The Nonindigenous Occurrences section of the NAS species profiles has a new structure. The section is now dynamically updated from the NAS database to ensure that it contains the most current and accurate information. Occurrences are summarized in Table 1, alphabetically by state, with years of earliest and most recent observations, and the tally and names of drainages where the species was observed. The table contains hyperlinks to collections tables of specimens based on the states, years, and drainages selected. References to specimens that were not obtained through sighting reports and personal communications are found through the hyperlink in the Table 1 caption or through the individual specimens linked in the collections tables.

Cephalopholis argus
Cephalopholis argus
(peacock hind)
Marine Fishes

Copyright Info
Cephalopholis argus Bloch and Schneider, 1801

Common name: peacock hind

Synonyms and Other Names: Serranus myriaster Valenciennes in Cuvier & Valenciennes 1828, Cephalopholis guttatus (Bloch 1790); bluespotted grouper, peacock grouper, peacock rockcod, roi

Taxonomy: available through www.itis.govITIS logo

Identification: Previous reports (e.g., Maciolek 1984) refer to this species as Cephalopholis guttatus.

Dorsal fin IX (15-17), anal fin III (9), pectoral rays 16-17. Overall, the body is dark brown. Small blue ocelli ringed in black cover the body. Five to six pale vertical bars are often apparent posterior to the pectoral fins and a large white patch occurs on the breast. Dorsal, anal and caudal fins generally with a narrow white band along their posterior margins. The distal part of the pectoral fins are often edged in maroon-brown.

The peacock hind is sometimes confused with C. cyanostigma, the bluespotted hind. The bluespotted hind has a similar color pattern, with a reddish-brown background and blue ocelli covering the body. However, the pectoral fins of the bluespotted hind are edged in yellow-orange distally; additionally blue ocelli only appear on the proximal portion of the fins. The body of the bluespotted hind has pale spots containing 1-3 small blue spots and 5-6 chain-like dark bars. In addition to the differences in color pattern, the bluespotted hind has only 8 anal-fin rays (as opposed to 9 in the peacock hind). Additionally, the bluespotted hind has fewer gill rakers (7-9 upper, 14-18 lower) than the peacock hind.

Similar species in Florida: Coney (Cephalopholis fulva) has two black spots on lower lip and two black spots at base of caual fin. Graysby (C. cruentatus) has red spots on the body and a rounded caudal fin. Red hind (Epinephelus guttatus) has dark margins on rear dorsal, anal, and caudal fins.

From Randall and Ben-Tuvia 1983; Heemstra and Randall 1993; Randall 1996; Carpenter and Niem 1999.

Size: To 66 cm TL

Native Range: This common and widely-distributed grouper ranges from the Red Sea to South Africa and east to French Polynesia and the Pitcairn Islands group, including northern Australia, Lord Howe Island and southern Japan (Heemstra and Randall 1993; Carpenter and Niem 1999).

Early reports (from Valenciennes in 1828 and Quoy & Gammard in 1824) listed the species from Hawaii; however, these reports are considered erroneous (see Randall and Ben-Tuvia 1983; Randall and Heemstra 1991; Mundy 2005).

Interactive maps: Point Distribution Maps

Nonindigenous Occurrences: In Hawaii, 571 small individuals from Moorea (Society Islands) were released off the islands of Oahu and Hawaii in 1956 (Randall 1987). These fish became established in the Hawaiian Islands and entered the commercial and sport fisheries by the early 1970s (Randall and Kanayama 1972). The peacock hind has subsequently spread through the islands and is now the dominant predator on reefs of the main Hawai'ian islands (Dierking et al. 2009). The species is present in the Kaloko-Honokohau National Historic Park (Tilmant 1999). In Florida, the peacock hind has been seen off Boca Raton in 2004 (T. Jackson, pers. comm.), Pompano Beach in 2005 (REEF 2008) and Key West in 2006 (T. Jackson, pers. comm.). 

Table 1. States with nonindigenous occurrences, the earliest and latest observations in each state, and the tally and names of HUCs with observations†. Names and dates are hyperlinked to their relevant specimen records. The list of references for all nonindigenous occurrences of Cephalopholis argus are found here.

StateFirst ObservedLast ObservedTotal HUCs with observations†HUCs with observations†
FL200420062Florida Southeast Coast; Floridian
HI195620186Hawaii; Hawaii; Kahoolawe; Kauai; Maui; Oahu

Table last updated 7/22/2024

† Populations may not be currently present.

Ecology: This common grouper occurs on coral reefs over a depth range of 1-40 m, typically less than 10 m (Shpigel and Fishelson 1989b; Heemstra and Randall 1993). The species is territorial, and partitions its habitat into large (up to 2000 m2) territories occupied by a male and up to 12 females and sub-territories, each inhabited by a single female (Shpigel and Fishelson 1989b, 1991). Like many groupers, the peacock hind is a protogynous hermaphrodite, and switches from a female to a male during its lifespan. Females reach sexual maturity at 1.2 years (20.0 cm TL). Sex change, when females transition into functional males, occurs around 11.2 years (39.9 cm TL) (Shemmel et al. 2016). Courtship behavior was described by Donaldson (1995).

The species feeds primarily at night in Madagascar (Harmelin-Viven and Bouchon 1976), but feeds during the early morning and late afternoon in the Red Sea (Shpigel and Fishelson 1989a,b). In a study in Madagascar, the species was reported to feed during the day and night, although prey captured at night were larger (Harmelin-Viven and Bouchon 1976). The diet is composed mainly of fishes (generally over 80%), but also includes some invertebrates (Randall and Brock 1960; Harmelin-Viven and Bouchon 1976; Shpigel & Fishelson 1989a).

