Animal Species:Swarthy Parrotfish, Scarus niger Forsskål, 1775

The Swarthy Parrotfish can be recognised by its colouration, which varies as the fish grows. The species is a member of the family Scarinae, which has the teeth in both jaws fused into a parrot-like beak.

Swarthy Parrotfish at Redang Island, Malaysia

Swarthy Parrotfish at Redang Island, Malaysia
Photographer: Erik Schlögl © Erik Schlögl

Standard Common Name

Swarthy Parrotfish

Alternative Name/s

Dusky Parrotfish


The Swarthy Parrotfish can be recognised by its colouration, which varies as the fish grows. Juvenile Swarthy Parrotfish have a dark brown body with blue spots. The base of the caudal fin is white and there is a large black spot on the upper and lower margins of the caudal peduncle.

Terminal phase Swarthy Parrotfish such as the one in the image have a dark purple-blue body. The teeth are blue-green and the top lip is pink with a green transverse bar above it. Irregular green bars extend from below the jaw to the eye and from the eye onto the operculum. There is a yellow-green spot at the upper end of the gill opening. The dorsal, anal and caudal fins have blue margins. Initial phase Swarthy Parrotfish are similar to terminal phase individuals, but have a pinker face and a more rounded caudal fin.

Size range

The species grows to 40 cm in length.


It occurs in tropical marine waters of the Indo-West and Central Pacific, from the Red Sea, north to Japan, south to Australia and east to French Polynesia. In Australia the Swarthy Parrotfish is known from the north-western coast of Western Australia around the tropical north of the country, and south to the central New South Wales coast.

The map below shows the Australian distribution of the species based on public sightings and specimens in Australian Museums. Click on the map for detailed information.  Source: Atlas of Living Australia.

Scarus niger

Distribution by collection data

Ozcam map of Swarthy Parrotfish specimens in the Australian Museum.

What does this mean?


The Swarthy Parrotfish inhabits clear lagoons, channels and outer reefs slopes. The fish is usually found at depths of 2 m to 20 m.

Feeding and Diet

The species feeds by scraping algae from rocks and corals.

Mating and reproduction

The species is usually solitary, but males may maintain a small harem. Males and females form pairs to spawn.



What does this mean?


  1. Allen, G.R. 1997. Marine Fishes of Tropical Australia and South-east Asia. Western Australian Museum. Pp. 220.
  2. Choat, J. H. and J. E. Randall 1986. A review of the parrotfishes (family Scaridae) of the Great Barrier Reef of Australia with description of a new species. Records of the Australian Museum. 38 (4): 175-228, Pls. 1-11.
  3. Hoese, D.F., Bray, D.J., Paxton, J.R. & G.R. Allen. 2006. Fishes. In Beesley, P.L. & A. Wells. (eds) Zoological Catalogue of Australia. Volume 35. ABRS & CSIRO Publishing: Australia. parts 1-3, pages 1-2178.
  4. Myers, R.F. 1999. Micronesian Reef Fishes. Coral Graphics. Pp. 222.
  5. Randall, J.E., Allen, G.R. & R.C. Steene. 1997. Fishes of the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea. Crawford House Press. Pp. 415.

Mark McGrouther , Collection Manager, Ichthyology
Last Updated:

Tags Fishes, Swarthy Parrotfish, Scarus niger, Scaridae, Ichthyology, scarinae, blotch, green, red, blue, purple, pink, 'normal fish', 30 cm - 1 m, countershaded, pelagic, marine, adult,