Electric yellow cichlids believe in uniformity, making it impossible to tell male from female unless you pick up and vent the little guy or gal. Venting is a process of checking whether the anus and vent of a fish are different. The evidence you find will finally solve the gender mystery in your tank.
Attach the head-mounted magnifying glass and light. The magnifying glass is the most important part. If you don’t have the added light, hold a flash light with your free hand when it comes time to inspect the fish, or ask a friend to help.
Fill a 1-gallon bucket halfway with water from your cichlid’s tank. The bucket serves as a playpen for your cichlids and a convenient holding pen for you while you inspect each of them.
Look at your electric yellow cichlids from outside the tank, and look for the fin closest to the tail fin, on the fish’s underside. This is the anal fin and is the indicator to the location of the anus and vent. Venting needs to be a quick process, so knowing where the anal fin is located makes your job easier.
Open the lid to your fish tank and use a net to catch one of the electric yellow cichlids. Be gentle and don’t swipe at them or hit them with the plastic portion of the net. Fish do not enjoy being chased by a net from the heavens, and it can quickly stress them out. Once you catch one, bring it to the surface.
Grab the little yellow swimmer gently by his sides with your index finger and thumb. Keep his head in the water. Through your magnifying glass and with the help of your light, look at the two spots just above the anal fin. Those spots represent the anus and vent. If both are different sizes, you have a female electric yellow cichlid. If both are the same size, you have a male cichlid.
Place each cichlid into the bucket after you’re done inspecting it. After all cichlids have been identified, place the gals and guys back in their tank one at a time. Don’t dump them in. You may also add the water from the bucket back into the tank, as it didn’t have a chance to change temperature during the brief vent check.
- A jeweler’s loupe can help identify vent and anus differences that aren't apparent.
- Gary Kratochvil of Exotic Tropicals suggests only venting a fish if they're at least 3 to 4 months old. Even then, the differences between the vent and anus are difficult to see.
- Limit your handling of each fish to about 30 seconds.
- Erroneous advice about identifying male and female electric yellows exists. Despite what you hear, it is not possible to identify one or the other by the black stripes on their fins, their size or their overall color.
- If you wish to separate the males and females, use two buckets and keep the males in one and the females in the other. You may also use another bucket to keep cichlids whose gender you cannot identify within the 30 second handling time. Do not keep them in the bucket for more than 10 or 15 minutes.
- Do not wash your hands with soap beforehand.
- Never fill the bucket with any other water aside from your own tank water.
Located in Pittsburgh, Chris Miksen has been writing instructional articles on a wide range of topics for online publications since 2007. He currently owns and operates a vending business. Miksen has written a variety of technical and business articles throughout his writing career. He studied journalism at the Community College of Allegheny County.