Blue Parrotfish (Scarus coeruleus) | Facts & Care Guide

Common NameBlue Parrotfish
Scientific NameScarus coeruleus

The Blue Parrotfish, known by the scientific name Scarus coeruleus, is a member of the parrotfish family and is an ocean dwelling fish most often found in the tropical and subtropical waters of the western Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea. The scientific name for the blue parrotfish comes from Latin and means blue fish. The blue parrotfish is one of nearly 60 parrotfish species that exist in reef waters today. They are abundant in the southern region of the Gulf of Mexico and are the second largest parrotfish species to be found in the Caribbean. They have been reported as far north as Maryland, U.S.A and as far south as northern South America. The blue parrotfish is also popular in southern Florida regions including but not limited to the Florida Keys. The blue parrotfish enjoys living in coral reefs and shallow coastline waters up to 80 feet in depth and are native to Bermuda, the Bahamas, Jamaica, and Haiti.

Blue parrotfish are mainly blue in color and born with a yellow spot on their head that fades with age as they develop a bulging snout and more uniform blue hues. Blue parrotfish juveniles are typically pale blue in color, while females are a range of blue shades, and males are usually blue green with grey markings. Beyond their size, the color of the blue parrotfish scales makes it easy to identify their age and sex from first glace. The Blue parrotfish’s body is covered with large, smooth scales and they are the only member of their species with a uniform blue color that makes them easy to identify.

Blue Parrotfish
Blue Parrotfish (Scarus coeruleus)

Are Blue Parrotfish Endangered?

The Blue Parrotfish is listed as Least Concern on the list of endangered species and conservation, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature. The population of the blue parrotfish is unknown, but their species seems to be continuously growing. Although the species is not considered near endangerment at this time, scientists predict that the blue parrotfish will likely get re-classified as Near Threatened in the next ten years. The blue parrotfish is at risk of growing endangerment because of the human destruction and bleaching of coral reefs. Because this species relies so heavily on the reef ecosystem for food and shelter, the decrease in healthy ocean coral will make it difficult for the blue parrotfish to adapt. There are also concerns associated with the overfishing of the species and general harm caused by mass corporate fishing. The blue parrotfish is eaten in some Caribbean countries, and their scales are used to decorate market items that are sold by vendors. Because of their bright blue color, the blue parrotfish scales are sought after for creating jewelry, lining baskets, and general household craft work. The blue parrotfish also faces threats related to oceanic pollution and the effects of climate change.

Do Blue Parrotfish Have Teeth?

The blue parrotfish spends 80 percent of its time looking for food, relying on algae and small organisms found in the sand and on coral as their main diet. With an algae centric diet, the blue parrotfish is crucial to the ecosystem and helps preserve the coral in reefs by removing algae that could potentially suffocate or harm the coral. The blue parrotfish has teeth that are fused together with their top jaw overlapping the lower jaw, creating a beak shaped facial structure that alludes to their bird-like name. This fish uses its beak-like, flat tooth platform to scrape algae from rocks and coral without causing harm to the reefs themselves. Blue parrotfish also use the teeth in their throats, called pharyngeal apparatus, to grind rocks into sand while feeding and filtering out tiny organisms. The blue parrotfish is a main contributor of the sand found in ocean reefs and is also responsible for much of the white sand found on the beautiful beaches in the Caribbean.

Blue Parrotfish Care

Temperature for Blue Parrotfish

Because the blue parrotfish is native to warmer areas, it prefers a water temperature that falls around 75 to 78 degrees Fahrenheit, to ensure an optimal body temperature and health. Cooler water temperatures can cause a loss of vibrancy in color among blue parrotfish and will potentially weaken their immune system, leaving them at a higher risk for contracting deadly disease and infection.

Water pH for Blue Parrotfish

The Blue Parrotfish will be the healthiest in a tank that has a water pH level that ranges from 8.1 to 8.4 in alkalinity. When taking care of a reef species like the blue parrotfish, the aquarium tank will need regular water changes and tests to ensure appropriate water quality and fish health. As a saltwater fish, the blue parrotfish will also need a tank with water salinity that ranges from 1.020 to 1.025.

Blue Parrotfish Size

Because of the size and activity levels of the blue parrotfish, they are not typically held in residential captivity beyond very large, commercial aquarium displays. The average size of a blue parrotfish ranges from 11 to 29 inches in length among adults, while weighing up to 20 pounds once they reach full maturity. Although this is the average size for most blue parrotfish, there have been records of the fish reaching maximum sizes up to four feet long and they are one of the largest members of the parrotfish species.

