Black Sea Bass

Centropristis striata

Last updated: May 27, 2024
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff

Black sea bass males become fluorescent blue and green during the breeding season.


Black Sea Bass Scientific Classification

Scientific Name
Centropristis striata

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

Black Sea Bass Conservation Status

Black Sea Bass Locations

Black Sea Bass Locations

Black Sea Bass Facts

Name Of Young
Group Behavior
  • Solitary
  • Solitary except during mating season
Fun Fact
Black sea bass males become fluorescent blue and green during the breeding season.
Other Name(s)
blackfish, rock bass, black bass, and tallywag
Average Spawn Size
198,690 eggs
spotted hake, little skate, summer flounder, monkfish, spiny dogfish, weakfish, bluefish, striped bass, bignose shark, dusky shark.
North America

Black Sea Bass Physical Characteristics

  • Brown
  • Grey
  • Blue
  • Black
  • Multi-colored
Skin Type

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Black sea bass males become fluorescent blue and green during the breeding season.

Black Sea Bass Facts

  • Black sea bass are not always black. They can have vivid blue or gray colors as well. The juveniles tend to be dusky brown with stripes.
  • Black sea basses, like all sea bass, are born female. Some of them change their sex to male, possibly to fill in for a scarcity of dominant males in their mating groups.
  • Black sea basses have been observed to make grunting noises. This is actually the noise that their swim bladders make, which sounds like thumps and grunts.


The black sea bass, also known as the blackfish, rock bass, tallywag, bluefish, and black bass, is a popular type of sea bass used in cuisines worldwide. Uniquely decorated and patterned, their skin is considered a beauty and is exhibited even in dishes. They are important recreational and commercial marine fish found on the Atlantic coastlines.

Scientific Name

Black sea basses are saltwater fish classified as Centropristis striata. The name Centropristis is derived from Greek, with kentron meaning “a saw” and pristis meaning “sting.” They are a type of true sea bass of the family Serranidae which comes from the Latin word serranus meaning “from a saw.”

Other names for them include blackfish, rock bass, bluefish, black bass, and tallywag.

Evolution and History

Black sea bass belongs to the family Serranidae, whose oldest fossil records date back to the Eocene period 55.8 million to 33.9 million years ago.

Their order, Perciformes, can be traced back to the Late Cretaceous period 100.5 to 66 million years ago.

Black Sea Bass Appearance

black sea bass in water

Like their name, these fish come in black, but also blue and other colors sometimes.

Black sea basses, like most other sea bass, are robust fish. They have oval-shaped, laterally-compressed bodies, large mouths that curve downward, protruding mandibles or lower jaws, and several rows of sharp teeth. These fish also have a triangular area on the roof of their mouth covered in teeth.

Black sea basses have a serrated preopercular margin and spiny gills. Their dorsal fins have ten spines, while their anal fins have three.

Black sea bass come in various dark colors such as black, dusky brown, and smoky gray with paler undersides. Each of their scales have light blue or white spots on them which collectively look like stripes on their bodies. Their fins are dark with paler, dusky spots on them. Their colors differ based on their sex and age. Younger fish begin light gray with dark spots, then gradually turn darker with white spots, develop long dark stripes, and finally acquire six vertical stripes. Females tend to have a duller color, unlike males, and appear more brownish or bluish-gray.

When the mating season begins, the male black sea bass’s color changes to become fluorescent blue and green around their eyes and other parts, as well as a bulge on their head called a nuchal hump.

Adult black sea basses can grow 26 inches long and weigh nine pounds, although most food basses are harvested at 1.5 to 3 pounds. Dominant males grow much larger than females and other males.

Black Sea Bass Behavior

The black sea bass is an avid swimmer. These fish can be found in rocky areas, wrecks, and structured habitats like coral reefs. They like to hide and skulk around these structures and are known to ambush their prey by blending into their background.

Male sea basses are aggressively territorial during the breeding season and chase away other males approaching their breeding space. These fish show their aggression by spreading out their usually lowered dorsal fin.


Just like all other sea basses, the black sea bass is a carnivorous predator. They are opportunistic feeders and will eat mostly that comes their way and fits into their mouths. Their favorite foods include shrimp, crab, clams, small fish, barnacles, bivalves, and worms.

The typical method of hunting for sea basses includes skulking around the crevices in their coral habitat and ambushing their prey with tremendous speed. Their color acts as a disguise, shielding them from the prey’s view by blending into their environment.

Habitat and Population

The black sea bass is a prolific marine fish native to North America, specifically the western zone of the Atlantic Ocean. Its range runs from the Canadian coastline all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico. They can be found in Nova Scotia, Maine, down to Florida, and Louisiana. There are two major keeps of black sea basses: at the mid-Atlantic and at the south Atlantic.

