The ember parrotfish is known by many different names, including the bicolour parrotfish, the red-lip parrotfish and the half-and- half parrotfish. It is widespread throughout the Indo-Pacific, and is thought
to be one of the most abundant parrotfish species. In South Africa, the Durban area represents the southernmost boundary of this species’ range. Ember parrotfish grow up to 70 centimetres in length. The male is bright green-blue in colour, while the female is brownish-red with grey patterns that resemble the burning coal, or ember, for which they are named. Ember parrotfish are found on coral reefs at depths of up to 35 metres, and use their beaks to scrape algae from the rocks. They are listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List.
The bucktooth parrotfish is found throughout the Indo-Pacific, and has the widest range of any parrotfish species. Nevertheless, it is rarely seen. It is known by several different names, including the starry-eye parrotfish, the Christmas
parrotfish and the Carolines parrotfish. It inhabits coral reefs and areas with plenty of weed or rubble, and has been found at depths of up to 27 metres. It feeds on algae and seagrass, and has a maximum length of 54 centimetres. The bucktooth parrotfish is grey-brown in colour, with a blue-green head and distinctive yellow or pink star-shaped markings around the eye. Like most parrotfish, this species is a protogynous hermaphrodite, which means that it starts life as a female and later changes to become male.
The marbled parrotfish may also be referred to as the slender parrotfish, the petroleum parrotfish or the seagrass parrotfish. Despite its wide Indo-Pacific range, this species is considered relatively rare. In South Africa, its range extends into
the southeast Atlantic at False Bay in the Western Cape. Unusually for parrotfish, males and females look almost identical, with a greenish body covered in irregular pale and dark brown patches. The marbled parrotfish is therefore well camouflaged for life in shallow seagrass beds. It feeds on seagrass and algae, and is naturally shy. Marbled parrotfish are unique amongst parrotfish species in that they do not change sex at any time during their lifespan. They are classified as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List.
Sometimes called the black crescent parrotfish, the bluemoon parrotfish is endemic to the east coast of Africa. Reports of this species have been confirmed from Kenya to South Africa, although the only place that it is considered abundant is
Madagascar. It inhabits depths of up to 25 metres, and favours remote, silty reefs. The bluemoon parrotfish is relatively small, with a maximum recorded length of 36 centimetres. Females are dark blackish-red with white patches arranged into four vertical stripes, while males are bluish-green with purple pectoral and anal fins and pink edges to their ventral scales. The bluemoon parrotfish is a protogynous hermaphrodite, and feeds mainly on benthic algae. It is rarely fished and therefore listed as Least Concern.
Also known as the three-colour parrotfish, the tricolour parrotfish is widely distributed throughout the Indo-Pacific. In Africa, it is found from East Africa to KwaZulu-Natal. It generally lives at depths of up to 40 metres, and favours areas with dense coral growth.
As such, its presence is a good indicator of reef health. The tricolour parrotfish is usually solitary, although it forms distinct pairs during breeding season. It is oviparous, which means that it lays eggs. This species is dark charcoal grey in colour, with a rainbow sheen to the scales on the side of its body. Its lips are white, and its eye, anal fin and tail fin are a vivid orange, red or yellow. Tricolour parrotfish have an average length of 17.5 centimetres, although specimens have been known to exceed 26 centimetres.
Sometimes referred to as the dusky-capped parrotfish, the five-saddle parrotfish is found throughout the Indian Ocean – from the Red Sea south to KwaZulu-Natal and east to Thailand and Indonesia. It prefers depths of up to 20 metres and is usually found on sheltered
reefs with dense coral cover. The five-saddle parrotfish is considered rare. They are usually solitary, although females sometimes form small groups. They grow up to 37 centimetres in length, and like almost all parrotfish they are protogynous hermaphrodites. This means that they start life as females, and gradually change to become male. As females, they are yellow-grey in colour with red-tinged fins and up to five bright yellow bars. As males, they are blue-green in colour with a dusky blue cap.
The blue-barred parrotfish is widely distributed throughout the Indian Ocean, and in South Africa it is found from Sodwana Bay to Algoa Bay. It is known by many different names, including blue trim parrotfish, green-blotched parrotfish and globe-headed
parrotfish. The blue-barred parrotfish is found at depths of up to 90 metres. This is much deeper than most other parrotfish species, which explains why it is one of the few not to be specifically fished anywhere in its range. It is a fast-growing fish, reaching a maximum length of 90 centimetres and living for up to 13 years. It feeds on algae and is a protogynous hermaphrodite. Females are yellow with blue bars, becoming completely blue in colour once transitioning into their male stage.