Is My Electric Yellow Cichlid Male Or Female? Top 6 Differences

Jul 11, 2021

Electric yellow cichlid

Electric yellow cichlids are among the prettiest and most peaceful cichlids of Lake Malawi. Breeding them isn’t rocket science either. That’s why they’re pretty popular with beginners. My first pair of cichlids were electric yellow labs as well. 

However, the pair consisted of two females – and it wasn’t intentional. I had hoped to breed them, raise tiny fry, and gift them to my mother. 

But with these bright yellow fish, it’s almost impossible to tell a male from a female. There’s minimal sexual dimorphism. Both males and females sport bright yellow shades. 

Luckily over the years, I’ve learned the subtle tricks of differentiating. 

So, let’s look at the top differentiators! 

Is My Electric Yellow Cichlid Male Or Female?

With electric yellow cichlids, males are usually bigger and have a more deep coloration than females. They also have pointed and pigmented fins, whereas females have rounder and pale yellow fins. The black spots and coloration present in males are also missing in females. 

Electric yellow cichlid pair
Credits: Xi Quan Chen on Flickr under Creative Common license

Size 

These dwarf cichlids rarely grow longer than 5 inches. A male is usually the bigger one among the two.

Electric yellow male cichlids are around 4-5 inches long, whereas petite females are just 2-3 inches long. 

Heightwise, they’re almost identical. 

Color

Both males and females have bright yellow coloration. At first glance, they may appear similar, but if you pay close attention, you’ll notice the male has a deeper coloration. 

For instance, dominant males have almost deep gold colors. 

Likewise, male cichlids have black bellies, while females have lighter – sometimes white – bellies. Also, males have black outlining on the fins and a black chin. Both of these features are missing in females. 

Vertical Stripes 

Older males develop faint vertical charcoal stripes as they age, but they’re missing on females. 

Fin Shape 

Like most male cichlids, a yellow lab has pointed dorsal and anal fins. On the other hand, these fins take rounder and blunter shapes in females. 

Fin Color and Egg Spots 

The ventral and anal fins in males are jet black in color but pale yellow in females. Likewise, a male’s anal fins have light egg spots, which are altogether missing in females. 

Behavior 

A male electric yellow cichlid is more assertive and aggressive among the two. So if a particular cichlid is swimming around the tank comparatively more and bullying/chasing others, it’s most likely a male. 

Females have a somewhat subdued personality. 

Vents 

If the sex of the cichlid is still not clear, you might have to vent the fish. In males, both anus and vent are of uniform size. On the other hand, a female will have a bigger vent than the anus. 

Venting the fish gently is essential, as it can get quite stressful for both parties involved. 

So, here’s our short guide on venting electric yellow cichlids correctly. 

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How To Vent Electric Yellow Cichlids Correctly?

Electric yellow cichlid

Step 1: Prepare The Bucket 

Fill a bucket with a gallon of your tank’s water. It’s important to use the tank water to not send the fish into a shock. The bucket will serve as a playpen for your fish while making it easier for you to check the vents. 

Step 2: Identify Vent’s Location 

Make sure to identify the vent’s location before you actually examine the fish. To find the fin, look for the fin nearest to the tail – it’s the anal fin. The vents are situated right above the anal fins. 

Step 3: Transfer Fish 

Gently catch the fish using a net and transfer it to the bucket. Be very patient because rough handling at this point can severely stress them out – making it impossible to check the vents. So, even though it becomes painstaking, don’t lose patience. 

Step 4: Check Vents

Grab a fish carefully on its side using your index finger and thumb. Slowly dip the head portion into the water and check the vents. Transfer the fish back into the bucket or tank at your convenience. 

Repeat steps 1-4 for each fish. 

How To Breed Electric Yellow Cichlids? 

Electric yellow cichlid male
Credits: Dennis Amith on Flickr under Creative Commons license

Female electric yellow cichlids become ready for reproduction when they’re about 5-6 centimeters in size, usually after 6 months from hatching. The mating ritual begins with dances and shivering motions from the male to woo potential females. 

A male cichlid will also actively explore the tank for a suitable spawning site. In the wild, they usually dig pits in sandy areas. However, he may choose to hollow out gravel, a flat slate, or a rock for the nest in the tank. 

Once the female agrees to reproduce and approves the site, she will lay her eggs. After that, the male will fertilize them, and the female will proceed to scoop the eggs into her mouth. If the female doesn’t go away immediately after scooping the eggs, the male will chase her away to entice some more females and expand his lineage. 

The female will store the eggs in a buccal cavity beneath the jaw until they hatch. It can take anywhere around 3 weeks for the eggs to hatch into free-swimming fry. 

Once they hatch into miniature versions of their parents, they receive little to no parental care from both parents. However, the mother scoops all her tiny fry into her mouth if there’s danger nearby. 

If you are really serious about breeding and raising the fry, you can transfer the gravid, mouthbrooding mothers to an incubation tank. The best male-to-female ratio for successfully breeding electric yellow labs is 1 male for every 3 to 4 females. 

The Right Water Parameters For Electric Yellow Cichlids 

Electric yellow cichlids are natives of the northern part of Lake Malawi. And although the water in the lake is hard and alkaline, yellow labs are one hardy species that can tolerate comparatively soft water as well. 

So, suppose the tap water in your region is soft. In that case, you can buy rift lake salts that can increase the water’s pH level and fortify it with minerals needed to achieve the right chemistry for these fish. 

Aquarium Size40 gallons for a single fish
School Size1 male and 2-4 female
Water Temperature 75-79°F (24-26°C)
pH Level7.5-8.5
General Hardness15-20 GH

Final Words: Is My Electric Yellow Cichlid Male Or Female?

Since electric yellow cichlids have minimal sexual dimorphism, it can be tricky to tell a male apart from a female. 

For starters, males are bigger and more intensely colored than females. Also, don’t forget to look for signs like pointed or blunt fins, the presence or absence of egg spots, and black coloration in different parts of the body. 

If this all fails, you might want to try venting. Make sure to follow all the steps mentioned above, so you don’t stress the fish! 

Happy Reading!

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rohit gurung author at urbanfishkeeping

About Rohit Gurung

My never-ending love and fascination with Aquascaping started when I received a red-eared turtle for my 10th birthday.

Apart from researching and writing, I spend hours gazing at my 3 turtles. And yeah, I bask alongside them too.