Reef saver parrotfish keep the coral alive

Do you like the parrotfish ? Who does not like them ? They are colourful, funny animals, perfect photo models for your underwater pictures. These beautiful species are capable of changing their colour, shape and even gender.

The parrotfish are one of the most known tropical fish, they are found in relatively shallow tropical and subtropical oceans throughout the world, displaying their largest species richness in the Indo- Pacific. Their average size is 30-50 cm, the biggest one, the green humphead parrotfish can reach up to 1.3 meter .

Parrotfish are named for their dentition. Their numerous teeth are arranged in a tightly packed mosaic on the external surface of their jaw bones, forming a parrot-like beak with which they rasp algae from coral and other rocky substrates.

Reef saver parrotfish

The reef saver parrotfish duties: Cleaning and Building

If you are watching the parrotfish, you could think they are lazy guys, just eating all day long ! That’s right, they are always picking at the corals, but it is their job ! The reef saver parrotfish are working on the coral and for the coral.

The newest researches show that the parrotfish are living only on healthy reefs.

The reef saver parrotfish are not only cleaning the reef from algaes and seaweeds but also have a role in providing the sands to build and maintain coral reef islands.

Reef saver parrotfish green

First stage: Cleaning

The parrotfish eat a wide variety of reef organism and can prevent algae from choking coral.

The researchers investigated more than 90 coral reefs on the Caribbean. The situation is very bad in this area – mainly in Jamaica and on the Vrigin Islands – more than 50 % of the corals disappeared since the 1970s. Firstly, they thought the main reason is the climate change, but long term monitoring gave other interesting result.

The most important factor is in the coral destruction that there are not enough reef cleaner species in the region because of the overfishing : the loss of species break the delicate balance of coral ecosystems.

The reef saver parrotfish have a key role to keep the coral clean and healthy. If there are not enough parrotfish around a reef, the algae and the seaweed simply kill the corals.

In some region, where the parrotfish population is enough big ( Gulf of Mexico , Bermuda Islands, Bonaire Island ) the reefs are in a good condition. The main purpose in now to raise the reef saver parrotfish population.

Second stage : Building

The reef building process is also interesting : The reef saver parrot grind up coral during feeding and after digesting the edible content, excrete the rest as sand, helping to create small islands and for example the sandy beaches of the Caribbean ! One parrotfish can produce 90-100 kg sand each year.

A Maldivian study found that parrotfish produce more than 85% of the new sand-grade sediment on the reefs around the islands of the Maldives.

Researchers say that coral reef islands are considered to be among the most vulnerable landforms to climate change and especially to future sea-level rise. Studies demonstrate the critical links that exist between the ecology of the reefs that surround these islands and the processes of sand supply. We should protect parrotfish populations, and the habitats on which they depend, is likely to be vital to ensuring a continued supply of the sediment from which the reef islands are built.

So, do you like the reef saver parrotfish much more than before reading these facts, don’t you ? 🙂

Anett fell in love with the ocean immediately when she put her head underwater in the Red Sea back in 2010. Discovering megacities is not her style but getting lost in tiny coastal villages, capturing the beauty of the sea while snorkeling. Wherever she goes, she takes her mask, fins and underwater camera with her. She has a big interest in exploring the world’s last hidden underwater paradises and marine conservation. She hopes to inspire people to protect our oceans by sharing her underwater stories. Find her photos on @anett.szaszi Instagram too!

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