Identifying Parrotfishes

As you know, we just wrapped up our annual census. Counting all of the animals is surely a challenging task, especially when it comes to the species that have different markings and coloration depending on their age or sex.  Parrotfishes—Family Scaridae—are prime examples!

Parrotfishes are categorized into three phases: juvenile, initial and terminal... and some species even display intermediate phases between the three primary phases.  We have six species of parrotfishes in the Giant Ocean Tank. That's a lot of different fish and phases to ID. Let us help you out a bit. Here are some of the fish you might see during your next visit and their phase of maturation!

Notice the somewhat protruding forehead of this blue parrotfish.  The initial phase has a conical head whereas the terminal phase has a very squared off head.
Blue parrotfish, intermediate phase 

This midnight parrotfish is one of the few species of parrots where all phases are essentially the same in appearance... though I did see some very large midnights in the Bahamas this past October that had more white and yellow coloration around their mouths.
Midnight parrotfish

The thick white body stripe gives away this species, a queen parrotfish.
Queen parrotfish, initial phase

This rainbow parrotfish, in its initial phase, has a distinct squared-off tail and scales that are green in the center and orangish on the edges.  The terminal phase rainbows have an orange-brown head and bright green rear body.  These guys can grow to 5 1/2 feet in length!
Rainbow parrotfish, initial phase

The red belly and white spots mean this is a stoplight parrot in its initial phase.  Remember this guy from the cleaning station?
Stoplight parrotfish, initial phase

And surprising to even us aquarists is how different the terminal phase stoplight parrot looks.  See the yellow spot above the gill cover?  And the orange-yellow crescent on the tail?  That's how you know it's a stoplight!
Stoplight parrotfish, terminal phase

This one's kind of hard to tell, but these are two striped parrotfishes in their initial phases.
Striped parrotfish, initial phase

Look for the linear markings - what I would call squiggly lines - on the tail.  This is a striped parrotfish in its terminal phase.
Striped parrotfish, terminal phase

Stay tuned for more about these fish—videos to come!

With so many parrotfish species and their interesting characteristics, you can bet they've been on the blogs before. Check out these posts:

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