Cubera Snapper

Lutjanus cyanopterus

Last updated: May 27, 2024
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff
© Lynn Archer/

While very intimidating, the cubera snapper also falls prey to other marine animals like barracudas, whale sharks, and moray eels.


Cubera Snapper Scientific Classification

Scientific Name
Lutjanus cyanopterus

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

Cubera Snapper Conservation Status

Cubera Snapper Locations

Cubera Snapper Locations

Cubera Snapper Facts

Name Of Young
Group Behavior
  • Solitary
Fun Fact
While very intimidating, the cubera snapper also falls prey to other marine animals like barracudas, whale sharks, and moray eels.
Biggest Threat
Other Name(s)
Cuban Snapper
Incubation Period
24 hours
Barracudas, whale sharks, and moray eels
  • Solitary
Common Name
Cubera Snapper
Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, and Caribbean Sea
Number Of Species

Cubera Snapper Physical Characteristics

  • Grey
  • Dark Brown
  • Grey-Brown
Skin Type

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The cubera snapper is game fish native to the West Atlantic Ocean. There are several species of snappers, including the mangrove snapper, mutton snapper, lane snapper, red snapper, cubera snapper, and yellowtail snapper. However, the cubera snapper is the largest of the Lutjanidae family and occurs across Nova Scotia, Florida, Cuba, and all the way across the South Atlantic to Brazil. While they are found in Florida’s northern oceans, they are very rare, as seen throughout the range. This massive snapper is often confused with the mangrove snapper but can be distinguished by its tooth patch and gill rakers.

Additionally, they are very aggressive predators, and prey on sea creatures like crabs and other large crustaceans, due to their powerful bite and strong teeth. But unfortunately, they also fall prey to whale sharks. Finally, Cubera snapper is delicious but hard to get because people can get ciguatera poisoning from them.

Three Amazing Cubera Snapper  Facts!

  • While very rare, the cubera snapper can cause ciguatera poisoning in humans
  • These snappers are the largest of their family, weighing approximately 40 pounds and measuring around 3 feet in length. However, some weigh up to 125 pounds and grow to 5 feet in length.
  • Cubera snappers have long lifespans and can live up to 55 years

Cubera Snapper Scientific Name

The cubera snapper’s scientific name is Lutjanus cyanopterus, and they belong to the order Perciformes. This order is the most diverse of ray-finned fish and consists of around 40% of all bony fish species, resulting in the largest order of vertebrates. For example, there are over 10,000 known species in this order, 1,500 genera, and 160 families. In addition, they are also dominant in many freshwater bodies.

These large snappers are members of the family Lutjanidae, which is a group of perciform fish that occur mainly in marine water. However, some members inhabit estuaries or feed in fresh water. In addition, there are around 113 species in this family, and some are important to human consumption. The best-tasting snapper is the red snapper.

Cubera Snapper Appearance

There is a distinctive difference between the cubera snapper and other members of the Lutjanidae family because they have a slender, elongated body that is not very deep. However, they have many similarities, like their continuous dorsal fin and longish pectoral fin. Additionally, their caudal fin is truncate-shaped, and they have large teeth and thick lips.

The coloration of the cubera snapper is generally dark brown or gray with pale or dark gray sides. Furthermore, they may have a reddish tint. In addition, they have a bluish tinge on their ventral and anal fins. These intimidating snappers also have light gray caudal fins and translucent or gray pectoral fins. Lastly, juveniles have a barred pattern on each side of their bodies that fades away as they age.

Cubera snappers are the biggest species in their family, often weighing around 40 pounds and growing to 3 feet long. However, they have been known to reach a weight of 125 pounds and measure 5 feet in length.

Cubera snapper isolated

Cubera snappers feed on crabs and other crustaceans and are very aggressive hunters.

©Drew McArthur/

Cubera Snapper Behavior

These massive snappers are solitary fish, generally found in depths of 3 to 278 feet. It is very rare to see them together unless it’s spawning season. However, there is incredibly little information available regarding how they communicate with each other. But one thing’s for sure; they are powerful fish, notorious for their aggressive behavior.

Cubera Snapper Habitat

Cubera snappers are native to the western Atlantic Ocean and inhabit areas as far north as Nova Scotia all the way south to Brazil’s Santa Catarina. Additionally, they occur in the Caribbean Sea, the Gulf of Mexico, and around Bermuda. Their depth preference differs, but they are generally found in waters 3 to 278 feet deep. However, juveniles are often found seeking shelter in seagrass beds amongst the mangroves and have been sighted entering freshwater. But adults swim offshore, where they live in rocky ledges and reef habitats.

Cubera Snapper Diet

The cubera snapper is a feared, carnivorous fish known for its aggressive behavior. They mainly feed on crabs and other fish species. In addition, their powerful canines allow them to feed on larger prey like lobsters and other crustaceans. Furthermore, their preferred feeding grounds are generally located near the bottom of rocky reefs.

Cubera Snapper Predators and Threats

While very intimidating, the cubera snapper also falls prey to other marine animals like barracudas, whale sharks, and moray eels. However, there is a likelihood these predators fall victim to ciguatera poisoning caused by certain algae the snapper ingested.

The cubera snapper’s biggest threats include:

  • Pollution
  • Commercial and residential development
  • Climate change
  • Overfishing

Cubera Snapper Reproduction, Babies, and Lifespan

The cubera snapper is an oviparous breeder who releases pelagic eggs into offshore waters. Their breeding season takes place in the Caribbean from June to August. As a result, it is not unusual to see hundreds of individuals congregating over deep areas during this time. Their eggs hatch 24 hours after being fertilized, resulting in pelagic larvae dispersed by the strong currents. However, not much is known about their lifecycle and development.


