Wednesday 22 May
Potato cod (Epinephelus tukula)
- The potato cod is identified by the large, potato-like dark blotches on its body.
- The potato cod gets its scientific name Epinephelus from the Latin word meaning ‘clouded over’, and tukula for ‘maneater’, which refers to its ferocity.
What’s the World’s Favourite Species?Find out here.
Potato cod fact file
- Find out more
- Print factsheet
Potato cod description
A large and robust fish species (3), the potato cod (Epinephelus tukula) has a light brownish-grey body, with dark brown to black widely-spaced blotches (2). Small dark spots are present on its head, as well as irregular streaks that mainly radiate from its eyes (2) (4). The fins have prominent spines and small dark spots (3), and the caudal fin is more rounded in young than in adults. The potato cod has 11 spines running along its back (2), as well as 3 spines on its rear (4). Its large mouth contains canines and several rows of backward-folding teeth (3).
In the water, the potato cod’s body appears lighter and the dark blotches more conspicuous. When captured, this species takes on a darker colouration and the blotches become far less obvious (5).
- Also known as
- grouper, potato bass, potato grouper, potato rockcod, sumeyn.
- Merou Patate.
- Mero Patata.
- Length: up to 1.5 m (2)
Queensland Government Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry - Potato rockcod:
The Australian Museum - Potato rockcod:
Fishbase - Epinephelus tukula:
- Caudal fin
- The tail fin of a fish.
- Immature stage in an animal’s lifecycle, after it hatches from an egg and before it changes into the adult form. Larvae are typically very different in appearance to adults; they are able to feed and move around but are usually unable to reproduce.
- An organism that derives its food from, and lives in or on, another living organism at the host’s expense.
- Relating to or inhabiting the open ocean.
- The production or depositing of eggs in water.
- Describes an animal, a pair of animals or a group that occupies and defends an area.
IUCN Red List (November, 2012)
- Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (1996) The Living Marine Resources of Somalia. Food and Agricultural Organization, Rome.
- Van der Elst, R. and Borchert, P. (1993) A Guide to the Common Sea Fishes of Southern Africa. Struik Publishers, Cape Town.
- Randall, J. (1995) Coastal Fishes of Oman. University of Hawai’i Press, Honolulu, Hawai’i.
- Prokop, F. (2006) Australian Fish Guide. Australian Fishing Network, Bayswater, Australia.
- Yeh, S.L. et al. (2003) Induced sex change, spawning and larviculture of potato grouper, Epinephelus tukula. Aquaculture, 228: 371-381.
- Grandcourt, E. (2005) Demographic characteristics of selected Epinepheline groupers (family: Serranidae; subfamily: Epinephelinae) from Aldabra Atoll, Seychelles. Atoll Research Bulletin, 539: 199-216.
The Florida State University Coleman and Koenig Laboratory - Grouper Ecology (November, 2012)
- Cooke, F. and Bruce, J. (2004) The Encyclopedia of Animals: A Complete Visual Guide. University of California Press, Berkeley.
- Pogonoski, J., Pollard, D. and Paxton, J. (2002) Conservation Overview and Action Plan for Australian Threatened and Potentially Threatened Marine and Estuarine Fishes. Environment Australia, Canberra, Australia.
- Heemstra, P. and Heemstra, E. (2004) Coastal Fishes of Southern Africa. NISC, Grahamstown, South Africa.
- view the contents of, and Material on, the website;
- download and retain copies of the Material on their personal systems in digital form in low resolution for their own personal use;
- teachers, lecturers and students may incorporate the Material in their educational material (including, but not limited to, their lesson plans, presentations, worksheets and projects) in hard copy and digital format for use within a registered educational establishment, provided that the integrity of the Material is maintained and that copyright ownership and authorship is appropriately acknowledged by the End User.
