The Parrotfish (Scaridae) are a family of perch-like fish with a mouth that resembles a parrot’s beak.


Parrotfish can grow up to 1 meter in length and are very colorful. The color is usually neutral brown or greenish in the juvenile stage, becoming richer in the adult stage. It is a social species that lives in schools in coral reefs. There are many different types. In the genus Scarus, for example, about 23 species are distinguished.

The name Parrotfish

The name Parrotfish was coined because the teeth of the Parrotfish resemble the mouth of a Parrot. Because Parrotfish mainly scrape algae off the coral rocks, the teeth wear out quickly. These are therefore constantly replaced. These new teeth develop in the beak. What we see on the outside as beak is actually a kind of cement on the outside of the jaw. The teeth are only on the cutting edge. The teeth develop in vertical rows in the algae-scraping Scarus species and in oblique rows in the excavating species such as Chlorurus, Sparisoma and Bolbometopon.


Parrotfish have the same swimming style as wrasses, with pectoral fin rowing movements, using the tail only in fast movements. With their strong mouth, they scrape algae off the coral rocks, sometimes also eating chunks of coral. The color shows a strong variation, sometimes also between specimens of the same species. During the day, the parrotfish forages by taking large bites from the living coral, which is clearly audible to divers. The crushed indigestible lime skeletons sink to the bottom like fine white sand. These excrements contribute significantly to the creation of tropical white sand beaches. It is a busy swimmer, difficult for divers to approach.


During the night, the parrotfish lies on a sandy bottom or between the branches of the coral. It protects itself by secreting a mucus that forms a transparent cocoon around its body, masking its scent and protecting itself from parasites. The mucus is secreted from a gland near the gills. Adults no longer form cocoons.

Growing up

When a parrotfish grows up, it goes through a number of stages. With a transition to the next stage, there may be a significant change in color pattern and sex. All parrotfish are born female, but later some transform into males or super males.

A super male has a harem of a number of females. During the mating season, they swim together to the surface of the water. The male expels his sperm so that fertilization takes place exposed to the air.


This family is divided into the following subfamilies and genera:

Subfamily Scarinae

Bolbometopon Smith, 1956
Cetoscarus Smith, 1956
Chlorurus Swainson, 1839
Hipposcarus Smith, 1956
Scarus Forsskål, 1775

Onderfamilie Sparisomatinae

Calotomus Gilbert, 1890
Cryptotomus Cope, 1871
Leptoscarus Swainson, 1839
Nicholsina Fowler, 1915
Sparisoma Swainson, 1839


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