Parrotfishes are the common names used for the members of Scaridae family. They occur in the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific oceans. They are mainly saltwater fishes. Their teeth are usually fused to form a pair of beak-like plates in each jaw, resembling parrot beak. Most species are very colourful. Most of them mature first as females and then sexually transform into males, usually accompanied by a change in colour phase. In species where 2 adult colour phases are known, the first is termed “initial phase” (IP), the second, “terminal phase” (TP). Initial phases may thus be male or female, while terminal phases are invariably male. Many species share common colour patterns especially during their initial phase.
Parrotfishes are difficult to identify. Many species could be identified by their live colouration, but they vary between juveniles and adults and with sex change. The colours also change after death. They are also often being confused as wrasses.
Parrotfishes are most often found on or in the vicinity of coral reefs, and are usually most abundant in shallow waters to a depth of 30 m. They are mostly herbivorous, usually scraping algae from dead coral substrates. Ingested material which includes bits of rock are ground in the pharyngeal mill which reduces it to a fine slurry of sand and algae. The sand mixtures help in digestion and also in producing sand on the coral reefs. Some species move over large areas, while others are strongly site attached and vulnerable to overfishing.
There are 10 genera and about 100 species of Scaridae worldwide. Malaysia has at least 6 genera and 27 species.