Potato cod biology
Relatively little is known about the major life history characteristics of the potato cod (3) (7), also known as the potato grouper (1). However, grouper fish in general share many life history traits that may be relevant to this species. Grouper fish habitually spawn offshore, on sea shelves approximately 30 metres deep, or up to 70 metres deep at the edge of coral reefs. Pelagic larvae are transported from spawning sites to inshore nursery grounds where they then settle as juveniles. Later in the life cycle juveniles join adult populations offshore where they move between different habitats (8).
Grouper fish are slow to mature, spawn in groups and exhibit irreversible sex change under certain conditions (8). Potato cods reach maturity at lengths of around 90 centimetres (3) (6), and although most adult fish are solitary, courtship displays and pairing occur during the breeding season (3).
The potato cod’s diet consists of a variety of reef fish, crabs, crayfish and skates. This species ambushes its prey, which it generally then captures following a short chase. It is an aggressive and territorial species that is known for its highly inquisitive behaviour. The potato cod is often a nuisance to divers due to its tendency to approach and tamper with their gear and catch. Its large size and behaviour make this species a dominant predator within its habitat (3).Top
Potato cod range
The potato cod is widely distributed across the Indo-Pacific (1), from the Red Sea and East Africa, southern Oman, Pakistan, and the Gulf of Aden to southwest India, Australia, Taiwan and southern Japan (4). Within Australia, the potato cod is found on and to the north of the Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia, as well as throughout the Great Barrier Reef to Queensland (5).Top
Potato cod habitatTop
Potato cod status
The potato cod is classified as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List (1).Top
Potato cod threats
Due to its inquisitive nature and the fact that it inhabits shallow water, the potato cod is vulnerable to over-exploitation, particularly from spear fishing. Potato cod were once seen as trophy catch for divers, and although this is no longer the case this species is still often caught by anglers despite its protection by law (3).Top
Potato cod conservation
The potato cod is a protected species throughout most of its range in Australia (5), and has responded well to marine park protection (3). Offshore coral reefs are essential to the survival of the species, and therefore it is important that the proposed regulations of the Queensland Fisheries Service are enforced to maintain wild stocks of the potato cod. These enforcements include a cap on the number of fish that can be caught and restrictions on the size of fish authorised for capture, with minimum and maximum size limits in place (10). Spear fishing of potato cod is illegal in South Africa (11).Top
Find out more
Find out more about the potato cod:
This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
More »Related species
Play the Team WILD game
MyARKive offers the scrapbook feature to signed-up members, allowing you to organize your favourite ARKive images and videos and share them with friends.
Terms and Conditions of Use of Materials
Copyright in this website and materials contained on this website (Material) belongs to Wildscreen or its licensors.
Visitors to this website (End Users) are entitled to:
End Users shall not copy or otherwise extract, alter or manipulate Material other than as permitted in these Terms and Conditions of Use of Materials.
Additional use of flagged material
Green flagged material
Certain Material on this website (Licence 4 Material) displays a green flag next to the Material and is available for not-for-profit conservation or educational use. This material may be used by End Users, who are individuals or organisations that are in our opinion not-for-profit, for their not-for-profit conservation or not-for-profit educational purposes. Low resolution, watermarked images may be copied from this website by such End Users for such purposes. If you require high resolution or non-watermarked versions of the Material, please contact Wildscreen with details of your proposed use.
Creative commons material
Certain Material on this website has been licensed to Wildscreen under a Creative Commons Licence. These images are clearly marked with the Creative Commons buttons and may be used by End Users only in the way allowed by the specific Creative Commons Licence under which they have been submitted. Please see http://creativecommons.org for details.
Any other use
Please contact the copyright owners directly (copyright and contact details are shown for each media item) to negotiate terms and conditions for any use of Material other than those expressly permitted above. Please note that many of the contributors to ARKive are commercial operators and may request a fee for such use.
Save as permitted above, no person or organisation is permitted to incorporate any copyright material from this website into any other work or publication in any format (this includes but is not limited to: websites, Apps, CDs, DVDs, intranets, extranets, signage, digital communications or on printed materials for external or other distribution). Use of the Material for promotional, administrative or for-profit purposes is not permitted.