Stoplight Parrotfish (Sparisoma viride): Ultimate Care Guide

Stoplight Parrotfish, also known as Sparisoma virde, are a gorgeous and colorful species of fish. They aren’t usually held in private tanks; they’re mainly reserved for public aquariums and very skilled aquarists. Stoplight Parrotfish are known to reside in coral reefs, which means you can add them to a coral tank if you choose. Read on further for plenty of information about the Stoplight Parrotfish and why it would make a great addition to your tank if you’re skilled enough.

Stoplight Parrotfish is a coral dwelling species native to the waters in Florida, the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean sea, and Bermuda. They’re a very colorful species with a long, almost beak-like mouth. Their name, Stoplight Parrotfish, comes from a large yellow spot that develops near their pectoral fin; it is only visible once they are fully mature. Inside that mouth is a set of teeth with rapidly regrowing enamel, allowing the Stoplight Parrotfish to feed on tough algae and coral. One of the most exciting characteristics of the Stoplight parrotfish is their sex. So If you have more females than males, chances are that some will change their gender to male. Which means they can change their gender based on their own environment and needs.

Stoplight Parrotfish Habitat

Stoplight Parrotfish are native to shallow coral reefs that haven’t been disturbed by people off the coast of Florida, the Caribbean Sea, Bermuda, Brazil, and the Gulf of Mexico. They are found more frequently in reefs in the Caribbean, where they are critical to the ecosystem. Branched finger corals that are around 2 centimeters wide are the perfect habitat for them. They are also more likely to be found in offshore reefs due to the amount of fishing near inshore reefs. Stoplight parrotfish tend to only be active during the day, when they’ll swim around, usually foraging for food. They’ll usually hide in the reefs or under coral boulders at night time.

Stoplight Parrotfish (Sparisoma viride)
Stoplight Parrotfish (Sparisoma viride)

Stoplight Parrotfish Predators

Stoplight Parrotfish are only aggressive towards their own species, which means they may get taken advantage of and preyed upon by more dominant and aggressive fish. Yellowtail snappers are native to some of the same areas, and they have been known to prey on Stoplight Parrotfish. Stoplight Parrotfish have also been known to be eaten by Bar Jacks, Nothern Red Snappers, Dog Snappers, and Moray Eels. They are also a decently popular eating fish, which means humans are one of the biggest predators to Stoplight Parrotfish. Not much is known about how Stoplight Parrotfish react to predators. Some other parrotfish, such as the Queen Parrotfish, are known to spread their fins and attempt to bite or chase away the predators. Some species of Parrotfish secrete a mucus-like bubble to sleep in, which masks their scent from predators.

Stoplight Parrotfish Care

It is not easy to care for Stoplight Parrotfish, which is why they usually aren’t recommended to inexperienced aquarists. They feed on coral, which means that you need to have plenty of coral in your tank for them to not only feed on but to hide in. They will also sleep on the coral in open areas so that they can quickly escape predators if necessary. The size of the tank required to keep a Stoplight Parrotfish happy and healthy is enough to scare off most aquarists. But if you are skilled enough and research enough, you should be able to adequately house a Stoplight Parrotfish comfortably.

Stoplight Parrotfish Temperature

The native habitat of Stoplight Parrotfish is coral reefs in tropical waters. That means they need to have their tanks kept at or within a specific temperature range in order to keep the Stoplight Parrotfish healthy and happy. The water temperature of Stoplight Parrotfish needs to be between 25.4 – 28 degrees Celcius or an average of 27.2 degrees Celcius. Or 77 – 82 degrees Fahrenheit, an average of around 80 degrees. You’ll likely need a heater in order to reach and maintain those temperatures.

Stoplight Parrotfish Water pH

Water pH levels are extremely important in any tank. Any slight fluctuations could cause irreparable damage to the species in your tank. There is no known perfect pH level for Stoplight Parrotfish, but there are rough estimates that you should follow. You should aim to keep the pH level within the range of 8.1 and 8.4. If you regularly check the pH levels, you can catch any issues before they become a significant problem.

Stoplight Parrotfish Lifespan

The lifespan of any fish, or pet, for that matter, is very dependent on the care you give them. If you neglect them, or don’t feed them a balanced diet, or just miscare for them, then their lifespan will quickly diminish. The average lifespan of Stoplight Parrotfish is between seven to nine years. Some species have been known to live between 15 to 20 years, with the oldest known Stoplight Parrotfish reaching 30 years in age.

