Parrotfish – Not Just A Pretty Face

Parrotfish – Not Just A Pretty Face

Saving Reefs, Building Beaches, Sex Changes And Mosquito Nets – Just A Typical Parrotfish Day

Thankfully many species of parrotfish are common on Phuket’s reefs and we really need to keep it that way. Heavy fines or even jail time await anybody who take parrotfish from the ocean and for good reason. Read on to find out why.

Keystone Species

A keystone species is an animal that is so important to it’s particular ecosystem that it’s loss or number depletion will have a heavy impact or even cause total breakdown. Parrotfish are one such species, their grazing on algae and seaweed allow corals to flourish. Coral reef restoration can begin by banning fishing of parrotfish as case studies in the Caribbean have shown.

Can’t Somebody else step up?

A fair question, with the myriad different species that we have on Phuket’s reefs you would think if we lost parrotfish then another organism would be ready to step in and exploit the food source. Apparently not, nobody does it better than the humble parrotfish and that’s why it’s considered a keystone species. Coral reef health significantly decreases in areas where parrotfish are over fished.

The law In Thailand

There have been quite a few high profile cases in Phuket over the last couple of years, tourists have been arrested for catching parrotfish and heavily fined – story here. Restaurants have also been warned about having parrotfish on the menu. The fine is up to THB 100,000, a year in jail or both! for catching any parrotfish species under 50cm in length.

Beach Builders

Apart from the garish colours, the first thing you may notice about parrotfish is the seemingly never ending clouds of pooh that they like dropping in divers faces. They haven’t all got digestive issues it’s just the reef rock and both live and dead coral that they scrape up along with the algae. This will later wash up and form the white sand beaches that we all like to laze around on, some species can produce up to 90kg per year.

Destructive Dentures

To be able to chomp through rock and coral all day everyday takes some seriously strong dentistry and the parrotfishes teeth are amongst the strongest on the planet. Upwards of a thousand tiny teeth meshed together in many rows produce set of teeth that could literally eat through a brick wall. Ever the opportunists, scientists are looking at the design to make stronger materials for us to use and justify their salary.

Lots of Ladies

Most species but not all are protogynous hermaphrodites which means they will start life of as females and turn male when the harem leader meets his demise. It’s possible to have many different colour phases from the same species – juveniles, adolescents, male and female can all be different which makes getting an idea a bit of a challenge. Although the parrot like beak, generally garish colurs, clouds of pooh and locomotion from it’s pectoral fins make the family easy to recognise.

Makes Own Mosquito Net

Lots of species of parrotfish can secrete a mucus from the gill cavity at night that envelops the whole body and offers some protection from blood sucking parasites (Gnathiids). Not only a physical barrier but it also masks the scent cues that attract the parasites. As far as we know it’s the only animal capable of producing it’s own mosquito net, allowing for a peaceful nights sleep.

In the day they will regularly visit cleaning stations to get rid of the tiny vampires, the gills are full of blood and is why you’ll see many fish open up their gill covers to let the cleaner wrasse in and eat the unwanted stowaways.

Please Don’t Eat Them

Not such a common sight in Thailand nowadays because of the law but in other countries you may see parrotfish displayed at seafood restaurants, they’re not that tasty and really only add a bit of colour. Targeting the larger and more colourful males as many fisherman do interrupts breeding cycles therefor reducing populations. So please don’t eat parrotfish.

Where to find?

They’re present on all Phuket dive sites but there has been a small but noticeable drop in numbers over the last few years. Fishing and indiscriminate spearfishing are the main reasons but we can still see a parrotfish or two on every dive.

Come and join Local Dive Thailand to see the beach builders at work. Contact us at info@localdivethailand.com for more information.

Posted in Rare & Peculiar Critters on .

