10 Aug 2012

Venting: A Guide to Sexing your Cichlids

Knowing the gender of your African Cichlids is essential. This is because, as aggressive fish and prolific breeders, a ratio of about 2 or 3 females to a male. 
malawi cichlid fish gender male femalemalawi cichlid fish gender male female
Some Malawi Cichlids are dimorphic. This means that males and females have a different appearance, and therefore it is easy to identify their gender, once they have grown up from their plainer fry colours. An example of a monomorphic Malawi Mbuna would be the Metriaclima Greshakei. As you can see, the males (bottom) are bright purpley-blue-brown colour, with orange fins. The females, in comparison, have a duller brown colour. The distinction is easy to see. 

The problems occur, however, with monomorphic Cichlids. Males and females have the same colour and patterns. Sometimes, the males can have a brighter, more vivid colouration, but often males and females can be hard to tell apart. You can see this with Yellow Labs. 

Egg spots are another way, that is often recommended, to identify the sex of the fish. Males will often have many egg spots on their anal fins. However, this is no way to be certain; the only way to be completely sure is be venting. 
malawi cichlid fish gender male female
The only positive way to determine the sex of these monomorphic species is by examination of the vent (genital papilla), which is the opening between the anus and the anal fin where the fish will excrete their sperm or eggs. The photo on the left will show you where to look. Like stripping female Cichlids, experience is key: you will soon get used to handling your fish and identifying their sex easier and at younger ages. 
malawi cichlid fish gender male female
When venting, you can tell the difference between the fish by the size of the vent. Female's vents are larger, as they need to lay the eggs. Look to the picture to the right for a diagram of this. If the vent to the front is smaller, your fish is most likely male. If the two vents are roughly the same size, your fish is likely to be a female. 

When handling the fish, there are a few precautions you should take to minimise the stress for the fish. Be gentle, but firm. Remember to wet your hands before handling the fish. Be sure you don't bend any fins the wrong way or keep them out of the water for more than 30 seconds. Some keepers may wrap the fish in a wet net to handle them, to reduce damage to the fish and protect you from any sharp spines on their fins.

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  1. according to every other site it is the opposite that if the openings are the same size it is male, and one larger than the other it is female

  2. this is wrong, males have both holes similar in size, females have a considerably larger vent

  3. That is what I thought too, this seems to be the only site stating otherwise, so I will go with what the majority of other sites say.

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