of the species are as follows:

The larger male has a more robust shape, with a quite distinctive "hump-headed" appearance. It also appears to have a more uniform, and darker red/brown general colouration with dark brown/red spots than the smaller/female individuals, which tend to be a paler olive green/grey with numerous dark brown/red spots.

As with many fish species, the Tomato Grouper has the ability to rapidly change its skin pattern and/or colouration. Therefor, it may be found with a more "blotchy" appearance.

One characteristic of the species, which is shared by all individuals regardless of size or gender, are the distinctive bright red eyes, although as with the overall redish skin colouration and spots, this is not apparent at depth unless viewed with a camera flash or other artificial light source.

Alan's picture
Tomato Grouper (Cephalopholis Sonnerati) with Glass-Cleaner Shrimps(Urocaridella Antonbruunii)

This photo shows the smaller (possibly female) Tomato Grouper (Cephalopholis sonnerati) enjoying the attention of some Glass-Cleaner Shrimps (Urocaridella antonbruunii) in a crevice close to the South-East corner of

Alan's picture
Tomato Grouper (Cephalopholis Sonnerati)

This photo shows the larger (possibly male) Tomato Grouper (Cephalopholis sonnerati) that resides around the South-East corner of Sail Rock, at a depth of around 18m.

Alan's picture
Tomato Grouper (Cephalopholis Sonnerati)

The Tomato Grouper (Cephalopholis sonnerati) in this photo is one of a very small number of "resident" individuals that can be found at Sail Rock.