Although there are many different types of cichlids, all of them share several physical characteristics that distinguish the sex. These freshwater fish look identical as juveniles and change physical appearance with maturity. Whether you are looking to breed your cichlids or are just curious, knowing where to look can help you tell the male and female cichlids apart.
Wait until your cichlids reach maturity. Young male and female cichlids will have have similar features and sizes. As they mature, you will begin to notice differences in striping patterns. The male cichlids will develop a golden body with dark speckles and spots, while the females retain the dark stripes and body color of youth.
Assess the size of the cichlid's body and lips. Males tend to grow larger than females, and their lips grow much fuller and thicker as well.
Examine the vent openings. Since cichlid females reproduce and lay eggs, their vent holes will be larger than the males'. In order to see the vent, you will need to physically handle the cichlid. Flip the fish on its back and use a magnifying glass to examine the size of the vent openings.