News / Species Spotlight / Look-a-Likes: Miniatus and White Margin Crescent Tail Groupers (02/09/16)

Look-a-Likes: Miniatus and White Margin Crescent Tail Groupers

There are a few groupers that are quite suitable for the marine aquarium hobby, being both extremely hardy and beautiful. However, some of these grow to quite large sizes and will need extravagant aquariums when full grown. When they are small, some of them are very similar looking, but by following a couple easy identity clues, you can be guaranteed to get the fish you are looking for.

When small, both of these fish are a deep red / pink coloration with lighter, pale bluish colored spots. They are both ravenous eaters and will ingest pretty much everything that they can put into their mouths. So are they different fish? You bet, and they will have different requirements as a result.

Miniatus Groupers (Cephalopholis miniata)

Miniatus groupers are great aquarium inhabitants. Like the rest of the Cephalopholis Genus, they have a relatively small adult size (15" or so), and are generally hardy as all get out. They can safely be housed in tanks with coral, meaning they are unlikely in the extreme to consume them. All this, combined with the fact that they are just stunningly gorgeous, makes them a pretty desirable addition to many different types of aquariums.

Like all groupers, they will eat everything that moves if they can fit it into their mouths. Yes, this means your ornamental shrimp and small fish are likely to be consumed. Because of these eating habits, adding a grouper is also likely to add to your bio-load. Be sure your system can absorb an addition like this, especially if you are housing some of the hobby's more sensitive invertebrates. They are also likely to defend their adopted home with some diligence, so mixing groupers is not suggested.

White Margin Crescent Tail Groupers (Variola albimarginata)

Crescent Tail Groupers are also very desirable additions for most of the same reasons that Miniatus Groupers are, with one caveat. Their terminal adult size is nearly twice as large. Now a grouper is a fish that doesn't do a lot of swimming around, mostly they get a hole and ambush stuff from it. That being said a 26 inch (and possibly larger) fish is still going to need a much larger tank than a 15", both for the dilution of waste products and for room to turn around.

Just like the miniatus, this fish has the same potential downsides mainly bioload and eating. Only with this fish, the mouth is bigger, so the meals can be bigger as well. As this fish reaches adult sizes, take care to choose large tankmates.

I have a monster tank, how do I get the big one?

Or conversely, "I have a big tank, but not that big, I want the Miniatus..." Luckily there is one really easy way to tell: look at their tails. The Miniatus tail is always rounded (away from the body) and the Crescent Tail is, obviously, crescent shaped (curving back toward the body almost forming streamers at both tips). As the Crescent Tail Grouper ages, it will develop a white margin, both along the edge of the tail, and along the jawline. Long story short, both of these are great fish. If you want the bigger one, get the one with a crescent shaped tail, if you want the smaller one, get the one with a rounded tail.

Scott W. Michael, Marine Fishes, 1st ed. (T.F.H. Publications Inc, New Jersey, 2001).
Quality Marine Internal References: Eli Fleishauer, Brent Robinson