Striking colours and the capability to change gender multiple times, parrot fish are one of the most fascinating creatures of nature. It makes us wonder as to what other secrets the depths of the oceans behold. Doesn’t it?
Arguably, the most important fish in the Caribbean coral reefs, these creatures are much more than just beautiful to look at. They play a very important role in preserving coral reefs.
Is your little one curious to know more about these beautiful bright coloured fish? Well, if that is the case, we have made a list of 11 amazing parrot fish facts for kids (and also for adults in case you weren’t aware of them).
11 Most Interesting & Fun Facts about Parrot Fish for Kids
Parrot fish are saltwater creatures that are generally found in the shallow waters of tropical and subtropical oceans. One may usually find them near the coral reefs, rocky coasts, and seagrass beds.
Their incredible colours make it a treat for any person who is lucky enough to go deep-sea diving. So, without any further ado, let us look into some of the most fascinating facts about this marine fish.
1. The name ‘parrot fish’ is derived from their fused teeth
Ever wondered why a parrotfish is called that? It is because of how their face looks. Yes, that is right.
When you take a good look at these creatures, you will notice that their two pairs of teeth are fused together. This gives the look of a beak of a parrot and hence the name.
2. The fused teeth help them to chew on coral
When it comes to the fused teeth of the parrot fish, it is more than just appearance. The fused teeth that form the beak-like mouth help them in scrapping off pieces of coral and other food.
Adding to that, they have a set of inner pharyngeal teeth that crush the food once it is taken inside the mouth.
3. Parrotfish play an important part in our ecosystem
We have already established that parrot fish chew on the algae growing on coral reefs. However, there is a misconception that because they also chew on the corals, these creatures are responsible for the damage done to the corals.
But, recent studies have proved that is not the case. On the contrary, the parrot fish are responsible for the growth of new corals.
They help bleached corals recover by eating the algae which otherwise prevents new corals from growing. So all the beautiful corals you see once you go deep sea diving, thank the parrotfish for being ferocious eaters!
More Stuff You’ll Love: 11 Amazing Submarine Facts for Kids
4. Parrot fish are really social creatures
Another interesting fact about parrot fish is that they are extremely social creatures. They are usually found in schools of at least a dozen.
These schools are led by a dominant male. You can spot them swoop past you in case you are diving deep near the corals. It is indeed, a wonderful sight!
5. Some parrot fish can make their own ‘nightgown’
Do you change your clothes before going to bed? And do you love snuggling inside your warm blanket at night? Guess what? So do the parrot fish!
You might be surprised to know that one of the most interesting facts about these creatures is that they make their very own ‘nightgown’ when they go to sleep!
Some species of parrotfish can create a cocoon around their bodies from mucous when they go to sleep. Scientists believe it may be a defence mechanism against their predators like sharks and eels.
6. There are about 90 species of parrot fish in the world
When it comes to diversity, parrot fish probably take the cake. With 90 different species of these creatures swimming through the ocean, it can be hard to find another organism with so much variety! One can generally find them in tropical and subtropical parts of the ocean.
7. The green bumphead parrot fish is the largest in the world
When a creature has so many species, a natural question arises as to which is the largest variety. Not to worry as we got that covered for you.
The Bolbometopon muricatum, also known as the green bumphead parrot fish is the largest of the parrot fish family. It grows to about 4 feet in length and can weigh, on an average of more than 100 pounds!
8. Parrotfish can turn coral into sand
Are you a person who enjoys the beaches? Do you love that amazing, soothing feeling of sand touching your feet? Well, you can thank the parrot fish for that.
One parrotfish can turn 1 ton of coral into sand in one year! This is because; the main diet of the fish consists of algae growing on the corals. When the fish nips away at the same, they also chew on the pieces of coral.
These are digested and results in small sand particles. There is a chance that the white powdery sand is parrot fish poop!
9. Parrot fish have teeth that are harder than many metals!
Who would have thought that such amazing creatures would have teeth that are harder than many metals! Their teeth are made of fluorapatite; one of the hardest biominerals in the world. This makes the teeth of the parrot fish harder than copper, silver and even gold!
