Peacock groupers are easily identified by their iridescent blue spots and, in larger specimens, lighter vertical bars toward the tail. They tend to be skittish fish, diving for cover when anything approaches. But these two were in an area where fishing is prohibited and I’ve noticed that the fish in these areas have figured out they don’t have to worry about people in the water (probably a big mistake).
Another trait of peacock groupers is that they will often hunt with eels and octopuses. That’s what these two were doing on this day. On the right of the photo, the tail of the eel can be seen sticking out from whatever cranny the eel was disappearing into.
But the thing I like best about this photo is the fish just above the head of the top peacock grouper. Not much can be seen of it except for two white areas that look like a mischievous grin. I suspect that these white spots are the bill of a large parrotfish, but I was never able to get enough of a look to be sure.
One difference in taking photos as a snorkeler rather than a diver, is that I can’t follow fish when they dive or hug the bottom. Also, when a fish is 30 feet down, the water affects how they look and the sun doesn’t reach them as much.
I mention this because I most often see peacock groupers in 20 to 30 feet of water where they look somewhat dull in color. They also tend to be quite shy, hurrying for cover under ledges or whatever other shelter is at hand.
However, as with many kinds of fish, juveniles can often be found in shallower water. I happened on this young peacock grouper one day and it promptly headed for cover. Before it did though, I got a couple of good images that captured the sun bringing out the spectacular blue patterns that I never see when they run deeper.
In my attempts to identify what I see in the water, I use John P. Hoover’s book The Ultimate Guide to Hawaiian Reef Fishes, Sea Turtles, Dolphins, Whales, and Seals. His website is hawaiisfishes.com.