Parrot fish, a species of tropical marine fish, are beloved by aquarium owners for their bright colors and unique body shape. They are commonly found in the wild where there is an abundance of coral, such as the reefs found in the Pacific Ocean and Red Sea. The 90 species of Parrot Fish come in almost any color imaginable, from red to blue to green to yellow. They are often found to be challenging to breed in captivity, yet it is possible.
The actual act of breeding between Parrot fish is common to most fish species, and involves the male and female of the species pairing up and courting for several days. In Parrot fish, this courting ritual involves the male “dancing” around the female by moving his tale rapidly. After choosing a nesting spot, the female will lay the eggs and both parents will care for them by guarding them, fanning them, and raising the fry (baby fish) after they’ve hatched.
The most typical place for the Parrot Fish couple to make their nest will be in the gravel at the bottom of the tank or on another hard surface in the aquarium, such as an ornamental rock or piece of wood. When they create their nest in the gravel the male will “dig” a nest, meaning he will nestle a small indented space in the gravel where the female will lay the eggs. Wherever they choose to nest, they will defend their territory viciously from the other fish in the tank.
When the eggs are laid, some or all may turn white. This is a sign that the eggs are unfertilized and will never hatch. The white color is actually a fungus that grows in the unfertilized egg. The male and female Parrot fish will eat the unfertilized eggs almost as soon as it is apparent they will not hatch so the fungus will not spread to the other, potentially fertilized eggs.
After the eggs have hatched, the fry (baby fish) will be cared for by their parents. Due to the defensive territory of the Parrot fish, it is recommended that other fish in the tank be removed so the stress is reduced on the parent couple. The fry will develop quickly, and will exhaust the food sacks they are born with within two days. As soon as the parents stop noticing the small fish (that will grow quickly) you should put them in a new tank to finish growing, or else they will become threats and meals to the parents if they should breed again.
It may be difficult to tell whether you have a male or female Parrot fish unless the fish is visibly pregnant. Due to the wide variety and color schemes of Parrot fish, there is no common fin size, shape, coloration, or other distinguishing mark that will easily tell one sex from the other. One of the only ways to make out a male Parrot fish is the fact that he may get slightly pink around his throat when he is preparing to mate. They also tend to be slightly larger than females, but again, this is not a hard and fast rule.