Blue Parrotfish Tank Size

If kept in a residential aquarium, a tank of at least 200 gallons is recommended to give a blue parrotfish enough room to maintain their health and grow to their full size. These fish are active swimmers and can reach speeds up to 3.2 times their total length per second. Blue parrotfish need adequate room and spaces to hide to support their natural behaviors and demeanor.

Blue Parrotfish Food & Diet

The blue parrotfish can be challenging to raise in captivity because of the difficulties that accompany feeding and caring for them in an aquarium setting. Only experienced fish keepers should consider owning a blue parrotfish, as they have specific dietary and habitat needs, and are not beginner-friendly when considering aquarium owner experience. As an herbivore, the best food option for the blue parrotfish is the naturally occurring algae found on ocean rocks and coral. Because of the nature of algae, it can be difficult to maintain and replicate it in an at-home aquarium. When attempting to grow plants and rock algae, a suitable aquarium light is critical to ensure the blue parrotfish is receiving the right nutrients for survival. Blue parrotfish will sometimes eat small crustaceans that get in their way but prefer a plant-based diet. The blue parrotfish is also a noisy eater, as they grind rocks and sand in search for food in their natural habitats. 

Blue Parrotfish Lifespan

The blue parrotfish can be expected to easily live up to twenty years in their natural habitat but are likely to live a much shorter life if held in captivity, even when properly cared for. While some types of parrotfish make great aquarium fish, the blue parrotfish is not one that typically lives a comfortable or healthy life in captivity.

Blue Parrotfish Tank Setup

A blue parrotfish tank should be setup to replicate their natural habitat as closely as possible, to limit stress and decrease the risk of disease. Sand is a good option for substrate in a blue parrotfish tank, as it acts as a more natural alternative to gravel or stone. A powerful aquarium filtration system is very important to maintain a reef aquarium large enough to sustain a blue parrotfish and ensure a clean habitat. With a 200-gallon aquarium, a canister filter is the most ideal type rather than other alternatives. To allow for a warm water habitat, a large fish tank heater should be included in the aquarium setup to control the aquatic ecosystem. The tank should also include a variety of rocks, plants, and hiding places for the blue parrotfish to make them feel the most comfortable in their aquarium home.  

Blue Parrotfish Breeding

Blue Parrotfish breed year-round but are most active in mating during the summer months from June to August and are typically recorded spawning at dusk. Both male and female blue parrotfish reach sexual maturity between two and four years of age. These fish have some of the most complex reproductive systems among all fish species, being born as either primary males, secondary males who can change sex, or females who can change sex. The blue parrotfish mate in groups and a lot of their social hierarchy relies on mating and reproductive habits. After mating, the female fish produce fertilized eggs that hatch in the water 25 hours after being laid. There is little recorded evidence of parental instincts or behaviors related the blue parrotfish species, and their larva is typically left to survive on their own after birth. Juvenile parrot fish most commonly inhabit seagrass and begin to feed on the grass, and small organisms, just three days after they hatch from their egg.  

Blue Parrotfish Disease

The Blue Parrot fish is prone to stress when their habitat is changed or altered, which can often lead to disease and death. The maintenance of their habitat is an extremely important factor in keeping the blue parrotfish happy and healthy. Because algae makes up the majority of the blue parrotfish’s diet, they can often cause ciguatera poisoning, an illness caused by eating fish that contain toxins related to algae. Algae produces a toxin called Gambierdiscus toxicus and the blue parrotfish absorbs this toxin when it consumes dead and living algae.  When eaten by humans, the toxin can cause fish poisoning and make the person extremely ill with nausea and adverse neurological symptoms. The blue parrotfish species is fished for in Caribbean regions and they are eaten in some countries but can be deadly when consumed. 

Blue Parrotfish Tankmates

The blue parrotfish is an extremely friendly species that will get along with most other passive fish in a tank.  Blue parrotfish also get along with each other well and would be fine living in a tank together, as long as the tank is big enough to give each of the fish ample space to swim and grow. 

Are Blue Parrotfish Aggressive?

