HULK. BERTHA. Our new Queensland groupers have some pretty BIG names to match these real BIG FISH!
We welcomed some new residents into Ocean Realm earlier this month as five Queensland groupers joined our aquarium family. Three large adults, which weigh approximately 250 to 300 pounds each and range in length from 4 to 5.5 feet, and two juveniles, each weighing approximately 50 pounds and measuring between 2 to 3 feet in length, will now share a home with the great hammerhead, silky sharks, sea turtles, stingrays and other sea life.
The Queensland groupers, also known as giant groupers, are a colossal acquisition as these massive fish can grow up to 8.5 feet long and weigh up to 800 pounds each. That’s almost as heavy as a Grand Piano or an adult male polar bear!
Giant groupers are the world’s largest bony fish found in coral reefs. This species can be found in shallow waters in and around coral reefs of the Indo-Pacific region in the wild. The juvenile Queensland grouper is black with large white splotches and yellow-orange fins. As it matures, its color changes to a mottled gray-green with black-spotted fins.
Each time we introduce a new aquatic animal species to our guests, it’s an exciting moment for our team. But we believe these enormous additions will be a BIG hit with families, especially kids, as they’ll be able to see them swim in Ocean Realm and continue to grow bigger and bigger each time they visit. Right now, all five of the groupers are already larger than most kids who visit and even some adults!
WHERE DID THEY COME FROM?
The giant groupers were formerly housed in a Hawaiian sustainable fishery facility which was researching a species breeding program for sustainable seafood practices. When the fishery discontinued the program, they needed to relocate the giant groupers to a new home, which is where Adventure Aquarium came in.
When we were notified about these groupers last winter, we were eager to bring them to our Ocean Realm exhibit. This kind of opportunity is extremely rare so we were happy to be involved in the adoption of these fish.
HOW DID THEY GET HERE?
The transport of the groupers was a herculean effort in itself, with winter weather delays wreaking havoc on plans to send them across the country from Hawaii late last March. The fish were eventually shipped in 7-foot round containers via air cargo from Hawaii, with a huge team of people and equipment needed to move them from plane to plane between two islands. Their water was then changed to prepare for their journey across the country where they eventually arrived in Newark Liberty International Airport. Adventure Aquarium biologists then drove them back to the aquarium and the fish were moved to a temporary behind-the-scenes home. The fish were held in quarantine for approximately six months as they acclimated to being cared for by staff biologists, including target feed training, and were monitored by veterinary staff.
When a moving date was determined, 17 members of our Fish & Invertebrate team and two veterinarians worked diligently for four hours to safely and successfully transfer all five of the groupers from the quarantine area and into the Ocean Realm acclimation area before ultimately being released onto exhibit. The new residents were then monitored closely to ensure they were well-adjusted in their new home.
TELL ME MORE ABOUT GIANT GROUPERS!
Giant groupers are ambush predators which hide in caves or shipwrecks, lying in wait for unsuspecting prey. A grouper’s eyes function very well in dim light, giving it an advantage over its prey, which can include spiny lobster, small sharks and juvenile sea turtles. It can even rotate its eyes to see approaching prey without moving its head. At Adventure Aquarium, the groupers will eat a variety of items including squid, mackerel, bonito and bluefish.
When it comes time to breed, the fish release eggs and sperm directly into the water, a process called broadcast spawning. These groupers reach sexual maturity at about 20 years old. The species is found throughout the Indo-Pacific, with the widest distribution of any grouper, but its numbers are low and in decline in most areas due to overfishing making it vulnerable to extinction. Even in unexploited areas, their numbers remain low, and they are often caught before reaching sexual maturity. The grouper’s gall bladder is thought to have medicinal properties, and the meat of younger individuals is popular on menus around the globe. Other threats include overharvesting for food and the live fish trade.
Our hope is that these groupers can serve as ambassador animals for their wild counterparts. They can help send the message home to the families who visit Adventure Aquarium that sustainable seafood practices and conservation of our oceans are important if we want to keep species like giant groupers around for generations to come.
You can see these new animal additions in the Ocean Realm exhibit located in Zone A. Later this September, Adventure Aquarium will welcome a sixth Queensland grouper, a juvenile, from Newport Aquarium, our sister aquarium in Newport, Kentucky.
Stay tuned for updates!