Swarthy Parrotfish, Scarus niger Forsskål 1775

Other Names: Dusky Parrotfish

A terminal male Swarthy Parrotfish, Scarus niger, in Banda Aceh, Indonesia. Source: Ian V. Shaw / Reef Life Survey. License: CC by Attribution

Large males are dark purplish-red anteriorly, greenish posteriorly with dark scale margins, with a reddish upper lip, dark bands around the mouth, and always a dark-edged yellowish 'ear' spot on the body at the upper rear of the gill cover. Females have a reddish head, belly and fins, with wavy dark and white stripes along the side, dark green bands around the mouth and eye.r  variable marking on the head, . ,A dark blackish-brown parrotfish with 3-4 darker spots on the rear of each midbody scale, Males are reddish-brown anteriorly, greenish posteriorly with dark scale margin, a reddish upper lip and dark greenish bands around the mouth, and always a yellow to bright green spot with a dark margin on the body at the top end of a line from the mouth through eye to the top of the gill opening. Females have a reddish head, belly and fins with wavy black and white stripes along the side, and dark green bands around mouth and eye.with a red upper lip, dark bands around the mouth Both adult males and females have an orange dorsal fin with a blue margin. Juveniles are dark greenish black, covered in small white spots, with a black spot at the top and bottom of a white band on the tail base.

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2020, Scarus niger in Fishes of Australia, accessed 25 May 2024, https://fishesofaustralia.net.au/Home/species/926

Swarthy Parrotfish, Scarus niger Forsskål 1775

More Info


Shark Bay and offshore reefs of north Western Australia, to Ashmore Reef in the Timor Sea, and the far northern Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, and reefs in the Coral Sea, to the Solitary Islands, New South Wales; also Cocos (Keeling) Islands and Christmas Island in the eastern Indian Ocean, and the Lord Howe Province in the Tasman Sea. Elsewhere the species is widespread in the Indo-west-central Pacific: Red Sea and East Africa east to Micronesia and the Tuamotu Archipelago, north to Ryukyu and Ogasawara Islands, Japan, southwards Australia, New Caledonia and Tonga.
Inhabits clear areas on coastal and offshore reefs, preferring outer reef slopes and reef crests.


Dorsal fin IX, 10; Anal fin III, 9; Pectoral fin 13-15; Predorsal scales (median) 6-8; Scale rows on cheek 3.
terminal males usually with 2 conical teeth on the upper tooth plate (absent in females); lips mainly covering dental plates; caudal fin rounded in small females, with prolonged upper and lower lobes in large adults. 


Adults: body dark blackish brown; scales in midregion of body each with 3-4 darker spots on posterior region, these scales with greenish caste which fades rapidly with removal from water, green spot with darker margin on body adjacent to upper opercular membrane, snout reddish with green band crossing snout above upper lip, chin with 2 green bars; greenish band from corner of mouth to lower margin of orbit, 2 short green postorbital bands, sides of head with darker dots and reticulated markings; sub opercular area often with greenish dots, dental plates blue-green; dorsal and anal fins reddish brown, distal margins blue-green; caudal fin brownish, upper and lower margins blue-green, then sub marginally reddish brown, posterior margin narrowly greenish; upper part of pectoral fins light brown, dorsal-most ray slightly darker, lower rays hyaline dark brown; pelvic fins brownish, spine and anterior rays blue-green. Larger males, body colouration becomes progressively darker purplish green, black spots on body scales and head less prominent (Choat & Randall 1986).
Juveniles: Less than 10 mm, lower half of body dark, upper half translucent, body with series of white pupil-sized dots; 10-40 mm, lower portion of body dark with numerous small pale dots, upper part mottled olive green, white patch on caudal fin base preceded by 2 dark spots; 25-40 mm, caudal peduncle burgundy red; greater than 40 mm, body dark brown black, darkest ventrally, small pale dots on body faded, caudal peduncle pale red brown to brown, white patch at caudal fin base diffused and dark dots faded (Bellwood & Choat, 1989). 


Prorogynous hermaphrodite, changing sex from female to male during the life cycle. Males guard small harems of females and juveniles.


Taken in artisanal fisheries in parts of its range.


The specific name is from the Latin niger (= black) in reference to the “nigro-fuscus” body colour of this species.

Species Citation

Scarus niger Forsskål 1775, Descriptiones Animalium : x, 28. Type locality: Red Sea.


Bray, D.J. 2020


Atlas of Living Australia

Swarthy Parrotfish, Scarus niger Forsskål 1775


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Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37386021


Depth:0-20 m

Habitat:Reef associated

Max Size:40 cm TL

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