10. Parrot fish can change their gender multiple times
Yes, you read that right. One of the most fascinating aspects of parrot fish is they are able to change their genders multiple times throughout their lives. Not just gender, but colour too!
Usually, a big brightly coloured male will lead a school of smaller, duller females and even provide them all the sperm needed to fertilise the eggs.
However, as they grow bigger, females will change colours and genders and challenge males for leadership of the group. This process is known as ‘protogynous hermaphroditism’. Each time a parrotfish goes through this, their colours change drastically too. Fascinating, isn’t it?
11. The mating ritual for parrot fish is elaborate
When you got a group of fish that changes their gender multiple times, naturally the question of mating comes to mind. Well, the mating process of the parrot fish is nothing short of elaborate.
Under the light of the full moon, hundreds of parrot fish comes together. The males bump their heads to defend their territories and put on shows for the females passing by. Together, they spawn their sperms and eggs into the water which can lead to fertilisation.
Different Types of Parrot Fish
We already know that there are 90 different species of parrot species swimming around in the ocean. While it is not possible to talk about all of them, we can definitely talk about a few of them; the most common ones.
So, let us take a look at the common parrotfish species–
1. Humphead parrot fish
The biggest parrot fish of the family, the humphead parrot fish is over 100 pounds. The males and the females look the same. Before reaching their sexual maturity they have either green or brown bodies with five vertical white spots along the length of their bodies.
After maturing, they develop a large bump on their head and their colour turns to either bluish-grey or green with a yellowish-pink stripe on the front of the face.
2. Blue parrot fish
As the name suggests, they are all blue in colour with a yellow spot on their head which they lose once they mature. They are generally found in the tropical and sub-tropical part of the Western Atlantic Ocean.
3. Rainbow parrot fish
They are greenish-brown in colour with dull orange and green fins. The males and the females look very similar and they can live up to 16 years. Unfortunately their population is slowly going down.
4. Stoplight parrot fish
The spotlight parrot fish tend to look very different as a baby and as an adult. Although in the initial phase they are red and white in colour, they start to change their colour rapidly as soon as they start growing. They also have a yellow spot near their pectoral fin from which they get their names.
5. Princess parrot fish
You can find schools of princess parrot fish near rocky reefs which are rich in algae growth. In the initial phase they have brown bodies with dark stripes which fade as they grow. Their fins become yellow with a dark bordered tail.
Also want to know about some other sea creatures, read these articles:
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Parrot fish live in the shallow waters of tropical and sub-tropical oceans and can mostly be found near the coral reefs.
The diet of the parrot fish mainly consists of algae which grow on the coral reefs.
Yes, it is estimated that one parrotfish can turn one ton of coral into sand in a year.
The scientific name of parrot fish is Scaridae.
The largest parrotfish is the bumphead parrot fish which can grow up to 4 feet in length and can weigh over 100 pounds.
A parrot fish can live up to 7 years. However, there are exceptions like the rainbow parrotfish which can live longer.
Parrot fish change colours when they reach sexual maturity and when they are changing their genders. While the exact reason is not known, it is assumed that it is a form of adaptation.
Yes, parrot fish can change their gender multiple times throughout their lives.
Almost all parrotfish are born female. Some may be born as male but, that is extremely rare.
Yes, parrot fish have two pairs of teeth. The first pair is fused together to form a beak like structure to scrape off the algae from the corals while the second and inner pair is used to crush the food.
Parrot fish can be semi-aggressive in nature and are peaceful for the most part.
Yes, certain species of parrot fish have been categorised as endangered and in the case of others, the population is slowly declining.
In Jamaica, parrot fish are consumed; it can be cooked, grilled, baked or raw.
That was it, folks! You have reached the end of the article “11 Amazing Parrot Fish Facts for Kids”. Hopefully, you and your little one had a great time learning about these colourful gender-fluid fishes.
You must keep in mind that although they might look beautiful, you should never keep them in aquariums as they are vital for the ecosystem of the oceans. Additionally, they cannot cope well in a captive environment and their diet is also not as sufficient.