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Fish Species of Gran Canaria – Parrotfish

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Atlantic parrot fish

Our onsite marine biologist Divemaster TJ, has been busy writing fact-files about the fish species of Gran Canaria. Each week he has documented a different fish species that Leagues Ahead Diving see while diving in the beautiful waters of Gran Canaria. This is to try and educate scuba divers about the underwater world and raise awareness for ocean conservation! This weeks Species is the Parrotfish.


What are the characteristics of the Parrotfish?

Yep you guessed it, Parrotfish got their name because of their fused beak structure. They look like parrots!

In Gran Canaria we have the ‘’Vieja” species of Parrotfish. They have a long body, with a rounded tail and large scales. You will be able to spot these fish in many dive sites around Gran Canaria. They are very common in dive sites such a as Amadores, El Cabron and Tufia.

The females are red and yellow with a grey saddle whereas the the males have a plain grey colour and are on average slightly bigger than the females. The average size of the parrotfish is 1-4 feet and they can live up to 7 years.

During the day they spend their day swimming and during the night some species create a mucus membrane around their body. They do this in order to hide their scent from predators or as an early warning system when a predator disturbs the membrane.

There are 90+ species of Parrotfish around the world.

They live in tropical and subtropical regions, making Gran Canaria their ideal habitat.

Why are Parrotfish important?

Parrotfish are a vital part of the ecosystem, they clean the reef. Parrotfish are mostly herbivores. They graze upon algae and keep the surface clean for coral polyps to attach and grow. Some species can spend up to 90% of their day eating. As a result the healthiest reefs are those that have the highest parrotfish population. Parrotfish remove the algae that competes with coral.

Is it true that sand is produced by Parrotfish?

Yes! This is in fact how the tropical white sandy beaches came to be, the sand is produced from parrotfish poop. Each Parrotfish can produce up 700 pounds of sand each year. Take a look at our dive site Amadores in Gran Canaria, this beautiful man-made beach is produced from parrotfish poo! While eating algae from the rocks parrotfish ingest chunks of coral. Parrotfish have a special set of teeth in their throat which grind up the coral. The coral is then turned into white sand which they poo out. Scientists estimate that 70% of the sand in Caribbean has been produced by parrotfish.

Is it true that Parrotfish change gender?

Yes! The breeding season is from July until September and it can happen in pairs or groups. As is the case with a variety of other fish species parrotfish are born female. This is called their initial stage. Some females change into males before reaching sexual maturity while others stay female.

Why do we need to protect Parrotfish?

Parrotfish play a vital part in our eco-system. Unfortunately, they have been over-fished in recent decades. Overfishing is the primary factor determining current coral health, not climate change or pollution. If Parrotfish do not exist, corals would quickly become over-run by algae on many reefs around the world.

Other fish species

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