Color in Nature: Parrotfish, Colourful and Helpful

Color in Nature: Parrotfish, Colourful and Helpful

Parrotfish are probably the most colorful living things on the planet. Not only are there 90 some species of them, male and female parrotfish sport different colors and have the ability to change their coloration and patterns repeatedly throughout their lives. Females tend to feature browns, greens, silvers, and grays, while males have more vibrant colors such as pink, aqua, orange, yellow, red, and electric blue. However, in the Mediterranean, the coloration is reversed, with females sporting vivid hues and males drab ones.

img by laszlo-photo.

Bizarre Fact: Some male parrot fish maintain harems of females. If the male dies, one of the females will change gender and color and become the dominant male.

I'm in a Redband

img by richard ling.
80s Parrotfish Kissing In the Ocean

img by edwardcallaghan73.
 Swimming Parrot

Parrotfish are mostly tropical fish that live in all the world’s oceans. The parrotfish family contains ten genera and about 90 species. They get their name from their powerful cutting-edged beaks they use to scrape from the surface of coral, algae, polyps, and other small plant and animal life upon which they feed.

img by Maurice Koop.

Little Zippy 

Parrotfish sleep in pajamas. Every night they secrete mucous from an organ on their head that wraps around their bodies, making them harder for nocturnal predators to find.


img by laszlo-photo.
  Sundance Fish

Parrotfish meat isn't consumed much in the US, but is considered a delicacy in many other parts of the world. In Polynesia, it was even once considered a dish only fit for the king.

img by alfonsator.


Parrotfish can range in size from 1 to 4 feet (30 to 120 centimeters) in length and have a lifespan of up around 7 years.

img by sniffette.

img by jon hanson.
Midnight Under Water Fish Blender

Critical for the Coral Reefs

The key to saving the Caribbean's coral reefs could be the vividly colored parrotfish, according to the journal Nature. Reef ecosystems are increasingly strangled by encroaching seaweed, fertilized by agricultural runoff. However, parrotfish graze on seaweed, using parrot-like beaks. Since sea urchin numbers have dwindled in the Caribbean, parrotfish are the primary grazers. Scientists now believe that protecting the fish could help strangled reefs to recover. Parrotfish need protection because they are a sought-after delicacy in Caribbean culture and are easily caught in fish traps.

To learn more about the role of parrotfish in coral reef ecosystems, see the BBC News Report - Parrotfish to Aid Reef Repair.

img by Karlplatz.


Parrotfish Color Inspiration:

ParrotFish Blue parrot fish

Parrotfish Blue Parrotfish Magenta

Parrotfish Green io

The Rainbow Fish Parrotfish Purple

Parrot Fish Parrotfish


Coral Reef Color Inspration:

Coral Reef Coral Reef

coral reef Coral Reef

coral reef. coral reef

Coral Reef Coral Reef

coral reef coral reef

coral reef coral reef

More Interesting Parrotfish Info:
National Geographic Library - Parrot Fish
BBC News Report - Parrotfish to Aid Reef Repair


Craig ConleyAbout the Guest Author, Craig Conley
Craig is an independent scholar and author of dozens of strange and unusual books, including a unicorn field guide and a dictionary of magic words. He also loves color: Prof. Oddfellow

Showing 1 - 6 of 6 Comments
Just Beautiful! I can't get enough of those photos!
Rainbown Parrotfish
Makes me wish I knew how to swim.

Oops. Slap me with a tuna. I do know how to swim and with helium am certiified to be even under 50 feet on a regular basis. Maybe for weeks. Unless it is cold and Stefan has four more beers above the surface in Hamburg.
mmm... love these
this is wonderful! someone got a snorkel?

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