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

Honeycomb Moray At The Boonsung Wreck

Boonsung Wreck – Khao Lak

The Boonsung wreck was formerly one of many vessels that were used in the previously booming tin mining trade along the west coast of Thailand especially around Phuket and Khao lak. Allegedly it sank due to a faulty toilet and came to rest on the sandy bottom in just 18m of water just outside Khao Lak. Originally it was a hazard to shipping and the Thai navy dropped a couple of bombs to level it out a bit, add that to the damage created by th [...]

Read More
Andaman Tritan Liveaboard Moored Up At The SImilan Islands In Thailand

Andaman Tritan

MV Andaman Tritan was totally refurbished in 2014 making and an already safe and comfortable vessel even more diver friendly. She may not be the largest liveaboard in Thailand but with only 16 divers onboard you never feel like you’re in a crowd. There’s plenty of space in the outside dining area and the comfortable air-conditioned saloon has plenty of media devices and a library to keep you entertained. On the very top of the boat the [...]

Read 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!

Nitrox Tanks Ready To Use The Archives

Why Do Scuba Divers Use Nitrox?

Nitrox or Enriched Air Nitrox to give it's full name is the most popular PADI speciality course that we teach and for good reason. It's relatively cheap, can be done in one day, straight forward and really is beneficial to the diver. Excessive absorption of nitrogen into our body tissues is the factor that limits a divers time underwater. So by simply putting more oxygen into our scuba tank, therefor reducing the amount of nitrogen we [...]

Read Full Story
cuttlefish common sightings in phuket scuba diving Rare & Peculiar Critters

Cuttlefish – Cross Dressing Light Bending Camouflage Kings

Cuttlefish belong the to the mollusc family and look like something between an octopus and a squid. Unlike most molluscs, the cephalopod branch which includes cuttlefish, squid and octopus are fairly smart, certainly compared to their simpleton slug cousins but as with all geeks there comes weirdness - lots of weirdness. Lets get the ball rolling with this cardiovascular indulgence. Cuttlefish have three hearts, one each for their two [...]

Read Full Story
the-junk-liveaboard-in-the-similan-islands Diving Discounts & Special Offers

The Junk Special Offers

January onward is considered to be the best time to visit the Similan and Surin Island National Parks so take advantage of this great discount on the the 'Junk' and save 10% on your Thailand liveaboard adventure. We fully expect the giant manta ray action to be in full swing at this time of year, by reserving your space now you can guarantee yourself a space on a great trip at a great price. The Junk 4 Days/4 Nights 14 Dives Similan And [...]

Read Full Story

Local Dive Thailand Office In Phuket


Find Us On Google Maps