The red grouper is a robust fish of moderate size. It has large eyes and the differ in size, with the anterior pair slightly smaller then the posterior pair. The pelvic fins are shorter than the pectoral fins. The pelvic fins are inserted posterior to the pectoral fins on the body. Red grouper have scales and thick skin located at the base of the soft dorsal and anal fins. The caudal fin is truncate and the caudal peduncle lacks a saddle. Sometimes confused with other members within the genus Epinephelus, the red grouper can be distinguished by the large size of its dorsal fin and the absence of a notch on the interspinous membrane. In particular, this grouper's pectoral fins being longer than the pelvic fins distinguishes it from the Warsaw grouper (E. nigritus), the yellow-edged grouper (E. flavolimbatus), and the misty grouper (E. mystacinus). Also, their pectoral fins are inserted posterior to the pelvic fins in contrast to the red grouper whose pelvic fins are inserted posterior to the pectoral fins. The head and the body of the red grouper are dark reddish brown in color fading to a pink or reddish color on the lateral sides and ventral side. Light colored blotches and spots may be seen scattered on the body and small black dots may be present around the eyes. The anal, dorsal, and caudal fins have dark margins. When the fish is resting, the coloration becomes more banded in appearance, resembling the Nassau grouper (E. striatus).