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Related FAQs: Basses called Hinds, The Miniata Grouper

Related Articles: Basses

/A Diversity of Aquatic Life

The Basses Called Hinds, Genus Cephalopholis, part I

part II, part III

By Bob Fenner

Cephalopholis formosa

What do you think of when you hear the word bass? A tasty meal? A Jonah-swallowing lunker of a grouper? A cute aquarium specimen that grows up to kill and/or inhale everything else in your tank? Well, all these characterizations and more are to be found within the family of true basses and groupers, the Serranidae. Happily, there is a genus of serranids that with something for most every marine aquarist, Cephalopholis ("seph-ah-low-foe-lis"), the hinds.

"Never heard of them?" Oh really? How about the Coral Hind or Rockcod, aka the Miniatus grouper, Cephalopholis miniata? Or the beautiful Blue-Spotted or Argus grouper, C. argus? Maybe even the brilliant reddish C. aurantia (garrupa), or C. nigripinnis (Duskyfin Rockcod), should you be so fortunate to have a Red Sea dealer near? And I refuse to believe as an old-timey aquarist that you've never observed the many-colored varieties of the Caribbean Coney, C. fulva. Take a look at the images accompanying this article; ah, now they're starting to look more familiar.

And well they should. Of the several large genera in the sizable bass family, the genus Cephalopholis blesses us with a wide mix of reasonably sized, relatively well-behaved "personality fishes"; suitable for every type of system where there is nothing small enough to fit into their capacious maws.

Classification: Taxonomy, Relation With Other Groups

Ask any fisherperson about "bass" and you'll soon find that the name is very generic; there are croakers (family Sciaenidae), sunfishes like the large mouth "bass" (family Centrarchidae), giant sea "bass" (family Percichthyidae), and many more that share the common appellation with the real basses. Here, we are talking about the true bass & grouper family, Serranidae.

"Real" basses don't need these other groups honing in on their turf anyway. As a group they've got the width and breadth, literally and figuratively to stand or swim on their own. Some are quite small (e.g. Anthias), others (large groupers) attain more than a thousand pounds. Many are drab to disruptive/cryptic in their markings to camouflage-aid them in ambushing prey, disparate one's are gaudy to beautiful (Tukas, hamlets (Hypoplectrus) and more).

Our genus, Cephalopholis is one of some sixty-two in the family of 450 or so described species. For those who enjoy taxonomic minutiae, Cephalopholis is part of a sub-family (Epnephelinae) and further sub-division (Tribe Epinephelini) with other notable grouper-like basses. For slightly more confusion, the common name "grouper" is preferred by those in the sciences for basses in the genus Epinephelus, and "hind" for Cephalopholis. As Billy Shakespeare gets credit for writing, "what's in a (fish) name?" Here I'll stick with the commonest common name in the west (bass); just don't be over- or underwhelmed if you see hind, grouper, Rockcod, bass, etc. applied to any or all of these fishes.

See Nelson for further reference/information. Presently there are about twenty species of Cephalopholis, of which the trade/hobby offers a handful off and on. 

The most commonly encountered include:

Cephalopholis argus Bloch & Schneider 1801, the Peacock or Argus Hind or Blue-Spotted Grouper. Indo-Pacific, Red Sea to French Polynesia. Introduced into Hawai'i and the tropical eastern Pacific coast as a food and game fish. To a foot and a half in length. Make excellent aquarium specimens for large fish-only systems. At right: A juvenile in captivity of about five inches long.
Small, medium, and large specimens (6, 12, 16" respectively), in the Red Sea, Hawai'i and French Polynesia.

Bigger PIX:
The images in this table are linked to large (desktop size) copies. Click on "framed" images to go to the larger size.

Cephalopholis boenak (Bloch 1790), the Chocolate Hind. Indo-West Pacific. To a mere ten inches in length... Off Heron Island, GBR, Australia and Redang, Malaysia..

Cephalopholis cruentata Lacepede 1802, the Graysby. Tropical west Atlantic. To fourteen inches maximum length. A regular offering in the aquarium trade, though not a great beauty. Capable of rapid color, marking changes. This one in the Bahamas. For comparison, though it is very rarely offered in the trade, the Panamic Graysby, Cephalopholis panamensis (Steindachner 1877), is shown.

Verticals (Full/Cover Page Sizes Available
Bigger PIX:
The images in this table are linked to large (desktop size) copies. Click on "framed" images to go to the larger size.
Cephalopholis cyanostigma (Valenciennes 1828), Bluespotted Rockcod. Western Pacific; Philippines to Australia. To fourteen inches overall length. One skulking around Redang, Malaysia, the vertical off Queensland, Australia. 

Verticals (Full/Cover Page Sizes Available

To: part II, part III

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