Grunts and Sweetlips

Species NameHaemulidae (for Grunts), Plectorhinchus (for Sweetlips)
Common NameGrunts, Sweetlips
Care LevelModerate
LifespanGrunts: 5-15 years, Sweetlips: Up to 20 years
Adult SizeGrunts: 6-18 inches, Sweetlips: Up to 30 inches
Minimum Tank Size180 gallons
Temperature72°F – 78°F (22°C – 25.5°C)
Water ConditionspH 8.1-8.4, Salinity 1.020-1.025

About the Grunts and Sweetlips – Species Summary

Belonging to two different genera, Grunts and Sweetlips are both members of the Haemulidae family. Originating from tropical marine waters, these fish are highly sought after by aquarists due to their distinct appearances and captivating behaviors. The term “Grunts” is derived from the grunting noise they make, produced by grinding their pharyngeal teeth together. Sweetlips, on the other hand, get their name from the thick, fleshy appearance of their lips. Both these fish are found in a myriad of vibrant colors and patterns, making them an excellent centerpiece for marine aquariums.

Grunts and Sweetlips Lifespan

Grunts typically have a lifespan ranging between 5 to 15 years, depending on the specific species and care conditions. Sweetlips tend to live longer, with some species reaching up to 20 years in well-maintained aquariums. Their longevity is primarily influenced by factors such as diet, water quality, and overall environment.


Grunts exhibit a more streamlined body, usually adorned with horizontal stripes or blotches in hues of yellow, white, or gray. Their dorsal fins often contrast sharply with their primary body color, giving them an added aesthetic appeal.

Sweetlips, in contrast, are renowned for their large, pouty lips and polka-dotted patterns. Juvenile Sweetlips usually showcase more vibrant colors and patterns that change as they mature.

Average Size

While Grunts generally range from 6 to 18 inches in adult size, depending on the species, Sweetlips can grow even larger. Some Sweetlips species can reach impressive lengths of up to 30 inches.

Grunts and Sweetlips Care

Tank Size

Considering their potential size, a minimum tank size of 180 gallons is recommended for Grunts and Sweetlips. Larger species will undoubtedly require even bigger tanks to ensure they have ample space to roam and display their natural behaviors.

How To Set Up Their Tank

Grunts and Sweetlips thrive in tanks that replicate their natural marine environments. Live rock formations, caves, and ample swimming space should be provided. A sandy substrate mimics their natural seabed habitat. They also appreciate dimly lit areas where they can retreat, replicating the depth of their natural habitat.

Lighting Requirements

Both Grunts and Sweetlips are not too particular about lighting, but given that they hail from deeper marine waters, a moderate to dim lighting setup is ideal. If housing with coral, ensure that there are shaded regions where the fish can retreat.


A pH range between 8.1 to 8.4 is ideal for these marine species.


Maintain a consistent temperature between 72°F to 78°F (22°C to 25.5°C) to keep your Grunts and Sweetlips comfortable.

Water Parameters

Salinity levels should be kept between 1.020 and 1.025. Regularly monitor for ammonia, nitrate, and phosphate to ensure optimal water conditions.

Disease Potential

Like most marine fish, Grunts and Sweetlips can be susceptible to common marine diseases like Marine Ich or White Spot Disease. Quarantining new additions and maintaining high water quality will significantly reduce the risk.

Food & Diet

Being carnivores, Grunts and Sweetlips have a preference for meaty diets. Offer a mix of frozen mysis shrimp, brine shrimp, marine pellets, and chopped seafood. Feeding smaller portions several times a day mimics their natural feeding behavior.

Behavior and Temperament

Both Grunts and Sweetlips are generally peaceful but can be semi-aggressive when kept in cramped conditions. While Grunts tend to be more active swimmers, Sweetlips can often be observed hovering in one spot, their pouty lips and undulating fins on full display.

Tank Mates

Given their generally peaceful nature, Grunts and Sweetlips can be kept with a range of other non-aggressive marine species. However, due to their size, it’s best to avoid smaller fish that could be seen as prey. Compatible tank mates include tangs, larger clownfish, and certain wrasses. Avoid aggressive or overly territorial species.


Breeding Grunts or Sweetlips in a home aquarium is a challenge, and there’s limited documented success. They usually breed in large groups in the wild, engaging in synchronized spawning. If attempting to breed, providing an environment that mimics their natural habitat as closely as possible will be crucial. This includes parameters like lighting, water quality, and diet.

Grunts and Sweetlips FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)