Stoplight Parrotfish Size

Stoplight Parrotfish are not a small species; they can grow pretty large, which makes them harder to keep in captivity. A fully grown, male Stoplight Parrotfish can reach upwards of 22 inches in length or nearly 2 feet and almost 4 pounds. Their larger size means that they aren’t easily preyed on by other species. But, anything significantly bigger than the Stoplight Parrotfish will not hesitate to eat it, but that shouldn’t be an issue to these kept in captivity.

Stoplight Parrotfish Tank Size

Stoplight Parrotfish can reach up to 2 feet in length, and they love to sleep on and swim among coral reefs. Due to the larger size of the Stoplight Parrotfish and their reliance on coral reefs, a larger tank size is absolutely required to keep your fish happy. A recommended tank size for Stoplight Parrotfish is a minimum of 200 gallons. That massive size means that most aquarists won’t even have room for them, let alone the skill to take care of them.

Stoplight Parrotfish Food & Diet

Stoplight Parrotfish’s preferred diet is algae that are found on coral. Their mouth is perfectly designed to help scrape those algae off and eat them. They have a beak-like mouth, and their enamel rapidly regrows, allowing them to get as close as possible to use their teeth to scrape the algae off the coral and eat it. Stoplight Parrotfish have also been known to eat coral, which is highly beneficial to their ecosystem.

Do Stoplight Parrotfish Eat Coral?

The diet of Stoplight Parrotfish isn’t very varied, usually just consisting of algae that they scrape off of coral. But that isn’t always the case. On some occasions, Stoplight Parrotfish are known to also feed on coral. They eat both alive and dead corals. As well as detritus, branched, boulder star, finger, and elkhorn corals. Having said that, Stoplight Parrotfish are more likely to feed on dead coral than live ones. That is why it is imperative that any tank that includes a Stoplight Parrotfish also has coral for them to feed on.

Stoplight Parrotfish Eat Sponges?

Stoplight Parrotfish are primarily herbivores that tend to feed on algae that usually grow on coral. Their beak-like mouth helps them scrape the algae in order to eat it. It also helps them crush coral and it, should they choose to. Stoplight Parrotfish are also known to feed on sponges. A fun fact that many people don’t know is that they excrete everything they eat as sand. White sand that helps make up the beaches of the tropics.

Stoplight Parrotfish Tank Setup

One of the most important aspects of tank setup for a tank that includes Stoplight Parrotfish is coral. They love coral; they live in and on it and get most of their food from it. Another vital aspect is temperature; they come from warm, tropical waters. That means their tank needs to emulate those conditions; the easiest and most efficient want to do that is with a heater. Lighting is also essential, now just for the species in your tank but for the growth of the coral in your place in there. You’ll likely want to keep the lights on for around 8 – 12 hours a day, which helps emulate an average day in their natural habitat.

Stoplight Parrotfish Breeding

Stoplight Parrotfish reproduce by laying eggs; this can happen year-round. Summer months are the most common months for them to reproduce. They don’t reach sexual maturity until around 4 years of age. Their eggs are usually laid deep into the water, where they won’t be disturbed by water flow. Stoplight Parrotfish split off into primary males and secondary males. Primary males pair up with a single male. Whereas secondary males keep harems of seven female fish, mating with them every day. A thing of note is that Stoplight Parrotfish can also change genders, which helps with reproduction.

Stoplight Parrotfish Disease

Fish can become highly susceptible if the water isn’t kept at the proper parameters. Any fluctuations in temperature or pH level can negatively affect the species in your tank. The same can be said for any pollution in the water. If you regularly check the water parameters, you can avoid any potential issues.

Stoplight Parrotfish Tank Mates

Finding tankmates for any community tank can sometimes be a daunting task. When it comes to Stoplight Parrotfish, there are a decent amount of options to choose from. They are a very peaceful species meaning they should be kept with other peaceful species. But that also means that they shouldn’t be kept with others of the same species, as Stoplight Parrotfish are only aggressive towards themselves. You shouldn’t keep them in captivity with Snappers, Bar Jacks, or Moray eels.

Where can I find Stoplight Parrotfish for Sale?

Finding a Stoplight Parrotfish to purchase isn’t the easiest thing to do. The most accessible place to find one to buy is online; most online retailers should have them in stock. Stoplight Parrotfish usually sell online for around $40 to $80. For a price like that, make sure you buy them from a retailer you trust or one with a live-delivery guarantee.

Fish Laboratory

With decades of collective fishkeeping experience, we are happy to share the fish care tips that we've picked up along the way. Our goal at Fish Laboratory is to keep publishing accurate content to help fishkeepers keep their fish and aquarium healthy.

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