Coral hind (Cephalopholis miniata)

Also known as: blue-spotted rockcod, coral cod, coral grouper, coral rockcod, coral trout, vermilion grouper, vermilion seabass
Synonyms: Cephalopholis boninius, Cephalopholis formosanus, Cephalopholis maculatus, Cephalopholis miniatus, Epinephelus miniatus, Perca miniata, Pomacentrus burdi, Serranus cyanostigmoides, Serranus miniatus, Serranus perguttatus
GenusCephalopholis (1)
SizeTotal length: up to 45 cm (2)

The coral hind is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).

The coral hind (Cephalopholis miniata) is a relatively small, robust reef fish with an orange-red to reddish-brown body, usually darker towards the rear and attractively marked with numerous small, pale blue spots. The spots are usually dark-edged, and extend onto the head and onto the dorsal, anal and caudal fins (2) (3) (4) (5) (6). The pectoral fins are orange-yellow towards the end and have only a few blue spots on the base (2) (3) (4) (5), while the pelvic fins are orange-red with a dark bluish-grey edge. The caudal fin, anal fin and soft part of the dorsal fin often have a narrow blue margin and a blackish sub-marginal line (2) (3) (5). The caudal fin is rounded (2), and the front part of the dorsal fin bears nine spines, between which the fin membrane is distinctly indented (3) (4) (5) (6). The coral hind also sometimes shows a colour form which has pale, olive-green diagonal bars across the body (5). Juveniles are more yellowish in colour than the adults, and have fewer, fainter blue spots (2) (3) (4) (5).

The scientific name of the coral hind, miniata, means ‘bright red’, in reference to this species’ bright colouration (6). The coral hind can be distinguished from the closely related yellowfin hind (Cephalopholis hemistiktos) by the presence of blue spots over the whole rather than just part of the body, while the ends of the pectoral fins become gradually rather than abruptly orange-yellow (3). It can be distinguished from the six-blotch hind (Cephalopholis sexmaculata) mainly by the lack of dark blotches on the upper surface of the body (2).

The coral hind is found in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, occurring from the Red Sea to South Africa, and east as far as the Line Islands, in the central Pacific (1) (2) (3) (4) (5). It is absent from the Arabian Gulf and Gulf of Oman (1) (2) (3) (4).

This coral reef species inhabits clear waters at depths of up to 150 metres (2) (3), although it may be most commonly seen in relatively shallow water of up to about 30 metres (5) (7). The coral hind is most often found in exposed rather than protected reef areas (1) (2) (3).

The coral hind feeds mainly on fish, particularly the sea goldie or lyretail anthias (Pseudanthias squamipinnis), with the rest of the diet made up of crustaceans, such as crabs or shrimps (2) (3) (6) (8). It is usually an ambush predator, lying in wait among corals or in crevices for prey to pass nearby, or ambushing prey by a quick rush from the bottom (2) (3) (8). While lying in wait, the coral hind may take on a camouflaging colour pattern and close the fins. This species usually feeds in the early morning and mid-afternoon, and will also use alternative hunting techniques, including following another predator such as an octopus or moray eel, catching flushed out prey (8). In turn, the coral hind may potentially be preyed upon by larger fish and marine mammals (2).

The coral hind has been recorded spawning between May and October (6) (9). This species forms harem groups consisting of a single dominant male and between 2 and 12 females. The group occupies a territory of up to 475 square metres, subdivided into smaller territories which are each defended by a single female (2) (10). Like many other grouper species, the coral hind is likely to be a protogynous hermaphrodite, meaning that individuals begin life as females, but later change sex and become males (3). Female coral hinds reach sexual maturity at a body length of around 23 to 26 centimetres (1) (2) (3).

The coral hind is a widespread species and is not currently considered at risk of extinction (1). However, it is likely to be under threat from habitat degradation and overfishing in parts of its range, and its population may be in decline (1). As well as facing threats to its coral reef habitat, the coral hind is of considerable economic importance to local fisheries, and is also caught in recreational fisheries and for the live reef fish trade (1) (2) (3). Its bright colouration also makes this a popular species in public aquaria (2).

The coral hind occurs in a number of Marine Protected Areas throughout its range, including in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (1). There are no specific conservation measures currently targeted at this attractive grouper species, but concerns over the impacts of habitat loss and overfishing mean that additional population monitoring may be needed (1) (2).

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  1. IUCN Red List (October, 2010)
  2. Coral Hind Biological Profile, Ichthyology Department, Florida Museum of Natural History (October, 2010)
  3. Heemstra, P.C. and Randall, J.E. (1993) FAO Species Catalogue. Volume 16. Groupers of the World (Family Serranidae, Subfamily Epinephelinae). An Annotated and Illustrated Catalogue of the Grouper, Rockcod, Hind, Coral Grouper, and Lyretail Species Known to Date. Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, Rome. Available at:
  4. Randall, J.E. (1995) Coastal Fishes of Oman. University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu, Hawaii.
  5. Randall, J.E. and Ben-Tuvia, A. (1983) A review of the groupers (Pisces: Serranidae: Epinephelinae) of the Red Sea, with description of a new species of Cephalopholis. Bulletin of Marine Science, 33(2): 373-426.
  6. Van der Elst, R. (1993) A Guide to the Common Sea Fishes of Southern Africa. Struik Publishers, Cape Town.
  7. Shpigel, M. and Fishelson, L. (1989) Habitat partitioning between species of the genus Cephalopholis (Pisces, Serranidae) across the fringing reef of the Gulf of Aqaba (Red Sea). Marine Ecology Progress Series, 58: 17-22.
  8. Shpigel, M. and Fishelson, L. (1989) Food habits and prey selection of three species of groupers from the genus Cephalopholis (Serranidae: Teleostei). Environmental Biology of Fishes, 24: 67-73.
  9. Wahbeh, M.I. (2005) Some aspects of reproduction and growth of the grouper, Cephalopholis miniata (Forsskål), the blacktip grouper, Ephinephelus fasciatus (Forsskål), and the lunartail grouper, Variola louti (Forsskål) from the north-eastern coast of the Gulf of Aqaba (Red Sea), Jordan. Dirasat Pure Sciences, 32(2): 172-181.
  10. Shpigel, M. and Fishelson, L. (1991) Territoriality and associated behaviour in three species of the genus Cephalopholis (Pisces: Serranidae) in the Gulf of Aqaba, Red Sea. Journal of Fish Biology, 38: 887-896.