Bicolor Parrotfish

Bicolor Parrotfish, Scarus rubroviolaceus

The Bicolor Parrotfish, Scarus rubroviolaceus, whose common Spanish name is loro bicolor, is a species in the Parrotfish or Scaridae Family, known collectively as loros and pericos in Mexico. This fish is also known as the Ember Parrotfish and the Redlip Parrotfish. Globally, there are 64 species in the genus Scarus, of which ten are found in Mexican waters, six in the Atlantic and four in the Pacific.

The Bicolor Parrotfish have elongated, oval, and compressed bodies. Juveniles have whitish bodies with clear fins; they have three broken brown lines across their flanks, the lower one being the widest and having pale dots along its length. As they mature, their body becomes white and they have three brown to olive color stripes with white spots, a large white blotch at their caudal fin base, and a dark bar extending down from the front of their dorsal fin. Initial Phase (IP) females are gray anteriorly and transition to light tan posteriorly with small black spots and dark lines on their side; they have red fins. Terminal Phase (TP) males are green to blue-green; many have a purple anterior half which gives rise to their common name; they have a pair of blue bands on their chin, pink lines above and below their mouth, and a blue-green beak; they have a steep, blunt, and square head with large males developing a strong hump on top. They have one or two canine teeth on the rear side of their top jaw. Their anal fin has three spines and nine rays. The caudal fin is slightly concave in juveniles and very concave in mature adults. Their dorsal fin is continuous without a notch; it has nine spines and ten rays. Their lateral line has two sections. They are covered with large smooth scales.

The Bicolor Parrotfish are a shallow water benthopelagic coastal species found in and around rocky and coral reefs in tropical and subtropical waters at depths up to 120 feet. They are fast-growing and reach a maximum length of 70 cm (28 inches). They are found as solitary individuals, in pairs or in large dense schools. They are daytime foragers spending 80% of their time in search of food, primarily scraping algae and small organisms off rocks. At night they retire within the reef and construct a cocoon in which they sleep. They are protogynous hermaphrodites with mature females changing to males around age 13. Reproduction is oviparous with spawning occurring in large aggregations. The eggs are fertilized externally and are pelagic but settle to the bottom and hatch fairly quickly. They have a lifespan of up to 20 years.

The Bicolor Parrotfish are widespread and found in the Indo-Pacific and eastern Tropical Pacific Oceans. In Mexican waters, they have a limited distribution being found in the southern half of the Sea of Cortez and along the coast of the mainland south to Guatemala.

The Bicolor Parrotfish is similar to, and can be confused with, the various phase colors of the Azure Parrotfish, Scarus compressus, the Bluechin Parrotfish, Scarus ghobban, the Bumphead Parrotfish, Scarus perrico, the Loosetooth Parrotfish, Nicholsina denticulata, and the Stareye Parrotfish, Calotomus carolinus, however, these fish all have more pointed snouts and lack the pink lines found above and below the mouth of the Bicolor Parrotfish.

The Bicolor Parrotfish are an important food fish in many parts of their range. They are also used by the aquarium trade at a nominal level. They are widespread with stable populations in most areas, however, loss of habitat (coral reefs and mangroves) and overfishing combined with declines in numbers and sizes make their long-term survival of concern. At present they are considered of Least Concern but will most likely be reclassified as Near Threatened within the next ten years.

Bicolor Parrotfish, Scarus rubroviolaceus, Terminal Phase. Underwater photo taken in coastal waters off Kailua-Kona, HI, November 2015. Length: 56 cm (22 inches). Photo courtesy of Bob Hillis, Ivins, UT.