Popular Services

Maya Bay - A Stunning Phuket Diving Backdrop

Phi Phi Islands Diving

The world famous Phi Phi Islands National Park is a must see for most travellers visiting the area. The divers are the lucky ones, most visitors only get get to see the beautiful islands but us divers are fortunate enough to be to look below the waves and see a stunning underwater landscape stuffed with a huge variety of wonderful marine animals. [...]

Find Out More
diving-the-west-side-of-racha-noi-phuket

Racha Noi – West Side

This side of the island is exposed to the low season weather making the topography completely different from the east side. Any sand gets washed away exposing the granite rocks that tumble down to meet the usually clear water. Both of our regular dive sites are quite similar and easy to manage if there is current. We'll always start the dive in the sheltered bay and if you're participating in a PADI Discover Scuba Diving or Open Water [...]

Find Out More

Daily Schedules

M/V Kepsub Schedule

Jobs @ Local Dive Thailand

Local Dive Thailand is one of Phuket's fatest growing & most vibrant scuba diving operations, we are always looking for quality staff to join us, so feel free to have a look at our jobs listing page.

Job Listings

Contact LDT

Local Guides, Local Knowledge, Local Experiences

Don't trust your diving to amateurs or freshly minted dive guides, dive with local experienced experts from Local Dive Thailand. Our Scuba Diving Phuket Tours will take you to see the rarest of the rare critters, you will be amazed by the macro life our guides can find, in the secret places only they know. To put it in perspective, if you were going to climb Mount Everest you would certainly hire a local sherpa to lead the way & keep you safe. Diving is similar because there is absolutely no substitute for local experience & local knowledge, Local Dive Thailand's guides are Phuket's Sherpa's of the Andaman Sea!

Learn More About Us

Scuba Diving Phuket, Phi Phi & Thailand

When talking about Scuba Diving in Phuket, you should believe the hype, many seasons we have had Whale Sharks grace us on our regular and easy to reach dive sites and on a good day you can add Sea Horses, Sea Moths, Snake Eels, Frog Fish & Octopus to what you can see on any given dive and so much more. If we are heading to Phi Phi Island for the day, you can possibly see Hawksbill Sea Turtles and Black Tip Reef Sharks, also don't forget the King Cruiser, 84 meters of beautiful wreck and the most amazing reef nursery for fish and nudibranch. Local Dive Thailand day trip tours to these locations are not to be missed when you are scuba diving Phuket, get in touch with us and book an 'awesome' day of diving.

Book Your Day Trip

Related News From Local Dive Thailand

See why we are Thailand's leading scuba diving Phuket tour provider, stay up to date & watch out for news & special liveaboard offers!

Great Weather For Phuket Scuba Diving The Archives

What Is The Best Time Of Year to Dive In Phuket?

We have two distinct scuba diving seasons in Phuket, imaginatively named low and high. The low season runs from mid May to mid October and high season the remainder of the year. The two seasons are governed by the monsoon winds that blow across South East Asia, it's fairly straightforward; in high season it blows from the east and low season from the west. Well lets start with the low season. The predominant west to east winds bring we [...]

Read Full Story
Phuket Diving Site - Shark Point Amazing Local Dives

A Different Look For Mondays

Local Dive Thailand now runs a day trip to Shark Point, Anemone Reef and Koh Doc Mai every Monday. These three great dive sites are regular features on the diving trips in Phuket but rarely all on the same day and Anemone Reef is often skipped in favour of the more popular Shark Point. So we've had a little change to our schedule to make sure all certified divers have a chance of visiting this trio of great dive sites. The only opportu [...]

Read Full Story
kata beach phuket diving Amazing Local Dives

Kata Beach Diving

We've taken the time to do some diving from the beach at Kata this high season, rumours of rare and quite astonishing finds have been doing the rounds. We though we'd check it out and see if it was a possible location to offer our guests. The rumour of mimic octopus at Kata Beach has being doing the rounds for years but without much evidence. This season quite a few photos have been turning up of mimic sightings away from the main reef [...]

Read Full Story

Local Dive Thailand Office In Phuket


Find Us On Google Maps