Crimson Snapper – Lutjanus Erythropterus

crimson snapper - lutjanus erythropterus 3

Last updated on June 26th, 2022 at 11:02 pm

A crimson snapper, also known as Lutjanus erythropterus, crimson seaperch, high-brow sea-perch, Longman’s sea perch, red bream, red jew, saddle-tailed perch, small-mouth nannygai, or smallmouth sea perch, is one of the most popular species of saltwater fish among aquarists and has been bred in captivity since 1963. Since snappers are such hardy fish, they are often kept by aquarists who aren’t experienced fishkeepers, but with proper care, your crimson snapper can live for 20 years or more.

Crimson snapper, also known as lutjanus erythropterus, are a species of ocean fish native to the western Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico, as well as the Caribbean Sea and tropical western Africa. They are typically found in shallow waters close to shore but can travel to depths of up to 3,000 feet below sea level. Their average size is 12 inches long, but they can grow up to 30 inches and weigh 7 pounds or more.

Origin and descriptions

Crimson snappers (Lutjanus erythropterus) are saltwater fish that have been spotted throughout Texas and Hawaii. They belong to the Lutjanidae family, which includes groupers, emperors, and goatfish. The crimson snapper gets its name from its reddish-orange coloring. This species is commonly known as red snapper in some areas.

Despite their gorgeous exterior, these fish can be temperamental and highly territorial. As such, they require proper care if you want them to thrive in your aquarium.

Having a moderately deep body and a standard length around two-and-a-half times its depth, Lutjanus erythropterus has a steeply sloped head and one large eye. On the preoperculum, the knob and incision are poorly developed. There are no teeth on the smooth tongue and the vomerine teeth are arranged in a crescent shape without any rearward extension.

An anal fin consists of 3 spines and 8-9 soft rays, while the dorsal fin has 11 spines and 12-14 soft rays. There are 17 rays in the pectoral fins which extend to the level of the anus. There is a truncate caudal fin. The species is known to grow up to 85 cm (33.5 inches) in length, but a more typical length is 45 cm (18 in). The adults can range in color from pink to silver, with a darker red posterior margin on the caudal fin and a light vertical bar behind the head.

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Species profile

crimson snapper - lutjanus erythropterus 3

They belong to the family Lutjanidae, and are found in tropical waters throughout the Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico, and the Pacific Ocean. The crimson snapper is popular as a game fish because of its fighting ability. It is also considered good table fare. While there are many different species of snappers, only two – red and black – can be legally harvested.

Crimson snappers have round, oval-shaped bodies with three or four sharp spines on their dorsal fins that can cause injury if handled improperly. They have a mouth filled with strong teeth used to crush hard-shelled prey such as crabs and oysters. Their eyes are small but they have excellent vision both above and below water level.

Common names

The common names of the crimson snapper are crimson seaperch, high-brow sea-perch, Longman’s sea perch, red bream, red jew, saddle-tailed perch, small-mouth nannygai or smallmouth sea perch.


Lutjanus erythropterus inhabits the Indo-Pacific region. The distribution of this species reaches eastwards from the Gulf of Oman, eastwards to the Admiralty Islands of Papua New Guinea, southwards to northern Australia, and northwards to southern Japan. At depths greater than 20 m (66 ft), this species is known to form schools over reefs and wrecks on silty substrates. After reaching a length of 2.5 cm (0.98 in), juveniles settle in shallow waters covered with mud, sometimes entering estuaries.


crimson snapper - lutjanus erythropterus

Invertebrates like crustaceans and cephalopods are part of its diet, although fish are its primary diet. It typically lives in small groups. At first maturity, males and females in Australia are 28.8 cm and 24 cm long, respectively.

For both females and males, 50% of individuals reached maturity at 35.1 cm SL and 26.8 cm SL, respectively.

The eastern part of Indonesia experiences spawning all year round. On the Great Barrier Reef, crimson snappers produce up to 640,300 to 676,100 eggs in a single spawning event. On average they live for 32 years.

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Crimson snapper can grow up to 33.5 inches (85 cm) in total length and weigh more than 8 kg (18 pounds)

Tank size

Due to their large size, the minimum recommended tank size for crimson snapper fish is 300 gallons (1,136 liters).

Tank requirements

Lutjanus erythropterus is sometimes called red snapper, and requires similar care in an aquarium environment. Tanks should be between 250-gallons up to 300-gallons. A few 100-watt halide lights placed over such tanks will provide enough light for optimal coral growth. Temperature can range from 76°F to 82°F, and pH between 8.0 and 8.4 is acceptable as well.

The crimson snapper should be kept in an aquarium with plenty of water flow. The movement of water around fish is essential because it prevents organ failure due to low oxygen levels in stagnant water and creates areas of low pressure that pull dissolved oxygen into the tank.

A good rule of thumb is to have at least 10 times more water than you have fish. In other words, if you have one snapper, you need 300 gallons (1136 liters) of water. This rule does not apply if your home has soft tap water or if you’re using reverse osmosis (RO) filtration—in these cases, simply follow your manufacturer’s instructions on how much RO-filtered water to add per hour.

This fish likes slightly hard water (dH 10), with a specific gravity of 1.020–1.025 at 25°C (77°F). Red snappers are known to grow very large—up to 12 feet—and need plenty of room; avoid small tank sizes unless you plan on moving your fish into something larger within six months or so.

Tank mates

Choose tank mates wisely. Because crimson snappers are territorial, they may target and eat other small or non-tetra fish or invertebrates. It’s best to have just one red snapper per tank and keep it in an aquarium that is at least 300 gallons with plenty of rockwork or plastic plants for them to hide behind.

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If you do want to keep more than one snapper in your aquarium, it’s essential that you choose fish that aren’t aggressive. Since these snappers are mid-level predators, it’s also important that their tank mates don’t feed at or near the bottom of your aquarium. Common lutjanus erythropterus tank mates include gobies, cardinalfish, and angelfish.

Are they aggressive or peaceful?

As with most snappers, crimson snappers are aggressive and very territorial fish.


Crimson snapper can live up to 12 years when conditions are ideal.

Fisheries and conservation

crimson snapper - lutjanus erythropterus

There are regular appearances of Lutjanus erythropterus in markets on a regular basis, albeit in small quantities. Handlines and bottom trawls are used to catch this fish, which is targeted by recreational anglers as well as commercial fisheries in Australia along with the Malabar blood snapper (Lutjanus malabaricus).

A part of the catch is exported for international sale, making it a commercial fishery quarry in many parts of its range. It is a quarry in Indonesia and Papua New Guinea for recreational, artisanal, and commercial fisheries.

Aquaculture is the predominant method of farming it in southern China. The IUCN classifies the crimson snapper as Least Concern because its distribution is widespread and the population is stable in some areas.