Your Guide to Parrotfish in Belize
Parrotfish are a group of fish known for their vibrant colours and unique, parrot-like beaks. They live in tropical and subtropical waters around the globe and are a common sight for divers and snorkelers. Fortunately, Belize is home to some of the most diverse and colourful parrotfish species in the world. These fish can be found in the crystal clear waters of the Caribbean Sea, along the Barrier Reef and atolls of Belize. Here’s your guide to parrotfish in Belize.
In addition to being a popular sight for divers and snorkellers, they play a vital role in the health of the coral reef ecosystems. Parrotfish spend about 90% of their time eating algae off the coral reefs, which contributes to keeping them clean, healthy, and thriving. By cleaning the coral reefs, they create new surfaces for baby corals to attach and grow.
The coral that Parrotfish eat is broken down into white sand that makes up the sand of the beaches along the waters they inhabit. Amazingly, it’s estimated that a single Parrotfish can poop out more than 2,000 pounds of sand each year! But, Parrotfish are fascinating creatures for more than their useful production of poop.
Types of Parrot Fish in Belize
There are many kinds of Parrotfish, all a bit funny-looking with their beak-like mouth, which is where they got their name. They have teeth inside this beak as well as inside their throat. They come in all different varieties of colours and even have the ability to change their sex if needed.
Parrotfish are classified as a “Near Threatened” species since the population can’t properly be assessed. Overfishing and habitat degradation have contributed to their declining population.
So, what types of Parrotfish might you encounter in Belize?
One of the most common Parrotfish species found in Belize is the Stoplight Parrotfish. As their name suggests, they have a vibrant colouration of red, green, and blue. Throughout the three phases of its life, the Stoplight Parrotfish goes through major colour changes.
You can find Stoplight Parrotfish in shallow waters from 10-164 ft (3-50 m), particularly around coral reefs. They can grow up to 22 inches (55 cm) in length and can weigh up to 3.5 pounds (1.6 kg).
Another common species of Parrotfish found in Belize is the Princess Parrotfish. They’re bright pink and purple in colour and can be found in the shallow waters close to the shore. Princess Parrotfish are smaller than Stoplight Parrotfish, reaching lengths of up to 14 inches (35 cm).
Princess Parrotfish, like other Parrotfish species, typically swim about the reef and sandy patches during the day at depths between 9.8-82 ft (3-25 m).
Rainbow Parrotfish also live in the waters of Belize. They’re also brightly coloured but with deep green bodies, orange fins, and streaks of green extending to the back of the body. When fully grown, male Rainbow Parrotfish are more brightly coloured than the females. Rainbow Parrotfish can grow up to 47 inches (120 cm), making them the biggest of the three Parrotfish mentioned here.
They can be found on coral reefs at depths of 10-82 ft (3-25 m). At night, they tend to hide in crevices. Generally, they’re very social fish and have been observed swimming in schools of around 40 fish.
Unique Fish Species
Overall, Parrotfish are a unique species of fish. They can change their gender as needed for breeding purposes, they’re beautifully coloured, and have beak-like mouths. Parrotfish work together, moving about the ocean in clusters of around 40 fish to better defend themselves against predators. At night, in addition to hiding, the males produce a foul-smelling mucus cocoon that acts as a sort of sleeping bag that keeps predators away.
They’re interesting creatures to behold. And as odd as they may be, Parrotfish are another type of marine life that are integral to the health of the Caribbean reefs. Therefore, it’s crucial to protect and preserve this fish family.
For your chance to see these odd and beautiful creatures, visit Belize Dive Haven.
Just 30 miles from Belize City, Belize Dive Haven is located in pristine Turneffe Atoll. Consisting of creeks, lagoons, mangrove islands and cays, the atoll is home to over 500 species of fish, 65 different species of stony corals as well as birds, turtles, manatees and dolphins.