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 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 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.

Contact Us Now

By Justin Hartrey

I've been enjoying the incredible marine life in our oceans for over 25 years. 13 years ago I became a PADI professional, hoping to introduce as many people as possible to the incredible beauty of the seas.

Having been fortunate enough to dive all over south east and especially Thailand, I enjoy sharing my experience and passion on this blog.

Posted in Rare & Peculiar Critters on .

Popular Services

Leopard Shark Resting At Shark point

King Cruiser Cluster

The dive sites around the King Cruiser Wreck are some of the richest and diverse in the whole of Thailand. Fed by the waters of Phang Nha Bay, the nutrient rich currents feed stunning soft corals and huge schools of fish. The diving can be a little tricky at these exposed sites but the rewards can be huge. Whale shark sightings in this area have been increasing every year. [...]

Find Out More
impressive proprellor underneath the king cruiser wreck phuket

King Cruiser, Shark Point & Koh Doc Mai – Dive Tour

If you have not been diving on the King Cruiser Wreck you are missing out on diving one of the most easily accessible and truly alive wrecks in Thailand and by far the largest wreck we have here. There is also no chance of missing the wreck as we have a mooring line attached to it. Allowing divers to descend easily even in strong currents and a great way to do your safety stops. The Cruiser is 86 Meters long and some days it's hard to see it [...]

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!

Lots Of Nudibranchs To Be Found When Scuba Diving In Phuket Rare & Peculiar Critters

Nudibranchs of Phuket

These bizarre little creatures are on every Phuket diving site and most stand out like a sore thumb. It's not an animal that Phuket is renowned for. So if you ask your guide what the sluggy looking thing that they pointed out was you may get nudibranch as an answer and if you question further you'll run into some well rehearsed diversion tactics. To be fair to us there are so many species. It would be impossible to know them all, add to th [...]

Read Full Story
Local Dive Thailand Phuket Patong Sales Office News & Updates

Local Dive Thailand Shop Now In Patong

Patong remains the busiest beach resort in Phuket. Many of our dive guests choose to stay in this popular area of the island. We've now opened a shop on the beach front, divers can now drop by and meet Simon to finalise their diving plans. *Unfortunately we've had to temporarily close our dive shop in Patong on the beach road. You can contact our main Rawai office via telephone or email. If you're in Patong and would like to speak to us fa [...]

Read Full Story
Help Phuket's Coral Reefs The Archives

Eco Friendly Diving Phuket – How You Can Help

Help preserve our reefs and go eco friendly diving in Phuket. This starts before you even get on our diving boat or even leave your home countries for your well earned holiday. A few simple and inexpensive steps can really make a difference. The "everybody else is doing it" line really doesn't cut it as an excuse anymore. Below are a few suggestions that can reduce your impact on our reefs. Oxybenzone (also known as benzophenone-3) is a [...]

Read Full Story

Local Dive Thailand Office In Phuket


Find Us On Google Maps