The blue parrotfish is a passive fish species and most active during the day while they search for food. The blue parrotfish seek shelter at night by hiding in rocks and caves, as well as creating a mucus that masks their scent and protects them from predators. This mucus secretion coats the blue parrotfish and creates a bad taste if consumed, allowing the fish to sleep at night without interruption from aggressive ocean organisms. Blue parrotfish males can also intensify their colors at night to deter invaders when defending their territory. The blue parrotfish is a species that travels mostly in groups, with one dominant male usually leading up to as many as 40 females in a school.

An interesting fact about the blue parrotfish species is that they are sequential hermaphrodites, meaning they have the ability to change their sex organs throughout their lives. The males are aggressive when scaring away predators from the group and if the male happens to die in defense of the school, a female blue parrotfish will change their sex and become the new male leader, adopting his bright hues of blue and protective temperament over the group. When not faced with immediate threat, the blue parrotfish socializes well with other fish species and has a very active demeanor.

Compatible Tank Mates for Blue Parrotfish

The blue parrotfish will be the most compatible in a tank with aquatic species such as marine angelfish, clownfish, batfish, butterfly fish, and hogfish. The marine angelfish possess uniquely vibrant colors that look beautiful beside the blue parrotfish. While the marine angelfish can be territorial around its own kind, it usually gets along with different species of its own size. The marine angelfish eats algae like the blue parrotfish does and aquarists who keep them tend to grow their own microalgae, offering a source of food for the blue parrotfish as well.

The blue parrotfish can also share a tank with clownfish because they are gentle in their demeanor with fish species other than their own. Because clownfish do not get along with other clownfish, there should only be one in the tank. The clownfish is relatively easy to take care of, with a diet of mostly shrimp, pellets, and flakes, making it a great sidekick for the blue parrotfish.

The batfish is another species that can live harmoniously with the blue parrotfish. They like to interact and socialize with other fish and are very intelligent. The batfish is better suited for the type of experienced fish keepers most likely looking to take care of a blue parrotfish. Although they are not reef safe and might snack on coral in the tank, they will fit in the same size tank as the blue parrotfish.

The butterfly fish is a popular choice for aquarists because of its beauty and it is another species that can cohabitate with the blue parrotfish. With so many types of butterfly fish species, it is important to only keep one kind in the same tank because of their different requirements. With a number of various species, butterfly fish’s needs can be compared to those of the blue parrotfish in order to find the species that would be best suited for tank sharing.

Boxfish are another option for blue parrotfish tankmates, although they are difficult to keep and should only be handled by experienced aquarists. The boxfish is aggressive toward their own kind but are generally friendly with other species of fish. When stressed, the boxfish releases a poisonous substance called ostracitoxin through its mucus that can kill tankmates.

Finally, the hogfish is another species that lives compatibility with the blue parrotfish. The hogfish is one of the most popular reef dwelling fish species and they may be aggressive toward smaller tank inhabitants. Like the blue parrotfish, hogfish can change their sex from male to female. The hogfish typically eats mollusks and spends their days sifting through sand trying to find them. Although there are varying needs in the feeding habits and behavioral patterns of these different fish species, all are expected to act peacefully toward the blue parrotfish and should make solid choices for tankmates.

Incompatible Tank Mates for Blue Parrotfish

Although the blue parrotfish are generally friendly, they may feed on smaller fish and crustaceans that live in the tank. Avoiding much smaller tank mates than the blue parrotfish is important as they may feed on smaller aquatic organisms. It is also recommended to avoid typically predatory or overly aggressive fish species when considering an appropriate tankmate for the blue parrotfish.

Where Can I Find Blue Parrotfish for Sale?

Blue parrotfish can be bought at various saltwater and tropical fish stores. Due to their challenging care requirements, blue parrotfish are rarely bred and are almost always wild born and caught when being sold. The blue parrotfish is also not typically available to buyers as a juvenile and will most likely be a various sized adult at the point of purchase.

Blue Parrotfish Price

The price category of buying a blue parrotfish is high and can cost up to 300 dollars. Blue parrotfish are difficult to find in stock at most aquatic stores, since they are not extremely popular aquarium fish and are not abundantly caught for retail sale.

If planning to add a blue parrotfish to an aquarium, it is important to conduct extensive research and understand the commitment associated with caring for this fish species. The blue parrotfish requires a lot of space and attentive care but are a beautiful species and provide many benefits to their natural ecosystems. They are commonly admired by snorkelers and divers in reefs surrounding the Caribbean and are happiest in their oceanic habitat. Their calm demeanor and vibrant colors make them a popular fish among ocean enthusiasts, and they play a vital role in the health of reefs and beauty of sandy beaches that are loved by travelers.