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What kind of fish is purple and yellow?

What kind of fish is purple and yellow?

There are a few different species of fish that can have purplish and yellowish coloring. The most common types are certain species of wrasses, parrotfish, and damselfish. The vivid colors come from pigment cells in their skin and help camouflage the fish or attract mates. In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the most vibrant purple and yellow species and what makes their coloring so unique.


Wrasses are a family of reef fish found in tropical and subtropical waters. Many species have brightly colored patterns and live around coral reefs. Two wrasses that often display striking purple and yellow hues are the purple reef wrasse and the bird wrasse.

The purple reef wrasse (Pseudocheilinus ocellatus) gets its name from the dominant purple shade of the males. They have yellow highlights on the fins and tails. Females are usually reddish or green. These wrasses are found in the Indo-Pacific region and use their colors to establish dominance and attract mates.

The bird wrasse (Gomphosus varius) is also known for its vivid purple and yellow markings. It has a steep head profile that resembles a bird’s beak. The body is a mix of purple, fuchsia, green, and electric blue. Females are paler with yellow fins. Bird wrasses inhabit coral reefs in the tropical Pacific and Indian Oceans. The striking color pattern helps them blend into the reef environment.


Parrotfish are another reef fish family known for their bright colors and patterns. Many parrotfish display a mix of purple, blue, yellow, green, and orange hues. Two prime examples are the queen parrotfish and the redfin parrotfish.

The queen parrotfish (Scarus vetula) is aptly named for its regal appearance. It has a light purple and yellow body with highlights of green and blue on the fins and mouth. Some also have a bright orange spot on the gill cover. These parrotfish are native to the Caribbean region.

The redfin parrotfish (Sparisoma rubripinne) lives in tropical waters of the Atlantic and Eastern Pacific. As the name suggests, males have bright red fins bordered with bands of purple, blue, and yellow. Females are drabber with yellow fins. The colorful fins likely help attract mates and establish territories on the reef.


Damselfish comprise another highly colorful reef fish group. Most damsels are some mix of yellow, blue, green, and purplish hues. Two prime purple and yellow species are the beau gregory and the lemonpeel damselfish.

The beau gregory (Eupomacentrus leucostictus) is a brilliantly patterned fish from the Indo-Pacific. Males have a background color of bright purple with neon blue lines across the body. The fins are translucent yellow, and the tail has bold yellow bands. Females are similarly marked but less vibrant.

Lemonpeel damselfish (Pomacentrus moluccensis) inhabit shallow reefs in the western Pacific. As the name hints, they have a vibrant lemon yellow front half and darker purple-blue rear. Some also have light purple dorsal fins. This bright pattern likely helps with species recognition and predator avoidance on the crowded reef.

Causes of Purple and Yellow Coloring

So what accounts for the stunning purple and yellow shades seen in these reef fish? For many species, the root cause is pigment cells called chromatophores in their skin.

Chromatophores contain pigments like melanin (blacks and browns), carotenoids (yellows and oranges), and other molecules. The fish can actively control these cells to expand and contract the pigments, rapidly changing their colors and patterns.

Specific chromatophores like xanthophores, erythrophores, and melanophores produce the yellows, reds, and purples on many wrasses, parrotfish, and damselfish. Iridescent structural colors from guanine crystals add to the flashy hues.

Some species may also get vibrant yellows from their diets rich in carotenoids. Algae, crustaceans, and plankton all provide these pigment molecules.

Camouflage and Communication

The bright purples and yellows serve multiple functions for these tropical fish. One key role is camouflage and signaling on the reef.

The diverse colors and patterns help the fish blend into the environment and avoid standing out to predators. At the same time, the hues also allow members of their own species to recognize them. Vivid colors help keep groups together and defend territories.

Additionally, the striking shades are useful for mate attraction in many species. Usually, males have the brightest and boldest patterns. Females likely use coloration to assess the health and fitness of potential partners.

Some juveniles also go through an initial drab phase and develop more vibrant adult coloring as they mature. This prevents them from drawing unwanted attention while young and vulnerable.

Examples of Vividly Colored Species

Here are a few more examples of fish with stunning purple and yellow pigments:

Common Name Scientific Name Region Colors & Patterns
Purple tang Zebrasoma xanthurum Indo-Pacific Deep purple with yellow fin tips
African purple dottyback Pseudochromis dilectus East Africa Iridescent purple with yellow dots
Clown wrasse Coris aygula Indian Ocean Purple body with yellow bands
Purple firefish Nemateleotris decora Indo-Pacific Purple with yellow dorsal fin
Yellowhead wrasse Halichoeres garnoti Western Atlantic Purple body with bright yellow head


In summary, several different fish families are known for displaying eye-catching mixes of purple and yellow. This includes wrasses, parrotfish, damselfish, tangs, dottybacks, clownfish, and more. Specialized skin cells called chromatophores contain pigments that produce these vibrant hues. The colors serve functions like camouflage, species recognition, mate attraction, and territorial displays on the reef. So next time you spot a radiant purple and yellow fish, it’s likely one of these cleverly colored reef dwellers using its pigments to survive and thrive in its environment.