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A bullet head parrot fish.


Parrotfish are mostly tropical and live in shallow waters like Hanauma Bay. They are well known for their size and bright colors. They are also popular as meals and in Hawaii you may see many restaurants serving parrotfish entrees.

In Hanauma Bay, you’ll recognize parrotfish primarily by their mouth shape. They have numerous teeth that are arranged tightly packed on the external surface of the jawbone. This gives them a parrot-beak like appearance and their name.

Parrotfish Habits

Parrotfish are technically considered herbivores, however they eat a wide variety of organisms in the coral reef. Some species make coral polyps a regular part of their diet. They use their “beaks” to collect algae and polyps from the coral and rock surfaces.

Parrotfish are very active during the day and stay in the shallower waters of the bay. At night they rest in crevices and some varieties excrete a thick coat of mucus to protect them. If you are snorkeling in the early morning hours or toward dusk you may see some of this mucus in the crevices of rocks and coral formation.

Parrotfish travel in schools and are very indifferent toward humans. They average 7 inches to 24 inches in length. You’ll see many varieties during your snorkeling trip at Hanauma Bay.

Seven different parrotfish

There are seven different varieties of parrotfish in the region.

Stareye parrotfish (ponuhunuhu) have bright blue faces and fins with a brown body. They also have pink stripes surrounding their eyes in a starburst pattern. Their eyes have a bulging appearance.

Yellowbar parrotfish are primarily blue with a bright yellow or white stripe just behind each pectoral fin. The males show yellow stripes and the females show white stripes. They also have pinkish-red markings on their bottom jaw.

Spectacled parrotfish have a blunt head and a broadly rounded body. Females (uhu ‘ahu ‘ula) are purplish brown with a red rail. The males (uhu uliuli) are blue with a purple overlay in the scale margins. There is also a yellow mark on the pectoral fin bases. Both genders have saddle-like bars just ahead of their eyes.

Bullethead parrotfish (uhu) (in picture) are the most common of the large parrotfish. The males have yellow and orange centers with surrounding blue markings. Females are reddish brown with a series of white spots toward their rear and red markings around the mouth.

Regal parrotfish (lauia) are seen less frequently. The females are pale to red with light stripes on the belly. The males are salmon pink to orange with turquoise markings.

Palenose parrotfish (uhu) males are mostly blue, yellow and pink. The females are mottled gray or olive brown. This variety is normally less than 10 inches long.

Redlip parrotfish (uhu palukaluka) have blunt angular heads. The males are green, turquoise or purple with a two-color scheme body. The females are purple and brown with dark scale markings.