Sweetlips & grunts species identification guide

Some of the most beautiful reef fish

Members of the Haemulidae family are generally called grunts in the Caribbean and sweetlips in the Indo-Pacific. There are more than 130 species distributed in warm and temperate waters around the world.

These fish, whose largest species can reach 1m in length, generally live close to the reef, sometimes in large schools.

School of sailors grunt
In the Caribbean, grunts are frequently seen shoaling in shallow waters. Here, sailor’s grunt in Xcacel, Mexico.

Some Indo-Pacific sweetlips are among the most beautiful fish that can be seen by snorkelers. At juvenile stage, they often have spectacular coloration and pattern, very different from the adults.

Where do grunts and sweetlips live?

Grunts are widespread in Florida and Caribbean Islands waters, where they are often seen in large schools sheltering below rock overhangs. The porkfish, with its yellow stripes and black bands through the eyes, is undoubtedly the most colorful Haemulidae in this region.

The French grunt, mostly yellow, is certainly the most common grunt species in the Caribbean. At juvenile stage, grunt species can be difficult to identify.

Oriental sweetlips
The oriental sweetlips (here in Embudu, Maldives) is one of the most beautiful fish in the Indo-Pacific region.

In the Indo-Pacific, three fantastic species of sweetlips (the oriental sweetlips, the yellowbanded sweetlips and Lesson’s sweetlips) are very resembling. Their patterns and colors make them great subjects for underwater photography.

The incredible coloration of juvenile Plectorhinchus chaetodonoides, brown with large white spots, has earned this species the name of harlequin sweetlips. It is distributed from the Maldives to the Great Barrier Reef and New Caledonia.

The Galápagos black-striped salema, the only known representative of the Xenocys genera, is endemic to this archipelago of the Eastern Pacific.

Caribbean & Western Atlantic grunts

Indian & Pacific Oceans sweetlips

Eastern Pacific Ocean grunts

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