The body is robust and elongate; its widest point is more than half its total length. The head is broad with small eyes. The dorsal fins are continuous with the rays of the soft dorsal longer than the spines of the first dorsal fin. The membranes between the dorsal fin elements are notched. Pectoral fins are rounded and noticeably larger than the pelvic fins. Bases of the soft dorsal and anal fins are covered with scales and thick skin. The caudal fin is rounded. This fish is generally brownish yellow, gray, or olive with small dark spots on head, body, and fins. Large adults are somber-colored. Three or four irregular faint vertical bars are present of the sides of individuals less than 3 feet (1m) in length. The rear half of the caudal penduncle of these small individuals is covered by another similar bar. The tawny colored juveniles, although not as colorful as some grouper species, are attractively patterned; exhibiting a series of dark, irregular, vertical bands and blotches.