Stoplight Parrotfish

(Sparisoma viride)

This colorful Stoplight Parrotfish has an elongated body with a bluntly rounded face and an elaborately curved crescent tail fin.
It goes through significant color changes through the three major phases of its life, but it retains its large, plate-like scales and its beak-like mouth.
The Stoplight Parrotfish can change their gender in times when there is a strong population imbalance between breeding males and females.

Initial Phase

Intermediate Phase

Terminal Phase

Habitat and Distribution

Occurring in shallow waters from 1-50 meters in depth, the stoplight parrotfish is common in waters around coral reefs.
The Stoplight Parrotfish is endemic in tropical waters in the western Atlantic Ocean including Florida, Bermuda, Bahamas and throughout the Caribbean Sea south to Brazil.
They are also found along the eastern and western boundaries of the Gulf of Mexico.

They are diurnal (active in the day) and secret an envelope at night in which they sleep, which smells bad and is distasteful to aid in protection from predators and also conceals them from these predators.

Diet and Behavior

The Stoplight Parrotfish forages on live and dead coral, and occasionally on detritus.
Rather than feeding by scraping corals, stoplight parrotfish excavate coral skeletons, creating deep holes using their strong jaws and regenerative teeth.
While they appear to be feeding on the coral itself, the polyps that exist within the coral skeleton are what actually provides nutrients to the fish.
After boring into the coral with fused, beak-like teeth, the fish use the pharyngeal teeth located at the back of the throat to grind the coral.
Algal nutrients are obtained and the crushed coral debris is deposited as fine powder sand.


Stoplight Parrotfish possess the most unusual and complex reproductive methods.
Sex changes are common among parrotfish due to either males or females being low in population density.
Primary males remain males throughout their life, but terminal males are born female and undergo sex changes if needed.
Terminal males mate individually with a female partner, while smaller primary males will mate in groups, with multiple males to one female. Terminal males also defend and maintain harems of multiple females.
The eggs are negatively buoyant and spherical, measuring 1 mm in diameter. After 25 hours, the fertilized eggs release larvae that are 1.4 mm in length with no eyes, mouth, or pigmentation.
The mouth appears three days after hatching. Little is known about this larval stage.

Conservation Status

This species is not considered to be in danger of becoming threatened or extinct and is listed as a species of Least Concern.