The parrot fish is so called because it has teeth that form a parrot-like beak. Since they eat algae out of coral reefs and rock, these teeth benefit them. They have large scales, and pectoral fins that help them swim. The tail fin is divided into two parts, which helps them swim fast. The parrot fish are popular because of their bright colors, but they are not a great choice to keep in an aquarium. Here's all about the different types and what their care involves, and also why they are not such a popular choice for an aquarium.
Freshwater Parrot Fish
Freshwater parrot fish are ideal if you wish to keep this variety of fish as a pet. They are available in several colors, as they are dyed. When they grow older, the color changes and returns to its original. This trend is especially prominent among red parrot fish. A freshwater parrot fish is 8 inches long, with the male growing up to 12 inches long. Their life spans several years. Though they fail to breed well in confinement, several such fish owners have proclaimed that they do just fine in aquariums. These fish keep trying to breed, no matter where they are, several times every couple of weeks.
To do so, during courtship, they clear the area they wish to use to lay the eggs in. The eggs that are laid don't always hatch, and sometimes have fungus growing on them. In such a case, they are eaten by the fish as they understand that these eggs are not going to hatch. Even after several failed attempts, freshwater fish do not give up and continue trying to lay and hatch their eggs. These fish are shy initially, but slowly warm up to their surroundings. They live comfortably with other fish as long as their nest is not disturbed, which is when they start getting nasty with other fish. If you wish to keep a freshwater parrot fish, you will require an aquarium that has a natural pH.
Blood Parrot Fish
Blood parrot fish are a creation of man as a result of breeding together different varieties of fish. They are bright orange in color, from which they derive their name. They may be dyed in several other colors, but this shortens their life span. They live between 10 - 15 years and may grow anywhere between 8 - 10 inches long. Because they are a hybrid variety, they have several physical deformities. They have a beak-shaped mouth that does not close properly.
As such, the food they consume is crushed by the muscles in the throat. They have a swim bladder that causes difficulty while swimming. This deformed swim bladder also leads to abnormalities in the spine, which together contribute to their bizarre shape. The male blood parrot fish are infertile, and breeding them is possible only commercially where hormones are injected to make them fertile. It is considered unethical to breed these fish even though several pet stores still sell them.
Why They Do Not Make Ideal Pets
Parrot fish care is a challenging task, and they are one of those fish that should be allowed to exist in their natural habitat. This is due to the following reasons.
- Since the teeth of parrot fish are large, they require to be trimmed at regular intervals. Doing so at home is difficult, whereas in their natural habitat, they eat coral while looking for algae, which when ground by their teeth, keeps them trimmed.
- Parrot fish are of several varieties that grow from anywhere between 12 inches to 60 inches long. The larger ones are obviously not suitable as pets, and are bred in commercial fisheries.
- Parrot fish prefer to live in large schools, where the population is predominantly female but is controlled by a single male, who defends the school and his own position when challenged. If this male dies, a female changes her sex and takes charge of the school. When she is ready to spawn, she lays small eggs in large numbers.
However, if you still wish to keep them as pets, these are the requirements you will need to meet to effectively take care of them.
- You will require an aquarium that can accommodate at least 300 gallons of water, that contains enough space for the fish to swim and graze.
- You will have to place live rock and hard corals in the aquarium to create a natural environment for them.
- The temperature to be maintained in the aquarium ranges between 72º F and 78º F, while the pH levels should range between 8.1 and 8.4.
- Since these fish feed mainly on coral and the algae picked from it, their dietary requirements are slightly difficult to meet. However, they may be fed shrimp, dried seaweed, dried algae, and herbivore pellets. Flake food is not enough for these fish as they are voracious eaters and need to be fed several times a day with different foods.
- In order to keep their teeth trimmed, you may adopt this approach. Make a thick paste of Plaster of Paris with cold water. Add to it finely chopped spinach, romaine lettuce, some brine shrimp, algae, and pellet foods. Make small balls of this mixture and allow it to harden. Feed it to the fish about 2 - 3 times a week, and freeze the remaining to be used later.
- Do not place these fish in a reef tank, as their habit of plucking algae from within reefs will cause damage to this type of fish tank.
- These fish may be placed with other fish in a tank as they are peaceful and have a dynamic personality. Their swimming style is also very unique.
With patience, parrot fish can be taken care of. Their requirements may be slightly more than other fish varieties, but watching them and being able to take care of them is equally pleasing.