It is often that way that fish from different species groups are confused. So many look almost same – body shape, patterns and actions can all combine to make it hard for an untrained eye to pick the difference between groups like these. Often generically referred to as snapper, the four families described here all have sloping heads and tapered bodies, with a large mouth and notched tail.
Snappers | Class: Actinopterygii | Order: Perciformes | Family: Lutjanidae.
These fish are principally marine and seen frequently around all coral reef systems although a few live and feed in fresh water estuaries. The family includes more than 110 species, some growing to a metre long. Snappers have a single continuous dorsal fin, an upturned snout and prominent canine teeth. They tend to live in large groups.
Bream | Class: Actinopterygii | Order: Perciformes | Family: Nemipteridae
Threadfin or whiptail breams and false snappers are members of this genus. They are found in tropical waters in the Indian and western Pacific Oceans and prey on smaller fishes, cephalopods and crustaceans. Most coral breams are solitary, they have a smaller mouth than snappers and their dorsal fin displays a ridged or comb-like pattern.
Emperors | Class: Actinopterygii | Order: Perciformes | Family: Lethrinidae
Commonly known as emperors, emperor breams and pigface breams, Lethrinidae are found in the Pacific and Indian Oceans. They have a longer, pointed snout and can change their skin colours and patterns at will. A few species have molariform teeth, which they use to eat shelled invertebrates, such as mollusks and crabs.
Grunts | Class: Actinopterygii | Order: Perciformes | Family: Haemulidae
Known as grunts due to the sound these fish make when they grind their teeth, Haemulidae are seen everywhere in the Caribbean, but especially around seagrass beds and sand flats where they hunt for crustaceans. Grunts are closely related to snappers, but they tend to be smaller with a deeper notch in their tail but do not have canine teeth.