The Beauty of Your Aquarium: Parrot Fish

Pet Type


May 12, 2020

While there are certainly many, many different breeds of dogs and cats out there that you can choose from, nothing quite offers the number of choices you can make for adopting animals as aquariums do.

If you are looking to create the perfect environment for animals and if you are looking to adopt animals that will catch your eye, but not quite require you to leave the house, then you will absolutely want to consider the idea of setting up an aquarium and adopting the fish that you like the most.

With that being said, there are countless different kinds of fish to choose from, each with their own requirements for water, tank size, and accessories within the tank. If you are looking for a fish that will really make your aquarium notable, you might want to consider looking at the famed parrot fish. Named for their characteristic appearance, these fish can make a statement in any aquarium.

Parrot fish are well known across the world for a variety of reasons. In some places, the parrot fish is considered a royal delicacy that only the king can eat. In other places, these fish are helpful parts of the environment and help keep coral clean and healthy. Along some beaches, they are even famed for producing white sand that can attract tourists to the beach location. Parrot fish are also known to change their color and their gender over the course of their life, making them a fascinating creature to have in your aquarium.

What Do Parrot Fish Look Like?

As you might be able to imagine, there is a good reason why the parrot fish is named the way it is. Of course, there are at least 80 different species of parrot fish out there, but just about all of them have a beak-like mouth, earning them the name “Parrot” fish. This beak-like mouth is formed by their fused teeth on their jaws, and it is what they use to scrape algae (their main source of food) off of coral.

Just about all of these fish are colorful and will take on bright and vibrant colors, depending on where in the world they are found and what particular species of parrot fish you are after. They tend to be somewhat longer fish with deep bodies and a blunter head. With as many different species as there are, it can be hard to determine specific characteristics, like the shape and placement of the fins.

They can grow up to four feet in length, although most usually remain at about one foot. They can also weigh up to 45 pounds, with the occasional fish weighing even more than that, although most are often much lighter than this. Their color changes as they grow older, meaning that it may look different as an adult than it did as a young fish. Scientifically, these fish are known as protogynous hermaphrodites. What this means is that these fish are born as female fish, but as they grow older, they will eventually transition into male fish.

What Species of Parrot Fish Are There?            

There are at least 60 different species of parrot fish out there, with some people estimating closer to 95 different species, depending on technical classifications. This means that there is a massive amount of room for variations between different species when it comes to size, shape, color, and so on.

Some fish, such as the Queen Parrot Fish are renowned for their almost iridescent scales and coloring. Other parrot fish may have more distinctive fins on their backs, such as the Redband Parrot Fish. These fish might grow more noticeable fins that give them a more stereotypical fish-like appearance than other parrot fish out there. If you are looking for a particular pattern on your fish’s scales, then there are plenty that stand out from the crowd.

For example, the aptly named Stripe Parrot Fish has distinct stripes that run horizontally across its body. If stripes are not your type, then the Stoplight Parrot Fish may be more suitable, as it has the potential to develop spots on its back rather than stripes.

However, these may disappear as the fish changes its color. Other parrot fish, such as the Rainbow Parrot Fish may have two or more colors on its scales from birth to death, unlike many other parrot fish. These are just a few of the different types of parrot fish that are found only within the Caribbean Reefs and the Bahamas. These fish can also be found on the other side of the world, including near South America and Australia.

What Kind of Aquarium Requirements Do They Need?

If you are planning on taking in a parrot fish of your own, you should first keep in mind that they are not commonly recommended as aquarium pets, and they should be avoided if you are not used to caring for aquarium animals. This is because they thrive off a diet where they will eat algae off rocks and coral, and this is generally not good for aquarium substrate. With that being said, if you do plan on taking in a parrot fish, there are a few things that you will need to know beforehand.

For one, these fish are extremely particular about their feeding habits. This is the main reason why novice aquarium owners should always stay away from these fish, as it will often only lead to trouble. This is something you need to be aware of when you are adopting a parrot fish.

Now that you are aware of this, you should first make sure that you have an aquarium that can easily handle a fish that grows up to 20 inches in length. While it is certainly possible that some species of parrot fish grow larger than this, most that are sold for aquarium habitats do not. Because of this, you will need to purchase a larger aquarium. This aquarium should be heavily decorated with rocks and living plants so that the fish feels at home and has many places to hide, if it wants to. Aside from this, you need to make sure that the water in the aquarium meets the same standards of water as the fish would experience in the ocean. Because there are so many different species of parrot fish, you will need to do some research on your species specifically.

When properly cared for, these fish can easily live past 13 years in captivity, making them a long-living member of your aquarium. They are often docile and nonaggressive, meaning that you can add other fish to take up the rest of the aquarium, if you want.

What Kind of Care Do They Need?

These fish need a considerable amount of care to ensure that their diets are well tended to. They feed off of the algae that grows from rocks and coral, meaning you should have a high number of rocks in the aquarium for the algae to grow on.

Out in the wild, these fish are often revered for helping coral out by eating the algae off of it. This process helps control the algae population and it also creates areas where young coral can find its place and begin growing. To ensure that your fish has the food it needs, you can also feed it plankton and other smaller invertebrates so that even if there isn’t much algae growing, the fish will still have something to eat. They will also be more than happy to eat other plant matter, although algae is their preference.