13 Rainbow Parrotfish Facts You’ll Never Forget

Rainbow parrotfish facts, explore the largest, colorful, herbivorous fish of the Atlantic Ocean.

Did you know that there is a fish that can change its sex? Yes, meet the rainbow parrotfish, the brightly colored, largest herbivorous fish. The distribution of this fish is found in the coral reefs of the western Atlantic ocean, Caribbean, Bahamas, Bermuda, Florida. This is an amazing fish that keeps the coral reefs clean by feeding on the algae 90% of the time. It has unique fused, clustered teeth, suitably made to aid this process.

This is a species belonging to the family Scaridae. These are all called parrotfish because of their beak-like jaws, a typical feature. It is interesting to note that they excrete sand! After they bite and consume the algae on the rocks and corals, they grind the calcium carbonate reef material, which is indigestible in their guts, and excrete it as sand. They also have a specialized pharyngeal apparatus, which acts as a second set of jaws to crush the food and process it.

Another intriguing feature is their reproduction system. For example, some of rainbow parrotfish transform their sex to male.

You can further explore similar species with our codfish facts and fluke fish facts in our other articles.

Rainbow Parrotfish

Fact File

What do they prey on?

Algae, organic matter, seaweed

What do they eat?


Average litter size?

Many thousands

How much do they weigh?

44 lb (20 kg)

How long are they?

3.9 ft (1.2 m)

How tall are they?


What do they look like?

Green and orange

Skin Type

Wet, slimy scales

What are their main threats?


What is their conservation status?

Near Threatened

Where you'll find them

Coral reefs, seagrass beds, mangroves


Western Atlantic ocean





Scientific Name

Scarus guacamaia





Rainbow Parrotfish Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a rainbow parrotfish?

Rainbow parrotfish, Scarus guacamaia is a fish, which is a marine animal. This species is the largest parrotfish, and looks beautiful with its bright green and dull orange colors. Their dental plates are blue-green, their fins are dull orange, and their tongues are green.

What class of animal does a rainbow parrotfish belong to?

Parrotfish rainbow is a fish belonging to the class Actinopterygii, family Scaridae, and genus Scarus.

How many rainbow parrotfish are there in the world?

It is known that there are 80 species of parrotfish. Though there is no data on the number of rainbow parrotfish, it is known that they are endangered and formerly considered Vulnerable due to habitat loss and overfishing.

Where does a rainbow parrotfish live?

The distribution of rainbow parrotfish is in the tropical waters of the Western Atlantic, Caribbean, Florida, Bahamas, Bermuda, Argentina, Venezuela.

What is a rainbow parrotfish's habitat?

Parrotfish rainbow is primarily found in the sheltered coral reefs at a depth of 10-82 ft (3-25 m). To stay safe from their predators, they hide in the cracks and corners of rocks underwater during nights. The juveniles primarily reside in mangroves located close to the coral reefs, sometimes on the ocean rocks and frequently in the shallow waters. They prefer mangroves for a rich food source and escape from predators.

Who do rainbow parrotfish live with?

The rainbow parrotfish Scarus guacamaia have a highly social behavior and move in male-dominated groups of about 40 individuals together to protect themselves from their predators. They almost resemble a herd of cattle grazing over a grassy field, with a group of fish grazing over a reef.

How long does a rainbow parrotfish live?

This species of parrotfish have a maximum life span of 16 years. In general, larger-sized parrotfish live longer. Interestingly, the largest scarid, Bolbometopon muricatum, live up to 20 years.

How do they reproduce?

As the rainbow parrotfish (Scarus guacamaia) moves in harem groups, each of these groups is dominated by a male who mates with other mature female fish in this group. Every such group has primary and secondary males. Primary males are born males. When this dominant primary male dies, a female within the group, which is dominant, converts its sex to male, changing their morphology and behavior, too. This is the secondary male, born female but changed to male. Spawning happens where the females release thousands of eggs to fertilize with the sperm released by the primary male. Sneak spawning also happens when a group of primary males enters the harem by disguising themselves as female. They are all adapted to this kind of process as they release a cloud of gametes overwhelming the primary male. This also increases the chance of fertilization for females.

