A Visual Guide on How to Identify Various Types of Snapper Fish

Physical features of Bluestripe snapper
Snappers are one of the most popular variety of fish in the seafood industry. Not only are they caught via traditional fishing methods, but due to their increasing demand, they are also vigorously farmed. There are 17 commonly known varieties of snapper fish.
Did You Know?
The red snapper spawns more than 20 times in regular intervals of 5 to 6 days between the months of May and October each year.
Snappers belong to the Lutjanidae family of perciformes fish, and are of the genus Lutjanus. These saltwater fish are fished not only as a food source, but also as pets and as a form of sport. Most species grow at a very fast pace, and hence are unsuitable for being kept in an aquarium.

They are found abundantly in the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Oceans. However, due to recent overfishing of this fish, the natural population is dwindling. In a bid to reinstate the population numbers, fisheries now release fixed quantities of farmed fish into the wild at regular intervals. Additionally, while fishing for snappers, the caught fish are kept only if they are of certain specific dimensions. If they do not meet those dimensions, they are released back into the wild.

Snappers dwell at depths of around 450 - 500 miles. These fish prefer tropical and sub-tropical climates, and are carnivorous in nature. They mostly feed on crustaceans and smaller fish, but have been observed to feed on plankton occasionally. They can grow to reach a length of up to 2 - 4 ft.

Almost 70 species of this fish have been recognized, but only 17 are popularly known and found commercially.
17 Popular Snapper Varieties and Identification Pointers
Schoolmaster Snapper
Schoolmaster Snapper (Lutjanus apodus):
  • Olive-grayish color
  • Reddish coloration near head
  • Elongated triangular snout
  • Yellowish vertical stripes on the body
  • Yellow-colored fins
  • Blue-interrupted stripe below the eye
  • Absence of lateral black spot
Red Snapper
Red Snapper (Lutjanus campechanus):
  • Vivid red body color
  • Silver-white under belly
  • Long triangular snout
  • Pointed anal fin
  • Absence of lateral spot
  • Dark red eye
Yellowtail Snapper
Yellowtail Snapper (Ocyurus chrysurus):
  • Bluish olive color and yellow spots on top
  • Pink and yellow longitudinal stripes
  • Prominent yellow stripe across the side from snout to tail
  • Bright yellow and forked tail
  • Absence of lateral spot
Mutton Snapper
Mutton Snapper (Lutjanus analis):
  • Olive green color on top
  • Red-colored lower fins
  • Contoured blue line below the eye
  • Pointed anal fin
  • Tiny lateral dark spot below the dorsal fin
  • V-shaped tooth arrangement on the roof of mouth
Cubera Snapper
Cubera Snapper (Lutjanus cyanopterus):
  • Body is dark brown with reddish hue
  • Broad triangular tooth arrangement on the roof of mouth
  • Slight blue tinge on the fins
  • Presence of protruding canine teeth on both jaws
Vermilion Snapper
Vermilion Snapper (Rhomboplites aurorubens):
  • Reddish body with whitish underbelly
  • Short, irregular, and diagonal blue lines on top
  • Absence of canine teeth
  • Appears as if looking upward
  • Absence of lateral dark spot
Twinspot Snapper
Twinspot Snapper (Lutjanus bohar):
  • Yellow-colored eye
  • Bluish green color on top
  • Gray-white-colored underbelly
  • Dark-colored fins
  • Presence of white spots in lateral linear formations on the body
  • Triangular snout
  • Absence of lateral dark spot
  • Appears as if frowning
Dog Snapper
Dog Snapper (Lutjanus jocu):
  • Brown body color with bronze accents
  • Sharp canine teeth, with one pair enlarged and protruding
  • Yellowish-orange tinge on the fins
  • Pale triangle along with a blue interrupted line below the eye
  • Absence of dark spot laterally and below the dorsal fin
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Mangrove Snapper
Mangrove Snapper (Lutjanus griseus):
  • Also known as Gray Snapper
  • Dark brown gray body color
  • Red and orange spots in the form of vertical stripes
  • Two canine teeth on the upper jaw
  • Reddish tinge on the fins
  • Absence of lateral and dorsal dark spot
Emperor Red Snapper
Emperor Red Snapper (Lutjanus sebae):
  • Dark red eye
  • Alternating thick stripes of white and dark red throughout body
  • Spiny fins
  • Slightly forked tail fin
  • Triangular snout
  • Absence of lateral and dorsal dark spot
Queen Snapper
Queen Snapper (Etelis oculatus):
  • Bright red color on top
  • Elongated body
  • Silver sides and underbelly
  • Notch on dorsal fin
  • Big and prominent eyes
  • Deep fork in the tail fin
  • Absence of lateral and dorsal spot
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Silk Snapper
Silk Snapper (Lutjanus vivanus):
  • Body has shades of pink, orange, and red
  • Sides are silver and exhibit presence of yellow lines
  • Yellow pectoral fins
  • Pointed anal fin
  • Edge of tail fin is black
  • Absence of lateral and dorsal dark spot
Lane Snapper
Lane Snapper (Lutjanus synagris):
  • Pinkish red body color
  • Alternating longitudinal dashed lines of pink and yellow
  • Large, faded black spot present laterally
  • Blackish edge of the tail fin
Bluestripe Snapper
Bluestripe Snapper (Lutjanus kasmira):
  • Bright yellow body color
  • 4-5 bright blue, lateral longitudinal stripes
  • White-colored lower body and underbelly
  • Lateral lower part shows pale gray lines
  • Yellow fins
  • Absence of lateral and dorsal dark spot
Papuan Black Snapper
Papuan Black Snapper (Lutjanus goldiei):
  • Greenish body color
  • Broad snout
  • Black fins
  • Dark spots and patches along the body
  • Presence of prominent scales
Blackfin Snapper (Lutjanus buccanella):
  • Red body color and yellow fins
  • Dark crescent shape at base of pectoral fins (blackfin)
  • Rounded fins
  • Absence of lateral and dorsal dark spot
Mahogany Snapper (Lutjanus mahogoni):
  • Grayish-green body color with a red tinge
  • Lateral diffuse dark spot
  • Eye and tail fin are bright red
  • pines along the fins are prominent
Each snapper is unique in its appearance. By observing the key characteristics of a variety, identification of the type of snapper can be possible.