The peacock hind is able to consume surprisingly large prey items; one report documented that a 231 mm peacock hind consumed a 203 mm prey fish (Randall and Brock 1960). The peacock hind is an important food-fish throughout the Indo-West Pacific region; however, due to its carnivorous nature, it has been blamed for numerous cases of Ciguatera poisoning in both the native and introduced ranges (Randall 1987; Heemstra and Randall 1993). A study in Hawaii by Dierking and Campora (2009), showed that 18.2% of C. argus specimens collected contained ciguatoxin in concentrations potentially harmfull to humans. It is also a popular aquarium fish.

Means of Introduction: Intentionally stocked as a food/sport fish in Hawai'i. Probable aquarium release(s) in Florida.

Status: Established in Hawaii (Randall and Kanayama 1972) as far north as Ni'ihau (Mundy 2005). Reported in Florida.

Impact of Introduction: In Hawai'i this species has spread throughout the main islands and has become the dominant large-bodied predator on reefs. A diet study by Dierking et al. (2009) showed that 98% of the diet was composed of fish and that peacock hind consumed many different kinds of fish.

Remarks: The peacock hind is an important food-fish in the Indo-Pacific, and was transferred from Moorea in the Society Islands to the islands of Oahu and Hawaii in 1956 for culture there (Randall 1987). Since that time, the species has spread throughout the island chain.

References: (click for full references)

Carpenter, K.E., and V. H. Niem. 1999. The living marine resources of the Western Central Pacific. FAO Species Identification Guides for Fishery Purposes. Volume 4. Bony fishes part 2 (Mugilidae to Carangidae). FAO, Rome.

Dierking, J.D. and C.E. Campora. 2009. Ciguatera in the introduced fish Cephalopholis argus (Serranidae) in Hawai'i and implications for fishery management. Pacific Science 63(2):193-204.

Dierking, J., I.D. Williams, and W.J. Walsh. 2009. Diet composition and prey selection of the introduced grouper species peacock hind (Cephalopholis argus) in Hawaii. Fishery Bulletin 107:464-476

Donaldson, T.J. 1995. Courtship and spawning behavior of the pygmy grouper, Cephalopholis spiloparaea (Serranidae: Epinephelinae), with notes on C. argus and C. urodeta. Environmental Biology of Fishes 43:363-370.

Harmelin-Vivien, M.L., and C. Bouchon. 1976. Feeding behavior of some carnivorous fishes (Serranidae and Scorpaenidae) from Tulear (Madagascar). Marine Biology 37:329-340.

Heemstra, P.C., and J.E. Randall. 1993. FAO Species Catalogue Vol. 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.  FAO Fisheries Synopsis, No. 125, Vol. 16. FAO, Rome.

Mundy, B.C. 2005. Checklist of the fishes of the Hawaiian Archipelago. Bishop Museum Bulletin in Zoology 6. Bishop Museum Press, Honolulu, HI.

Randall, J.E. 1987. Introductions of marine fishes to the Hawaiian Islands. Bulletin of Marine Science 41:490-502.

Randall, J.E. 1996. Caribbean Reef Fishes. Third Edition. TFH Publications, Inc., Neptune City, NJ.

Randall, J.E., and A. Ben-Tuvia. 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 33:373-426.

Randall, J.E., and V.E. Brock. 1960. Observations on the ecology of epinepheline and lutjanid fishes of the Society Islands, with emphasis on food habits. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 89:9-16.

Randall, J.E., and P.C. Heemstra. 1991. Revision of Indo-Pacific groupers (Perciformes: Serranidae: Epinephelinae), with descriptions of five new species. Indo-Pacific Fishes 20:1-332.

Randall, J.E., and R.K. Kanayama. 1972. Report on the introduction of serranid and lutjanid fishes from French Polynesia to the Hawaiian Islands. Pacific Science Congress Proceedings 12:231.

Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF). 2008. Exotic species sighting programs and volunteer database. World wide web electronic publication. www.reef.org, date of download March 10, 2008.

Schemmel, E.M., M.K. Donovan, C. Wiggins, M. Anzivino, and A.M. Friedlander. 2016. Reproductive life history of the introduced peacock grouper Cephalopholis argus in Hawaii. Journal of Fish Biology doi:10.1111/jfb.13036

Shpigel, M., and L. Fishelson. 1989a. Food habits and prey selection of three species of groupers from the genus Cephalopholis (Serranidae: Teleostei).  Environmental Biology of Fishes 24: 67-73.

Shpigel, M., and L. Fishelson. 1989b. 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.

Shpigel, M., and L. Fishelson. 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.

Tilmant, J.T. 1999. Management of nonindigenous aquatic fish in the U.S. National Park System. Paper presented at the 129th Annual Meeting of The American Fisheries Society, Charlotte, North Carolina, September 1, 1999 (unpublished manuscript). 50 pages.

Other Resources:
FishBase Summary

Author: Schofield, P.J.

Revision Date: 3/26/2021

Peer Review Date: 8/12/2015

Citation Information:
Schofield, P.J., 2024, Cephalopholis argus Bloch and Schneider, 1801: U.S. Geological Survey, Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database, Gainesville, FL, https://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/FactSheet.aspx?SpeciesID=964, Revision Date: 3/26/2021, Peer Review Date: 8/12/2015, Access Date: 7/23/2024

This information is preliminary or provisional and is subject to revision. It is being provided to meet the need for timely best science. The information has not received final approval by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and is provided on the condition that neither the USGS nor the U.S. Government shall be held liable for any damages resulting from the authorized or unauthorized use of the information.


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Citation information: U.S. Geological Survey. [2024]. Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database. Gainesville, Florida. Accessed [7/23/2024].

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