Cubera snappers have a long lifespan and can live up to 55 years.

Cubera Snapper Population

There is no concrete evidence of the cubera snapper’s population size. However, their numbers are declining each year, and they are listed as Vulnerable on ICUN’s Redlist.

Other Snapper Species

There are over 113 species of snapper fish. Here are four of the most popular specimens:

Northern Red Snapper

The northern red snapper’s scientific name is Lutjanus campechanus, and they have large populations in their natural range of the Caribbean Sea, Atlantic Ocean, and Gulf of Mexico. Furthermore, they are one of the most sought-after game fish, notorious for their tasty flesh.

Their most distinguishing feature is their red coloration. However, red snappers occurring in deeper waters generally have a more intense red coloration compared to the ones inhabiting shallow waters. Red snappers are one of the top hunters in their habitat and prefer to stay on the hard bottoms of rocky reefs. However, their threats include humans and bigger carnivores like barracudas, sharks, morays, turtles, and other marine creatures.

Mangrove Red Snapper

The mangrove red snapper’s scientific name is Lutjanus argentimaculatus, and they belong to the class of ray-finned fishes. They, too, belong to the family Lutjanidae. These snappers go by many names, including:

  • Mangrove Jack
  • River snapper
  • Red perch
  • Red reef bream
  • Purple sea perch
  • Red beam
  • Gray snapper
  • Creek red bream
  • Stuart evader
  • Dog bream
  • Rock barramundi
  • River roman

These snappers are native to the Indo-Pacific range and have only recently been discovered in the Mediterranean Sea. The mangrove snapper is mainly a marine fish but can also occur in freshwater. As their namesake suggests, these fish occur primarily in mangrove estuaries. Additionally, adults and juveniles also inhabit lower areas of freshwater systems but eventually migrate to spawn in deeper offshore reefs.

Yellowtail Snapper

The yellowtail snapper is a broad fish with a yellow stripe running from its nose down its whole body. They are swift-moving fish that occupy the Atlantic Ocean. However, their biggest populations inhabit outside reefs in the Bahamas off the South Florida coast at depths of 30 to 250 feet. These snappers are highly prized for their light and flaky meat, which makes them very expensive all over the world, even in their native regions.

Compared to other snappers, the yellowtail snapper has a much smaller head and mouth. The clear yellow stripe that runs down their bodies narrows when approaching their eyes. In addition, they have several olive, bluish-black, or yellow spots on the upper half of their bodies. Furthermore, their lower sides and bellies have longitudinal, narrow, yellow, and pink stripes. Lastly, they have deeply-forked caudal balance with the lower projection shorter than the upper one.

Lane Snapper

The lane snapper is often referred to as:

  • Mexican snapper
  • Rainbow snapper
  • Candy snapper

This fish is a delicacy, making it a popular game catch. They occur in the western Atlantic Ocean, spanning from North Carolina to southern Brazil. In addition, they are found in large numbers just off Panama in the Antilles and along South America’s northern coast. Furthermore, they can also be found around Bermuda in the Gulf of Mexico.

Lane snappers have pointed snouts and deep bodies with double dorsal fins, rounded anal fins, and short pectoral fins. In addition, they have slightly forked caudal fins, and their dorsal fins are located above the lateral line on their bodies.

These snappers are generally found in deep waters, and their dark complexion is more pronounced than the shallow water fish, with resting phase coloration. Lastly, their uppersides are pinkish-red, and their backs have a green tint.

Mutton Snapper

The mutton snapper’s scientific name is Lutjanus analis. They inhabit the Atlantic coastal waters from Massachusetts in the USA to southern Brazil, specifically the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea. Adults generally occur in coral reefs or rocky regions underwater. However, juveniles prefer sandy areas with an abundance of plankton to feed on. But, on average, they are found at depths of 82 to 295 feet.

These snappers have olive-tinted backs and reddish sides. They also have blue stripes on their heads and prominent black spots between their dorsal fin and lateral line.

Mutton snappers are important commercial fish. They are especially popular in the aquarium trade and amongst sports fishermen. In fact, they are extremely prized by saltwater anglers, who use cut squid, smaller baitfish, frozen or live shrimp, live pinfish, or minnows as bait to catch them. However, mutton snappers prefer live bait to artificial bait.

Adults are typically found in deep water, while juveniles prefer shallow water. These fish are notorious fighters and give anglers a run for their money, which makes them even more desirable. Lastly, they are also caught commercially because their meat is a delicacy. People rave about their light, flaky, and white flesh, which can be cooked in various ways.

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About the Author

Chanel Coetzee is a writer at A-Z Animals, primarily focusing on big cats, dogs, and travel. Chanel has been writing and researching about animals for over 10 years. She has also worked closely with big cats like lions, cheetahs, leopards, and tigers at a rescue and rehabilitation center in South Africa since 2009. As a resident of Cape Town, South Africa, Chanel enjoys beach walks with her Stafford bull terrier and traveling off the beaten path.

Cubera Snapper FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

What is the biggest type of snapper?

The cubera snapper is the largest of this family and occurs across Nova Scotia, Florida, Cuba, and all the way across the South Atlantic to Brazil.

What are other names for cubera snapper?

The cubera snapper is often referred to as the Cuban snapper.

What is the best type of snapper?

The northern red snapper’s scientific name is Lutjanus campechanus, and they have large populations in their natural range of the Caribbean Sea, Atlantic Ocean, and Gulf of Mexico. Furthermore, they are one of the most sought-after game fish, notorious for their tasty flesh.

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  1. Wikipedia / Accessed January 30, 2023
  2. Gulf Council / Accessed January 30, 2023
  3. Florida Museum / Accessed January 30, 2023
  4. IUCN Redlist / Accessed January 30, 2023