Humphead parrotfish


Humphead parrotfish – 12 fun facts

1. Humphead parrots is the largest and the heaviest of all parrotfish species

Humphead parrotfish is also known as bump-head parrotfish or green hump-head parrotfish.

It grows up to 1.3 meters and can weigh up to 46 kilos which makes it both the largest and heaviest of all parrotfish species. 

They grow slowly, and their life span is about 40 years.

Marine life in Bali, humphead parrotfish
Video by Ludovic Amevor

2. The reason for its name is the prominent hump on their foreheads, which develops as they mature

They use this hump to break off pieces of hard coral for their digestion.

The hump can also use it in “head-butting” contests for a chance to mate or control the school.

3. The parrotfish’s teeth are composed of ­fluorapatite, among the ­hardest biominerals in the world

Another extraordinary characteristic of these fish is their mouths. They have no one but two sets of teeth. For instance, big front teeth fused in the shape of a beak and pharyngeal teeth at the back of their throat.

Parrotfish’s teeth harder than ­copper, gold and silver.

4. Green parrotfish are omnivores

School of humphead parrotfish at Tulamben, Bali

They feed on coral and algae as well. This makes them different from other oceanic species.

Coral is very hard and takes a special mechanism to be eaten. That’s why humphead parrotfish don’t have much competition for food.

They extract the algae from chunks of coral ripped from a reef. The parrotfish grind the coral into a hard paste, extracting what they love most: the algae. The hard material that does not provide nutritious food for them is pulverized and passed like feces. Yes, they poop sand. 

5. Green Humphead Parrotfish plays a very important part in the environment

Humphead parrotfish eat the calcium skeletons of corals and excrete them as white sand, creating beaches.

Corals and parrotfish have a mutualistic relationship. While  the parrotfish gets its food by feeding on corals, the coral also benefits because the parrotfish eats the algae that are growing on it. By eating the algae off the coral, the parrotfish keeps the algae from taking over the coral reefs.

They eat a lot! A humphead parrotfish eats approximately five to six tons of corals per year.

Even more, they produce enough sediment to create new reefs, distribute  more sand, influence the structure of current reefs, and spawn new coral reef ecosystems.

6. Adult Humphead parrotfish like swimming mostly in schools to feed

They can group up to 75 or more

On the other hand, young parrotfish stay back in the grassy seabeds closer to home and away from possible predators.

7. At night, humphead parrotfish blow a cocoon around themselves while they rest


The cocoon is made of mucous secreted from an organ on their head.

The cocoon masks their scent, making it harder for nocturnal predators to find them.

8. A School of parrotfish is led by a dominant male


When the dominant male dies or leaves the group, other parrotfish will take the place by switching genders.

A secondary male can become female or become a primary male. Parrotfish can change sex multiple times in a lifetime.

9. Reproduction occurs once both sexes reach sexual maturity

For males it happens when they are 5-7 years old, while for females is a little bit slower, reaching maturity when they are 9 to 11 years old. 

Spawning can occur throughout the year if conditions are stable and productive. Courtship and spawning happen during early morning in a protected area. Females release eggs that are fertilised by the sperm circulated in the water by the male humpheads. The eggs are usually hidden in plants that help to protect and camouflage the eggs from being eaten by predators.

After they hatch, the newly hatched offspring stay in this secluded area for up to a year to grow and mature before joining the adults in the reefs.

10. Some sharks and humans are the only predators of humphead parrotfish

Commercial fishing and spearing fishing have made a huge impact in decreasing the population of this fish.

Unfortunately, they are routine in mating and other habits as well. In other words, since humphead parrotfish like to school in large numbers and use predictable sleeping sites in shallow waters, they are easy to harvest for food.

11. Scuba diving in Bali with humphead parrotfish

Humphead parrotfish is a common fish in Bali and you can see them in almost every dive.

But if we have to choose one dive site to see them, that would be, no doubt, the USAT Liberty Wreck in Tulamben.

Humphead parrotfish have found their home and protection at the wreck. In truth, they come to sleep inside the wreck every night. At sunrise, humphead parrotfish get out of the wreck, and gather together to go for their daily swim. 

Both sunrise and night dive at the Liberty wreck is the perfect time to see these unusual and unique looking fish in Bali.

12. Be a responsible diver

Always follow the code of conduct of a responsible diver. Control your buoyancy and also remember do not touch anything underwater. To sum up, just take photos and leave only bubbles!

Special consideration at night diving with humpheads. Do not disturb the fish while sleeping. And also be careful with your underwater light and never flash it directly on the fish’s eyes.

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