All groupers are bottom feeders, and they like to prey on other bottom-dwelling species of fish. If you want to learn more about these gentle giants and their food habits, keep reading this article.
Are grouper bottom feeders?
Groupers are one of the many bottom feeder fish out there. These fish mainly belong to the Epinephelinae subfamily under the bass family Serranidae of the order Perciformes. And sure enough, just like bass, their eating habits all lie at the bottom of the water bodies. Due to the whiskers, their appearance is similar to catfish, another bottom feeder.
Groupers can be found across several water bodies of the world. The young groupers prefer mangrove waters, whereas the older ones like to hang out in places with overhangs, piers, bridges, and shipwrecks. If you go to the bottom of such water bodies, there is a good chance you’ll get to see a grouper for sure.
One of the reasons why groupers are naturally bottom feeders as well as bottom dwellers can be because of their massive size and weight. Goliath groupers especially can be gigantic; the maximum recorded weight is as much as 800 pounds. These kinds of heavy fish find it difficult to stay on the top section of the water bodies.
These bottom feeders are carnivores, specifically opportunistic predators. They like to prey on other bottom-dwelling species of fish. Especially those that are slow in movement, since groupers themselves are not that fast due to their size.
They ambush the prey using a special method. First, they decide on prey, swim close to them, then expand their mouths as wide as possible. Finally, they inhale and suck the prey in from a small distance before swallowing them. Their main prey is usually crabs.
Calico craps, in particular, seem to be their favorite foods, as researchers have found from examining their stomachs. Other bottom-dwelling spiny fish and invertebrate species also become their prey. In fact, a 3 feet long shark became a victim of a goliath grouper fish in Everglades City back in July 2018! As mentioned earlier, sharks are also bottom feeders.
What is a bottom feeder fish?
In simple words, the aquatic animals that feed on or near the bottom of a body of water are called bottom feeders. Biologists often use specific terms like groundfish, benthic fish, benthopelagic fish, or demersal fish to refer to bottom-feeding fish.
The term benthos, benthivore, or benthivorous is also sometimes used to refer to the fish and invertebrates whose source of food lies on the bottom, but it is a broader term that encompasses all aquatic life that lives on or near the bottom, and this also includes non-animals, as in plants and algae too.
There are many types of bottom feeders, as well, and not all of them eat the same thing. Some are detritivores, so they feed on the dead organic material that drifts through water bodies to the bottom. Since these aquatic animals help in recycling organic matter, they’re crucial for maintaining the biogeochemical cycles of aquatic environments.
Some bottom feeders are herbivores, so they graze on living plants. Some sea urchin species do this. There are also carnivorous bottom feeders, which hunt other bottom feeders and benthic animals or scavenge through sunken bodies. These fish take advantage of the bottom environment to ambush their prey.
Some well-known bottom-feeding fish species are flatfish like halibut, plaice, flounder, sole, and eels, haddock, crab, cod, bream, some species of bass, and shark, and of course, groupers as well.
Is it bad to eat bottom feeder fish?
Many of the popular seafood are all bottom feeder fishes. Whether it is lobster, halibut, crabs, or cod, you can have a great dinner with dishes made of these. They are super delicious if cooked the right way and very healthy for you.
This is because bottom feeders don’t only stay at the bottom of their aquatic habitat; many of them are also at the bottom of the food chain. Since their diet consists of algae and detritus, they are filled with plenty of Omega-3 fatty acids, which are good for your health.
However, as we mentioned before, not all bottom feeders are herbivores, and some of them are carnivorous as well, which puts them on the higher side of the food chain. They are the larger predatory fish whose bodies are full of toxins and pollutants that can be very harmful for consumption by humans.
Can you eat grouper fish?
Groupers also fall into the latter group. According to One Medical, the Environmental Defense Fund, grouper fish have high levels of mercury in their bodies. In particular, the muscles of goliath groupers hold a high concentration of methylmercury.
There are many side effects of mercury poisoning for those who don’t know. It can cause erectile dysfunction for men and damage the body’s immune system. Your cardiovascular, digestive, renal, and neurological systems might also be affected.
Although if it weren’t for the high levels of chemicals, grouper would have been a very healthy fish to eat. It’s an excellent source of vitamins and minerals. In fact, a serving of just a single fillet can supply you with 25 percent of your vitamin D needs, 15 percent of iron, 20 percent of magnesium, as well as a small amount of B-complex vitamins, because of these positive traits, you might think that eating a small amount of grouper would be better than worse. In most countries, the harvesting of groupers has been forbidden. So, anglers are encouraged not to catch them anymore and leave them be.
This is because, for a few years in the middle, groupers started to be caught so much that they were categorized under an overfished variety. This means that catching and eating it is harmful to the environment and our planet as a whole, not just our health.
Given the fact that though goliath groupers can live up to as many as 40 years, their reproduction rate is very slow. This makes them very vulnerable to overfishing, ultimately pushing them under the threat of extinction. Since they can potentially cause harm to your body, it’s best to avoid catching and eating these fish. Other types of grouper are caught and quite delicious to eat.