Generally, these fertilized eggs hatch into small forms after about 25 hours. They have a small body, less than 0.1 in in length, and drift in the sea and settle on reefs eventually. These larvae feed after about three days. The parental role in their upbringing is none.

What is their conservation status?

The conservation status was formerly considered Vulnerable due to loss of habitat and overfishing. Currently, it is Near Threatened in the IUCN red list as the population size could not be estimated.

Rainbow Parrotfish Fun Facts

What do rainbow parrotfish look like?

Rainbow parrotfish, meet the attractive, green-orange, rare fish.

The rainbow parrotfish is beautiful and brightly colored in green and orange. The fins, head, and tail are orange, and the rear is bright green. The above description fits large males. The females and small males are dull in appearance, having a dull orange and green color. Their clustered teeth make the mouth appear tough and resemble a parrot beak. The dental plates are blue-green, fins are dull orange, and tongues are green.

How cute are they?

The species of rainbow parrotfish is an adorable marine animal with its bright colors, green, blue, orange, on the body and tail. They make the coral reefs of Florida, Atlantic, appear beautiful with their presence and keep them free of algae.

How do they communicate?

The communication of the rainbow parrotfish (Scarus guacamaia) is more visual. The harem group dominating males deters the intrusion of other male fish by making its color darker on their bodies. These fish are very noisy, in general, as they produce considerably loud sounds when they scrape the coral reef.

How big is a rainbow parrotfish?

Rainbow parrotfish grow to a maximum length of 4 ft (1.2 m), though many are smaller than this. They are the largest herbivores in the parrotfish species.

How fast can a rainbow parrotfish run?

Not much is known about the parrotfish running. They spend 90% of their time eating, scraping algae. So they are not known for running. However, they swim with fins in groups and are not sedentary. They hide in crevices and in between rocks during nights.

How much does a rainbow parrotfish weigh?

The weight of rainbow parrotfish (Scarus guacamaia) can go up to a maximum of 44 lb (20 kg). This could be half the size of a green humphead, within the parrotfish species, which grows up to 51 in (129 cm) in length and 100 lb (45 kg) in weight.

What are their male and female names of the species?

The male is referred to as male rainbow parrotfish, and the female is known as female rainbow parrotfish.

What would you call a baby rainbow parrotfish?

The egg, when hatched, becomes a larva and then grows into small fish to become juveniles.

What do they eat?

This species' primary diet consists of algae, seaweed, organic matter found on the coral surfaces. Their fused teeth are well designed for scraping their food.

Are they poisonous?

Yes, this species can be dangerous if consumed because the flesh of this fish can contain toxins.

Would they make a good pet?

Generally, these fish are not known to be good pets as they are big in size and difficult to manage in a reef tank or aquarium unless you are an experienced hobbyist. These fish are not very compatible with other species. They are not suitable as aquarium pets as they have a bigger role in keeping the reefs healthy. Their description as aquarium fish is not apt because they do not adapt well to the captive life and can be stressed, leading to a shorter life.

Did you know...

One study estimates that if parrotfish are not protected, the Caribbean reefs could disappear in 20 years! This is because these fish effectively keep the corals free of algae and let them grow freely.

Some of this species excrete mucus for about 30 minutes every night, which appears like a sleeping bag. This is foul-smelling and keeps predators at bay during the night.

Why are rainbow parrotfish endangered?

The rainbow parrotfish is in an endangered condition. This population is threatened mainly due to humans, overfishing, and habitat loss. Therefore, there is a demanding need to restore this population in the Caribbean, Florida, and other locations to keep the ecosystem balanced.

Is parrotfish good for eating?

Many of the parrotfish species are toxic and cannot be consumed. However, a few species are consumed as delicacies in some parts of the world.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! For more relatable content, check out these swai fish facts and skate fish facts.

You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one on our rainbow parrotfish coloring pages.



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