Whether you’re looking to breed your fish or to prevent same-sex aggression, it’s important to learn whether your red zebra cichlid is male or female.
With some fish, differentiating between genders is a piece of cake. However, this isn’t the case with red zebra cichlids. The difference between male and female cichlid is rather subtle, so you’ll need to know just what you’re looking for.
Luckily for you, I am here to help! Here are 7 ways to know whether your red zebra cichlid is male or female:
1. Males Are Larger
In many fish species, females tend to be larger than males. This isn’t the case with red zebra cichlids.
Female zebra cichlids usually grow around 3.5 to 4 inches. However, males can grow up to 5 inches, which is a significant size difference.
Keep in mind that you need to wait for your red zebra cichlids to grow to adulthood to be able to determine the size difference. Fortunately, they tend to grow rather fast.
Fun Fact: Wild zebra cichlids tend to be much smaller than zebra cichlids grown in captivity. In their natural habitats, it’s rare to find a zebra cichlid that has reached 4 inches in length.
2. Females Have Rounder Anal Fins
Probably the most reliable way to determine whether you’re having male or female red zebra cichlid is to look at its anal fin. The shape of this fin can precisely tell you the gender of your fish.
Look at your red zebra cichlid. Does it have a rounded anal fin? You have a female!
On the other hand, if your cichlid’s anal fin is pointy, then you’re dealing with a male.
3. Males Have Vertical Band
Another way to be certain whether your fish is male or female is to look at its coloration – or rather, look for the existence of a vertical stripe.
This might be more challenging than you think. I am not talking about a band that is noticeable at the first glance or multiple stripes like the ones kribensis cichlids have.
However, if you look closely, you might notice a broad band of a darker shade on your fish’s body. If you can notice it, this means your fish is male.
Despite their name, red zebra cichlids don’t have stripes – especially not the ones you might imagine. Quite the opposite – females are solid-colored. Males, on the other hand, might have these bands.
Just keep in mind that there are many colors and morphs. Not all look the same, and some males might not have these stripes at all.
4. Females Have Duller Color
Did you know that the appearance of wild red zebra cichlids varies greatly from the fish you keep in your tank? Wild male zebra cichlids are typically blue or pinkish, while the females are red in color!
In captivity, however, both male and female red zebra cichlids are orange or red. The difference is that males are typically bright, while females come in duller shades. Also, males might have a slight blue sheen over their scales.
Of course, there is a catch. Otherwise this might’ve been too easy.
With so many different morphs, there is no guarantee that you’ll guess whether your red zebra cichlid is male or female just by looking at its color.
This is why it’s important to always combine this method with various other ones from the list.
5. Females Have Fewer Egg Spots
Look at your fish’s anal fin once again. Do you see white spots that look like rounded rice grains? These are egg spots.
Egg spots have several purposes. First off, they can confuse predators that might try to attack the fish instead of its eggs.
They also have an important purpose in the red zebra cichlid’s breeding process.
Red zebra cichlids are mouthbrooders. Females will keep the eggs in their mouths until they are hatched. This might make you think that they are livebearers.
When a female that has just laid eggs notices egg spots in males, she will try to catch them with their mouth together with the rest. This will stimulate the male to fertilize the eggs.
Due to this, males have more egg spots – usually 4 to 7. Females don’t have as much need for them, so they rarely have them. If they do, they’ll almost never have more than 2 or 3.
6. Males Are More Aggressive
In general, there aren’t that many differences between male and female red zebra cichlids. These fish are social but not very friendly, and finding suitable tank mates for them can be as tricky as finding the suitable company for your kribs.
During mating season, however, things only get more challenging.
Males tend to be more aggressive than females, especially when it’s time to breed. They will succumb to their territorial nature, so they’ll try to fight any animal that gets into their territory.
Not just that, but they are likely to fight other males in an attempt to get the female.
Pro Tip: Always keep at least 3 females per 1 male to keep your males from fighting.
7. Females Are More Rounded
Finally, there are some anatomical features that set the two fish apart, although they are not as noticeable as in many other fish species.
Next to the differences in anal fins, females tend to have a bit more rounded, almost plumper body shape. Males, on the other hand, are pointier.
However, this difference is very subtle. Sometimes, it might not even be noticeable at all. Still, if you think that your red zebra cichlid is ready for a diet, don’t panic. Chances are you’re simply looking at a female that is a bit more round than the rest of the tank.
As you can see, there are plenty of differences between male and female red zebra cichlids. The issues that most are not very noticeable, which makes the entire sexing process much more challenging.
It’s important to keep in mind that not all fish are the same. You might happen to have a brightly colored female or a rounded male.
This is why you should always look for multiple features at once. By doing this, you will reduce the chances of mistakes.
Understanding whether your red zebra cichlid is male or female can be very important for many things. Fish’s gender does matter if you wish to have a proper, drama-free aquarium setup.
Hi fellow aquarists, I’m Ava and I’ve been an enthusiastic aquarium hobbyist for over four years now.
I’ve been amazed by these beautiful creatures since I was a kid and I’m thrilled to be sharing everything I’ve learned over the years with anyone who’s as passionate about the topic as I am.