Polka Dot Grouper

I hesitate to include this fish because it has been overfished in many parts of its range, both for the aquarium and as a food fish. For a truly bulletproof tank subject, however, this big grouper is hard to best.

Aquarium Capacity At least 75 gallons, preferably larger

Aquascape Materials crushed coral rock fine grade coral rock a few large pieces coral skeletons artificial or natural

Background see text

Fish

Chromileptes altivelis up to 3

Special Requirements None

Start this fish in a large tank, and you won't be faced with a crisis when it outgrows a smaller one. Few species adapt so quickly to captive care. The juveniles are almost too cute to resist, with their bold pattern of black polka dots on a white background and their bobbing swimming pattern. They grow quickly, feeding gluttonously on anything and everything, eventually exceeding two feet in length. Like most groupers, C. altivelis lies in wait and then lunges at its prey, swallowing it whole. Also called panther grouper, barramundi cod, pin-head grouper, and humpback grouper, it gets along well with its own kind and with other species, although it cannot be trusted to spare any fish it can swallow.

The polka dot grouper requires a place to retire in order to feel comfortable. Aquascaping should conform to this need. Build a cave as described in the previous model design for moray eels. Apart from that, tank decoration is immaterial. The fish show up well against a plain black background, but you could create a whimsical look with a polka dot background. Using a stencil, paint the dots first, allow them to dry, and then paint over them with the background color. You could duplicate the grouper's pattern of black dots on white, or do the reverse.

Such a greedy appetite requires plenty of biofiltration and protein skimming. Add herbivores, such as sea urchins, which the fish will ignore. They will help to control algae and consume uneaten food. Remember that urchins absolutely require water of full strength salinity, though the grouper tolerates some variation from optimum. Carry out partial water changes on schedule, keep the filter serviced, and this fish will likely thrive in your care for fifteen years or more.

For an alternative to this model design, another large grouper or a boisterous triggerfish such as Balistapus undulatus will thrive in this tank.

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