Parrotfish: Scaridae


Size: two and one half foot (bumped) to the one foot (loose tooth)

parrotfish 2

Swim using pectoral fins,  very similar to wrasses


  • Feeding:
    • They use powerful jaws (beaks); where they get the name “parrot”fish from
    • Their beaks are used to scrape algae and coral polyps from hard substrates
    • They digest the polyps which is often seen excreting from them while diving
      • This digestion makes up a lot of the sand around coral reefs!





  • It is hard to identify different species because of their many different  phases which include:
    • Juvenile Phase
    • Initial Phase
    • Terminal Phase
      • Some also have intermediate phases which can include the hermaphoroditic parrotfish that go through a sex reversal.

Parrotfish are important to our coral reefs because they feed on micro algae. Parrotfish are seen in some countries as a food delicacy and therefore are one of the fish that suffer from overfishing. Along with overfishing parrotfish  also suffer from global warming and pollution.

The disappearance of the parrotfish would be detrimental to coral reefs, they are important in order to keep the corals from smothering in excess algae cover.


Here in Costa Rica we see are fortunate enough to get to see these important creatures. The most common ones we see are the bluechin parrotfish. Sometime we are lucky enough to see the bumphead! Our weekly REEF checks help us to determine approximately how many parrotfish are around the area. This can lead to conclusions of how much algae is on the reefs and why. And as we have learned these herbivores are important for the survival of the beautiful coral reefs. So next time you see a parrotfish be sure to smile knowing how important this fish is!