These sea basses like to make their homes in hardy, deep-water structures such as coral reefs, oyster beds, man-made objects, and wrecks. They typically live at a depth of around 20 feet in the ocean but have also been observed at depths of up to 430 feet.

Black sea basses are migrating fish. They prefer warmer water and will move accordingly. The fish in the Atlantic Ocean’s northern region tend to move as the seasons change. When the temperatures get warmer, they move to bays and shallow coastal zones, and when it gets cooler in the fall, they move offshore. However, the black sea bass in the southern region of the Atlantic do not migrate as far as their north Atlantic siblings.

The black sea bass population in the mid-Atlantic region is considered to be above the target of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), while the population in the south Atlantic is said to be below target but progressing because of the acceptable fishing rate.

The black sea bass’s conservation status is listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, and its population is stable.

Black Sea Bass Reproduction and Lifespan

Sea basses are hermaphroditic animals, and the black sea bass is no different. They are protogynous hermaphrodites, meaning that, most times, they start out as females, and then some of the larger females switch to males. A shortage of dominant males in the mating pool usually triggers this sex change.

Black sea bass develop very slowly and tend to be late bloomers, reaching sexual maturity at one to three years of age. Mating season begins in January, lasts through July, and takes place in shallow waters. The male sea basses assemble a group of female mates into each of their territories and guard it jealously from others.

Usually, the larger the female, the more eggs she is likely to produce. They typically produce anywhere from 30,000 to 500,000 eggs per mating season. The eggs hatch into pelagic larvae after 75 hours.

Female black sea basses have an average lifespan of eight years, while males typically live up to 12 years. However, this species is sometimes known to be able to survive for a maximum of 20 years.

Economic Importance

Black sea bass are very vital commercial and recreational animals. They are used for sport fishery as well as harvested as market fish. The world’s supply is primarily sourced from the United States. Countries featuring black sea bass in their cuisines include China, Thailand, India, and Georgia.

Black sea bass is described as being a lean protein with white, firm yet tender flesh and flaky texture when broken. It is a very healthy source of protein and Omega-3 fatty acids with a mild, fresh taste. Preparation features the fish often fried, boiled, or roasted. Care should be taken when preparing this fish because of the sharp spines on its dorsal fin, which can lead to injury.

Predators and Threats

The black sea bass is preyed upon by larger predatory fish such as the spotted hake, little skate, summer flounder, monkfish, spiny dogfish, weakfish, striped bass, bignose shark, and dusky shark.

The black sea bass is not currently facing any environmental or human activity threats. However, its presence in the north Atlantic is causing concerns in the lobster fishing market due to its notorious predatory consumption of crustaceans.

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Hi! I am a writer, actor, and filmmaker. Reading is my favorite hobby. Watching old movies and taking short naps are a close second and third. I have been writing since childhood, with a vast collection of handwritten books sealed away in a duffel bag somewhere in my room. I love fiction, especially fantasy and adventure. I recently won the James Currey Prize 2022, so now, naturally, I feel like I own words. When I was 11, I wanted to be a marine biologist because I love animals, particularly dogs, cats, and owls. I also enjoy potatoes and chocolate in all their glorious forms.

Black Sea Bass FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

How long do black sea bass live for?

Black sea basses have an average lifespan of 8 to 12 years. Some black sea basses have been known to live up to 20 years.





What eats black sea basses?

The black sea bass is preyed upon by larger predatory fish such as the spotted hake, little skate, summer flounder, monkfish, spiny dogfish, weakfish, bluefish, striped bass, bignose shark, and the dusky shark.

What do black sea bass eat?

Black sea bass eat shrimp, crab, clams, small fish, barnacles, bivalves, and worms.

What Kingdom do black sea bass belong to?

Black sea bass belong to the kingdom, Animalia.






What phylum do black sea bass belong to?

Black sea bass belong to the phylum, Chordata.


What class do black sea bass belong to?

Black sea bass belong to the class Actinopterygii.


What order do black sea bass belong to?

Black sea bass belong to the order, Perciformes.


What family do black sea bass belong to?

Black sea bass belong to the family, Serranidae.

What genus do black sea bass belong to?

Black sea bass belong to the genus Centropristis.

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  1. American Oceans / Accessed January 31, 2023
  2. NOAA Fisheries / Accessed January 31, 2023
  3. SeaFood Source / Accessed January 31, 2023
  4. Wikipedia (1970) // / Accessed January 31, 2023
  5. FishBase / Accessed January 31, 2023