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Parrotfish of Hawaii

Of all the tropical fish here in our Hawaiian waters, one of the brightest and most often seen is the colorful Parrotfish or Uhu (Ooh-Hoo) in Hawaiian.  These fun fish come in various sizes and colors and can be seen many places throughout the Hawaiian Islands.

Parrotfish at Molokini

Parrotfish at Molokini

Parrotfish are aptly named after their parrot-shaped beak and bright colors. The numerous teeth that line the inside of its beak are perfect for dislodging algae off the coral and rocks.  While snorkeling, you can often hear the sharp teeth of these herbivores as they clean coral of algae.  The parrotfish can ingest some of the coral and rocks and will expel it as sand. One parrotfish can produce almost a ton of sand in one year.  Think about that next time you are sitting on the beach!

The Uhu is very important to the reef ecosystem as it helps to contain the algae.  Without this fish and other grazers, algae could take over the reef and suffocate the living coral.  This is one reason why it is very important not to feed fish while you are out snorkeling as we want the fish eating the algae and not the handouts people give them.

Most often recognized is the male Uhu, which boasts bright blue, green and purple colors.

Parrotfish at Molokini

Parrotfish at Molokini

 

The female is a more muted red-brown color while large white eyes.

Female Parrotfish

Female Parrotfish

All Uhu start their lives out as a female and live in “harems” with a male as the leader.  If the male dies, a female will take its place and change its sex to become a male.

At night parrotfish are unique in that they will make a sleeping bag or cocoon of mucus to protect themselves from parasites while they sleep.

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Parrotfish at Molokini

There are several different types of Parrotfish here in Hawai’i. Naturalists aboard Kai Kanani will help you identify these and other amazing fish on all of our snorkeling excursions.

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