9 Herbivorous Fish that You Might Have Never Seen

Herbivorous fish

Fish are broadly classified as herbivores, carnivores, or omnivores based on their dietary requirements.

Today, let’s talk about only herbivorous fish.

Given below are nine fish that are herbivores.

1. Parrotfish

Parrotfish swimming over a reef

Parrotfish are marine species from the family Scaridae, which includes 90 fish species.

They are commonly found in coral reefs, rocky coastlines, and seagrass beds.

Most parrotfish are herbivorous, eating mainly algae that grow on rocks.

Some species of parrotfish are known to eat tiny invertebrates, bacteria, and detritus.

Large parrotfish, such as the green humpback parrotfish, eat living coral polyps.

The feeding activity of parrotfish significantly impacts the production and distribution of coral sands in a reef environment.

These fish also prevent algae overgrowth in reef habitats.

2. Unicornfish


Unicornfish are saltwater fish that belong to the genus Naso, which is part of the surgeonfish family, Acanthuridae.

There are currently 20 fish species that are part of the genus Naso.

These fish are called unicornfish because of the hornlike extension on the foreheads of some species.

Unicornfish primarily inhabit the coral reef environments along the steep outer lagoons, rocky coastlines, and seaward reef drop-offs.

Adult unicornfish primarily feed on algae and zooplankton.

On the other hand, young unicornfish primarily eat benthic algae as part of their diet.

3. Surgeonfish / Tangs

Blue tang

Surgeonfish or tangs are marine species belonging to the family Acanthuridae.

These fish inhabit the tropical waters around the coral reef system.

There are 66 fish species, part of the genus Acanthurus, Ctenochaetus, Paracanthurus, Prionurus, and Zebrasoma.

The distinctive characteristic of these species is the presence of one or more scalpel-like scales on either side of the caudal peduncle.

These scalpels are used for defense by the surgeonfish.

They mainly eat algae, which means they’re limited to the depths where algae can grow.

Surgeonfish are schooling fish that swim together in large shoals. However, some species are known to move in pairs.

4. Rabbitfish


Rabbitfish or spinefoots belong to the family Siganidae. These fish are native to the shallow warm waters of the Indo-Pacific region.

There are 29 species in the genus Siganus.

These fish have laterally compressed, oval bodies, with some species having tube-like snouts.

Rabbitfish are herbivores, mainly eating benthic algae in their natural habitat.

Some rabbitfish species are opportunistic omnivores known to eat invertebrates in the wild.

Rabbitfish are diurnal species that spend their night sleeping in the crevices of the coral reef.

Some fish species live in schools, while others live solitary lives around the coral reef environment.

5. Damselfish


Most damselfish species inhabit the marine environment. However, some of them also live in brackish and freshwater habitats.

These fish live in subtropical, tropical, and temperate waters around the globe.

Most of these fish inhabit tropical coral reefs or rocky habitats.

Many damselfish species living in the Caribbean and other parts of the world are herbivores.

They are known to feed on algae that grow around the coral reef.

Most damselfish are bright colored and have bold patterns, reminiscent of most species inhabiting the coral reef system.

6. Grass Carp

Grass Carp

Grass carp are large freshwater fish inhabiting the waters of the Pacific Ocean.

They can be found in waters from northern Vietnam to the Amur river on the Sino-Russian border.

Grass carp are long, fat, torpedo-shaped fish with terminal mouths.

Their lips aren’t fleshy but relatively firm without any barbels.

Adult grass carp primarily feed on aquatic plants, including higher aquatic plants and underwater terrestrial vegetation.

Grass carp are large and strong fighters when hooked on fishing lines.

At the same time, these herbivores can be difficult for anglers to catch.

7. Mbunas


Mbuna refers to any African freshwater cichlid species from Lake Malawi.

More than 100 species of these stunning fish are found in their natural habitat.

These fish are extremely popular in the aquarium hobby and are commonly found in home aquariums.

All mbuna cichlids are herbivorous except for those belonging to the Labiochromis genus, which is known to eat meat-based food.

These fish commonly feed on aufwuchs in their natural habitat.

This unique type of growth is found on rock surfaces consisting of algae strands, biofilm, and small critters.

In captivity, you can feed these fish commercial flakes, pellets, granules, and veggies.

Their food should be fortified with minerals and proteins to satiate their dietary requirements.

8. Butterfly Plecos

Check out what these fish look like over here.

Butterfly plecos are freshwater fish species that originate from South America, specifically from Rio Negro, one of the largest tributary rivers of the Amazon river.

Butterfly plecos have been around for many decades and are one of the most colorful plecos to be housed in home aquariums.

These fish are primarily herbivorous and feed on algae.

You can also feed them algae wafers, spirulina tablets, and vegetables in captivity.

They are covered in clear black and white stripes, making them attractive to fish keepers.

9. Royal Plecos

Royal Pleco

Royal plecos are freshwater fish inhabiting the Orinoco river and several tributaries of the Amazon river.

They are herbivores and feed on plants, wood, and various organisms living on the wood.

In a captive environment, these fish mainly eat algae growing on the surface of rocks, wood, and other decorative items inside their tanks.

You can also feed them algae supplements like algae wafers and other food items like sinking pellets, flakes, tablets, and frozen food.

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