About Parrotfishes and Why You Avoid Eating Them

Parrotfish is a fish species of family Scaridae. These brightly colored, elongated and deep-bodied fish species found on the tropical reefs and subtropical oceans. About 95% of the species is found in Indopacific. There are about 80 Identified parrotfish species.

Parrot fishes take their name from their dentition which is much different from other fishes. They have a parrot-like beak and tightly arranged mosaic teeth in the throat. These fishes use the beak to scrape algae from coral reef leaving behind noticeable scars. Parrotfishes play a significant part in bioerosion.

The smallest parrotfish species, Bluelip, has at most 13 cm in length. Some parrotfish such as green humphead parrotfish can have lengths over one meter. However, the majority of them have a length ranging from 30 cm to 50 cm.


A vast majority of parrotfish are herbivores, feeding on algae. Bigger species feed on coral while others feed small organisms such as invertebrates. They spend as much as 90% of their time feeding algae found on coral reefs. Consequently, parrotfish clean the reefs. As they feed on algae, some coral end up in their digestive tract. After digestion, they turn coral into a fine powder which they excrete.

Did you know much of sand in beaches is made of parrotfish poop? A parrotfish churns out about 320 kilograms of sand yearly. According to a study by Marine biology in Hawaii, a big parrotfish can produce as much 840 pounds of white sand – eroded coral – yearly. Therefore, a significant amount of sand in Hawaii and the Caribbean is parrotfish poop.

Parrotfish have a variety of colors and patterns. Each species has a distinct color which they can change as they grow from babies to adolescents and eventually to adults. These fishes are classified as protogynous hermaphrodites. This means that they transform from females into males as they age. The biggest parrotfishes are males. Since fishing targets the biggest fishes, it makes parrotfish reproduction difficult.

Parrotfish excrete transparent mucous cocoon from mucus gland in gills every night which they envelop them. Scientists also believe that cocoon helps to mask their scent. It, therefore, becomes more difficult for nocturnal predators to find them. Additionally, the cocoon stops small parasites from sucking their blood.

Nevertheless, parrotfish’ natural predators are few. Actually, the only predators are reef sharks and moray eel.

Importance of Parrotfish

Parrotfish have great health benefits for our bodies. These include clearing vessels, protection from heart diseases, keep the eyes healthy, treat arthritis and joint problems, treat skins problems, provide nutrients, and boost memory. There are commercial fisheries in into Pacific and Mediterranean dealing with parrotfish.

 Parrotfishes protect coral reefs from seaweed overgrowth. They do a fantastic job of cleaning coral reefs since they spend most of their time nibbling on corals, eating dead corals and cleaning algae. Parrotfish are algae best bet. Nowadays, there are regulations put in place to protect parrotfishes from fishers.

Are Parrotfish edible?

Although rare in the United States, parrot fish are consumed in many parts of the world. It is a delicacy in some places such as Jamaica. In fact, it is eaten raw in Polynesia. It is not advisable to eat parrot fish. Instead prepare a delicious meal from redfish fish fillets using this Fish Taco recipe.

Why you should not eat parrotfish

Humans are among the primary predators of parrotfishes.  Overfishing depletes their number and consequently increasing the algae levels.  The good news is that some governments such as the Island of Bermuda have put a law to protect parrotfish. These laws make it illegal to fish or trade parrotfish. Similarly, numerous organizations are playing a significant role in promoting sustainable fishing. Consider the following reasons why you should stop consuming parrotfish.

First, parrotfish help to maintain beaches. They eat algae from coral reefs hence preventing the corals from dying. Coral reefs are a habitat to a massive population of fishes. Destroying the reefs puts the fish population at risk. Also, the coral reefs break water waves before heating the inland and hence offering protection from the storm surge. If algae continue to smother coral reefs there will be delicate coral ecosystem balances.

Parrotfishes are also a major sand producer. Given that they can live up to 15 years producing about 800 pounds of sand beach years, they play a significant role in maintaining beaches and supporting tourism. Therefore the destruction of parrotfish could have a ripple effect on the economy.