If you’ve ever had the chance to experience the crystal blue waters of the Bahamas or any Caribbean island, you’ve likely seen a parrotfish in its natural habitat. These fish live in tropical reefs and are some of the most common marine fish found on snorkeling and diving expeditions. Because of the activity and potential size of these fish, they are typically not kept in captivity, although some commercial aquariums may display them.
Read on to find out more about the blue parrot fish and some fun facts in case you ever see one of these beautiful fish in the wild!
Scarus coeruleus is commonly known as the blue parrotfish, blueman, blue kwabs, or just plain kwabs. Named for their spectacular blue coloration, they can be easily identified as a parrotfish by their distinctive beak feature, which is named after the same group of birds.
There are currently 52 different species of parrotfish within the genus Scarus. Blue parrotfish are often fished for food and are often the result of by-catches. The additional loss and destruction of coral reefs leaves their future uncertain. Currently, they are listed as Least Concerned by the IUCN Red List, although this could change to Near Threatened in a few years.
While these fish are harvested for food across the Caribbean, they contain ciguatoxin, which is the result of toxins produced by algae found near coral reefs. These toxins are often associated with areas affected by red or brown tide.
Blue parrotfish comes from the tropical waters of the western Atlantic, south of Maryland, and throughout the Caribbean. They are not yet documented in the northern regions of the Gulf of Mexico.
There they live in and around coral reefs with a depth of up to 24.4 m.Adolescents are often found in sea grasses such as turtle grass (Thalassia testudinum).
While they are called parrotfish, they are not related to parrotfish hybrids that are common in the freshwater aquarium hobby. If you would like to learn more about the blood parrotfish hybrids, please read our full care sheet here.
Parrotfish have a very distinctive silhouette. They are often streamlined with tapered fins, bright colors, and a bump on their snout that covers their beak. Juvenile blue parrotfish have a yellow spot on their head that gradually turns to a uniform blue as they grow up.
The blue parrotfish can grow to be 10 to 30 inches long, making it one of the largest species of parrot fish. The males are often much larger than the females and possibly a little more vivid in color; There are no other documented differences between men and women.
Interestingly, parrotfish are sequential hermaphrodites – more precisely, protogynous hermaphrodites – which means that the fish switch from female to male as they mature.
Blue parrotfish diet
Why do parrotfish have a beak? It’s supposed to help them eat!
The blue parrotfish diet consists primarily of algae that grow on rocks and the various organisms that may also live in those crevices. They can usually be out and about to survey the reef looking for available food and are believed to spend 80% or more of their time looking for something to feed on.
Interestingly, the stone they pick up while grazing is digested into sand, which makes up most of the white sand you’ll find on tropical beaches!
Do parrot fish eat stones?
While parrotfish process stones into sand, they are not intentionally eating a stone for nutritional value. Instead, they usually try to get seaweed, coral, or some other tasty snack that happens to be lying on the rock at the same time.
Do parrot fish eat other fish?
Most species of parrotfish are herbivores and graze on algae and detritus. However, we did mention that blue parrotfish will eat any invertebrates that might get in the way. Most likely, they are not purposely hunting for meatier foods and will definitely not be seen chasing any other fish for prey.
Other species of parrotfish
While there aren’t that many different species of parrotfish in the ocean, they’re definitely a favorite for divers and snorkelers. While these fish are active swimmers and usually reach a decent size, there are a few species that can be kept in the home aquarium, including Scarus quoyi and Scarus taeniopterus.
It is not recommended to keep more than one species of parrotfish in one saltwater tank.
Quoys parrotfish (Scarus quoyi)
Quoy’s parrotfish, also known as the greenblotch parrotfish, is a beautiful fish with purple, green, yellow, and blue colors. These fish come from the relatively shallow, warm waters of the Indo and Western Pacific, where they can reach a size of approximately 16 inches. They can be seen foraging in groups or alone.
These fish can be difficult to keep in the aquarium. Not many hobbyists have long-term success with their parrots, and they require a considerably large setup. The minimum recommended tank size for a Quoy parrotfish is 757L. These fish also do best in an established tank with plenty of natural algae to graze on or they can be picky eaters.
Most hobbyists find their quoy’s parrotfish to be reef safe, although there is always the possibility that yours isn’t there.
Princess parrotfish (Scarus taeniopterus)
The princess parrotfish is much smaller than the Quoy parrotfish, growing only about 9 inches, with 14 inches being the absolute maximum. These fish come from regions similar to the blue parrot fish, around Bermuda, the Bahamas, South Florida, and the rest of the Caribbean.
Male princess parrotfish have a base color of blue with some shades of yellow. Females are very easy to distinguish and have a white underbelly with orange and brown tones. Both men and women have a mask around their eyes.
These fish tend to stay around the lower water column, and juveniles like blue parrots can be found in turtle grass (Thalassia testudinum). Interestingly, princess parrotfish sleep in slime cocoons.
In the aquarium, these fish will need a minimum of 125 gallons (473 l), although a larger aquarium will give them even more room to swim and more algae to grow. They are best suited for a full-grown aquarium with lots of natural algae for grazing. These fish are generally not considered to be reef safe, although this depends entirely on the fish’s personality.
Parrotfish are some of the most beautiful fish that inhabit tropical reefs around the world. Overfishing and habitat loss are gradually threatening their natural populations, although aquariums and hobbyists are struggling to raise awareness of these fish that hold our white sandy beaches.
There are only a handful of species of parrotfish that can be comfortably housed in a home aquarium without the blue parrotfish. However, if you are ever on the reef and happen to come across one, you will see how much better they are in their natural ecosystems.
If you have any questions about blue parrot fish or any other species of parrot fish, or if you had a parrot fish in your own saltwater aquarium, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below!