Differences Between Male & Female Electric Yellow Cichlids

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If you're looking for a way to add dazzling color to your freshwater aquarium, electric yellow cichlids won't disappoint. Both female and male electric yellow cichlids are a bright yellow color with black fins. This can make it difficult to tell the genders apart. Also known as the "yellow lab," this is one of the few African cichlid types that will stay smaller than 5 inches long, making them a good choice for beginning aquarists with smaller cichlid tanks of around 40 gallons.

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Electric yellow cichlids add a lot of color to a tank.
Image Credit: mtreasure/iStock/GettyImages

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Observe the color

Although both males and females are a sunshiny yellow, the males have a slightly deeper hue. Although beautifully colored, comparing the fish in your tank will point out the noticeable difference. If you're buying yellow labs at the fish store, make sure to get a mix of yellow shades to ensure you're getting both males and females. Selecting fish that are all deep yellow could leave you with a tank of males and some frustrating aggression issues.

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Look for the markings

Both males and females have a black dorsal fin, but the male's fins bear a yellow stripe as well. As males mature sexually, their pectoral and anal fins turn dark black. Males can develop a black chin marking, a black belly, and a brown mark between the eye and mouth.

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The male's black anal fin has yellow "egg spots" on it that are used in mating. When a male is ready to mate, he seduces a female with a shuddering dance, causing her to lay an egg on the bottom in response. She'll pick up the egg in her mouth, where it will stay until hatching. The eggs are fertilized when she mistakes the male's egg spots for eggs she should pick up and comes away with a mouth full of sperm.

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The female has a black dorsal fin, but the fins beneath her body are pale yellow. The female's belly is pale yellow or even white.

Male electric yellow cichlid size

Although your aquarium setup should be designed for your fish to reach the maximum size of 4 to 5 inches, you should buy them when they're about 2 inches long. They're less aggressive at this age and will grow up together, maintaining a similar growth size.

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When fully grown, it's easy to tell the males from the females by size. That large and in charge yellow lab is without a doubt the dominant male. Fish that grow to over 4 inches are almost always male. Females stay in the 2- to 3-inch range.

Check out their shape

As yellow labs develop to sexual maturity, the male electric yellow cichlid gets not only bigger but also broader than the female of the species. The dominant male in the tank will be the largest and boldest. Subordinate males are harder to discern, as they will tend to stay a bit smaller and less "built out" than the dominant male.

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However, checking the fin shape can help when fish are similarly sized. The male's dorsal fin is pointy, while the female's fin is more rounded.

Examine the vents

After the fish is sexually mature at about 9 months old, you can definitively determine the gender by vent sexing. Net your fish and hold him securely just above the water, making sure to support his back with the palm of your hand. A male yellow lab cichlid has a very noticeable large hole adjacent to the anal fin and a second hole that is so small that you might have a hard time noticing it. The female has two equally sized large holes.

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