The parrotfish is a subgroup of the Labridae family and one of the most important groups of herbivorous fishes found on coral reefs all over the world. They are interesting multicolored fish; for example, at night time they cover themselves in a mucous cocoon that protects them from predators and have many responsibilities when it comes to protecting the marine life and the coral reefs in places such as the Maldives.
Parrotfish are found mostly on tropical coral reefs and lagoons in the Indo-pacific region where the Maldives are located. They can also be found on coral reefs in the Western Atlantic region, the Red Sea, & the Caribbean. Parrotfish are exceptionally colorful animals.
Parrotfish are known for their numerous teeth that form a parrot-like beak which they use to get algae from the corals. Their bodies are deep with large pectoral fins which are used for movement and steering while the tail is only used to get a higher speed. Parrotfish are brightly colored fish whose colors tend to change or depending on their sex and age. For instance, male, female, and young parrotfish all have different colors.
Many parrotfish are colored in shades of blue, green, red, and yellow. The majority of parrotfish range in a size from 30 to 40 centimeters long yet some species such as the Humphead Parrotfish can reach up to 100 centimeters in length.
The parrotfish diet consists primarily of algae which they extract from chunks of coral that are ripped from the reef. They pulverize the coral with their grinding teeth in order to digest the polyps. Parrotfish also eat a wide variety of reef organisms and even though they are considered herbivores they are not vegetarian. Their feeding activity is considered to be very important for the production and distribution of coral sand in the reef. The fish ingests coral rock during feeding and later they excrete the rock as the sand that helps to create small islands. One parrotfish can produce 90 kg of sand a year.
Parrotfish Behavior towards Scuba Divers
Parrotfish are known to be very peaceful with divers and will certainly not attack a human being. In fact, they are rather indifferent to scuba divers meaning that they will not mind if they are being observed.
Parrotfish spawn all year round with an increased rate of reproduction during the summer months. They also take the hermaphroditic approach to reproduction; most parrotfish are born female and then morph into males when needed.
Threats to Parrotfish
The biggest threat to parrotfish is fishing-related activities. Their meat is considered a delicacy in many parts of the world but they are not fished regularly. They are not endangered species but their protection is important in preserving the coral reefs since they help reduce the amount of seaweed and produce sand.