Tropical parrotfish are all over the fringing reefs of the Great Barrier Reef and are known for their colourful scales and beak-like mouth. They are a divers and snorkellers favourite and are constantly sighted below the waves. They can come in any colour or combination of colours including purple, pink, green and blue. They are very common on our reefs and add a spectacular show of colour and life. Their name comes from their colours and the beak-like mouth used to scrape coral and chew for food.
They are often seen formed in large schools grazing over the reef and have often been likened to grazing cattle. While snorkelling and diving you can hear the parrotfish munching loudly on the coral and hovering around their food source. One interesting thing about parrotfish is that they have no stomach. The algae that they glean from the coral is crushed by a secondary jaw and processed into a very long intestine. On the other end, parrotfish will expel the leftover, ground-up coral, creating new sand.
For this reason, parrotfish are a main contributor to the creation of sediment on a reef, as they expel fine particles of limestone that are consumed during feeding. Parrotfish exhibit the same reproductive and colour patterns as wrasses so quite often people can get the two confused, although they are two very different species.
Parrotfish are one of the only fish species to sleep during the night by forming a cocoon-like mucus structure at night, making them harder for nocturnal predators to find, as it masks their smell. Often times during the day, you can see their leftover cocoons floating around, looking somewhat like jellyfish.
The most common parrotfish around the Whitsundays is the Six Banded Parrot Fish, which is a myriad of colours and is ideal for great underwater photos.