- Although the flesh of the almaco jack is considered quality table fare, the species has been associated with ciguatera poisoning, a seldom fatal stomach irritation.
- The almaco jack is susceptible to tapeworm parasites in the caudal peduncle area, but the meat can be eaten safely if affected portions are cut away.
Tomtate have a slim, silver-white body with gray to tan on the back, yellowish pelvic and anal fins, and a bright orange-red mouth lining. A yellow to brown stripe runs from the eye to the base of the tail. Juveniles have a second, somewhat narrower stripe above the lateral line, and young juveniles have additional, even thinner stripes. The smallest juveniles have vertical bars. At the base of the tail there is a dark blotch that fades away in larger specimens. This feature distinguishes the tomtate from other grunt species, which lack such a blotch. The first dorsal fin, which has 13 spines, is connected to the second dorsal fin, which has usually 15 rays. The anal fin has three spines and nine rays, and the pectoral fin has usually 17 rays.
Tomtate are omnivorous bottom feeders that forage for small crustaceans, mollusks, worms and other bottom-dwelling invertebrates, as well as plankton and algae.
As the most abundant species of grunt, which also has the widest range, tomtate occur in the western Atlantic from Cape Cod, Massachusetts, southward to Brazil, including Bermuda, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Caribbean islands.
Tomtate inhabit subtropical waters and are found in seagrass beds, sand flats, patch reefs and hard, rocky bottoms at depths up to about 100 feet. Farther north, they are found mostly offshore. Adults congregate in large schools around piers, docks and reefs during the day, while juveniles often gather in small groups near crevices. Tomtate are more tolerant of colder water than most other grunt species.
- Tomtates are commonly displayed in saltwater aquariums.
- There have been occasional reports of ciguatera poisoning in the Virgin Islands from eating tomtates. Ciguatera is a toxin that originates in certain reef algae and moves up the food chain, accumulating in high concentrations in the flesh of large reef-associated carnivores.