Swarthy Parrotfish (species: Scarus niger) in Lizard Island Field Guide (Lizard Island Field Guide)
Scarus niger
Swarthy Parrotfish

©Andy Lewis: A Terminal Phase Swarthy Parrotfish

©Andy Lewis: An Initial Phase Swarthy Parrotfish

©Andy Lewis: An Initial Phase Swarthy Parrotfish photographed with flash at 10m depth at New Hanover, PNG.
Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Chordata
Class Actinopterygii
Order Perciformes
Family Scaridae
Genus Scarus
Species Scarus niger



Distinguishing features

A small to medium sized dark parrotfish, with a small green dot present behind the eye at all sizes. Initial phase fish are dark maroon, while terminal phase fish change to a deep purple-black. There is red above the upper jaw and along the margins of the dorsal and ventral fins and tail. Usually solitary.


  • Up to 40 cm (Standard length)

Depth range

  • Depth range data is not yet available.



©Atlas of Living Australia: Australian distribution

Distribution and habitat preferences

Found in nearly all habitats, and favours areas with rich coral growth.

Found in most locations around the Island.


The Swarthy Parrotfish are usually seen as solitary individuals feeding on benthic turf algae in areas of good coral cover. This species is quite long lived, reaching 16 years of age around Lizard Island and 23 years on the outer shelf reefs. There are also other differences in the demography of this species between cross-shelf locations - population density at Lizard is 50% lower than at the outer barrier, however fish at Lizard grow faster, live longer, and suffer less mortality. Males maintain small harems of females and pair spawning takes place early and late in the day during the summer months. The newly settled juveniles are solitary and found hiding in areas of rich hard coral growth.

Web resources


References that assist with identification

  • Allen, G., R. Steene, P. Humann and N. Deloach (2003). Reef fish identification: Tropical Pacific New World Publications Inc., Jacksonville, FL, USA.
  • Bellwood, D.R. and J.H. Choat (1989). A description of the juvenile phase colour patterns of 24 parrotfish species (Family Scaridae) from the Great Barrier Reef, Australia, Records of the Australian Museum, 41: 1-41. LIRS catalog number 264.

Other references

  • Bellwood, D.R. (1985). The functional morphology, systematics and behavioural ecology of parrotfishes (Family Scaridae), Ph.D. thesis, James Cook University, Townsville. LIRS catalog number 310.
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