The miniata grouper (aka coral hind) (Cephalopholis miniata) is the member of a family that is known more to people for their culinary qualities than the fact they make great additions to your marine aquarium. While the miniata grouper may taste good, groupers can become engaging pets that can live for decades in captivity. The miniata grouper is one of the most stunning members of the grouper group, and, unlike many in this family, Cephalopholis miniata stays relatively small (a 14-inch specimen is a giant).
Difficulty: The miniata grouper, like many groupers, is very durable. The miniata grouper is a suitable fish for the beginning hobbyist and interesting enough to engage the most experienced fishkeeper. Nutrition is an important consideration. Stay away from freshwater feeder fish, as they not only lack the fatty-acids needed by seawater predators, some (e.g., feeder goldfish) can cause thiamin deficiencies. Chopped seafood (shrimp, squid, marine fish flesh) and frozen foods for carnivores are your best bet. Feed these foods to your miniata grouper every day or every other day (monitor the grouper’s weight, and adjust ration size and feeding frequency accordingly). Overfeeding can be as big a problem as underfeeding, as a captive miniata grouper can suffer from fat build-up around the internal organs, which can shorten its life span.
Physical Description: The miniata grouper is very red — it can be bright red to orange, and it is peppered with bright blue spots. (Small juveniles have few spots or may lack them altogether.) The Cephalopholis miniata is streamlined, being built to sprint short distances to hunt its unsuspecting prey.
Range: Cephalopholis miniata is a wide-ranging fish that occurs from the Red Sea and the east coast of Africa, east to the Line Islands. The miniata grouper is usually found at depths of less than 120 feet but has been reported down to a whopping 490 feet. The miniata grouper prefers a variety of coral-rich habitats, and unlike some others in the genus, Cephalopholis it tends to prefer Clearwater reefs.
Compatibility: The miniata grouper is a fish-eater that will make short work of any piscine tankmate that is small enough to swallow whole (in the wild, this fish has a particular fondness for the lyretail anthias, Pseudanthias squamipinnis). The miniata grouper’s gluttony shows no bounds, as it has also been known to eat cleaner wrasses, which are normally impervious to predation. The miniata grouper can also be a bit of bully, behaving aggressively toward other fish, especially if it has lived a long time in a small aquarium. If a miniata grouper sees a new fish as an intruder its territory, it may beat the new fish with its tail and incessantly nip at it. It is best to add less aggressive fish to the aquarium before you add your miniata grouper. As with most reef fish, the miniata grouper is going to be particularly intolerant of close fish relatives (e.g., other groupers), and they will fight with each other. Some species that make good tankmates include moray eels, large angelfish, surgeonfish, rabbitfish, triggerfish, pufferfish and porcupinefish. Cephalopholis miniata is also a threat to ornamental crustaceans, including cleaner shrimp and anemone crabs.
Aquarium Conditions: The miniata grouper will become a voracious, personable pet once it is fully acclimated to its aquarium home. But until that time, it can be very shy, hiding whenever a human approaches the aquarium. For this reason, provide the miniata grouper with caves or crevices (also called “bolt holes”) that are large enough for it to dash into when it is frightened. Keep the miniata grouper at a pH of 8.1 to 8.4, specific gravity of 1.019 to 1.025 and a water temperature of 76 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit.
Care Considerations: Remember, while small for a grouper, the miniata grouper can still grow to more than a foot long. So make sure you have an aquarium that is large enough. The miniata grouper is a big, messy eater, therefore, a good protein skimmer, chemical filtration and regular water changes will help keep your miniata grouper in optimal condition.
Breeding: The miniata grouper and larger groupers rarely if ever spawn in home aquariums.