Rainbow Parrotfish

Rainbow Parrotfish, Scarus guacamaia

The Rainbow Parrotfish, Scarus guacamaia, whose common Spanish name is loro guacamayo, is a species in the Parrotfish or Scaridae Family, known collectively as loros and pericos in Mexico. Globally, there are sixty-four species in the genus Scarus, ten of which are found in Mexican waters, six in the Atlantic and four in the Pacific.

The Rainbow Parrotfish are large fish with oblong elongated moderately compressed robust bodies. They vary greatly in color depending on their phase. Juveniles are reddish-brown; they have scales with bronze edges and green centers, short green lines around their eyes, dull orange chests and fins, and a dull orange coloration on portions of their head. Larger fish are bi-colored with green on the rear half of their body and bronze with some green areas on their front half; they have green bases, green borders, and orange centers on their anal and caudal fins. Their head is bluntly rounded with a convex profile near the tip of the snout. Their anal fin has 3 spines and 9 rays; their dorsal fin has 9 spines and 10 rays; and their pectoral fins have 16 rays. They have 51 to 64 gill rakers and their body is covered with large scales. They have traditional parrot-like teeth used for crushing skeletal coral materials, as they are detritivores consuming detritus and bacterial complexes and meiofauna.

The Rainbow Parrotfish are found in coral reef environments at depths up to 75 feet. Juveniles are found in mangroves. They are the largest Parrotfish in the Caribbean reaching a maximum of 1.2 meters (3 feet 11 inches) in length. They are known to have home caves where they retire at night or when threatened. They have a lifespan of up to 16 years.

In Mexico waters the Rainbow Parrotfish have a limited distribution being found only in coastal waters adjacent to the Yucatan Peninsula.

Due to its coloration and unique beak profile, the Rainbow Parrotfish is not easily confused with any other species.

The Rainbow Parrotfish have historically been an important food fish throughout the Caribbean being harvested by subsistence and commercial fishermen using nets and traps. They are known to contain Cigua Toxin. Their populations have been in serious decline and their infrequent catches have been attributed to their rarity, large size, loss of habitat (coral reefs and mangroves), and overfishing primarily by spearfishermen – they are easy targets as they forage in very shallow water. They are currently considered Near Threatened and in some locations have been fished to extinction. They are banned from fishing in certain locations and only thrive in marine reserves.

Rainbow Parrotfish, Scarus guacamaia, juvenile. Fish caught off the Channel 5 Bridge (MM 71.4), Florida Keys, Florida, February 2017. Length: 36 cm (14 inches). Catch, photo and identification courtesy of George Brinkman, Guelph, Ontario, Canada.

Rainbow Parrotfish (1)

Rainbow Parrotfish, Scarus guacamaia, juvenile. Fish caught from coastal waters off Key West, Florida, June 2015. Length: 43 cm (17 inches). Catch, photo and identification courtesy of Dean Kimberly, Atlanta, GA.