How can I tell?

Perhaps you’ve asked yourself that question with respect to whether you have a female cichlid that is gravid, guarding eggs, or guarding fry. You don’t have to worry about her being gravid or having any fry if she’s in a tank by herself. She’ll need a male to fertilize any eggs she’s about to unload. Otherwise, the eggs will never develop.

If she shares a tank with a male of the same species (I’m not going to consider hybrids here), just watch her and see if she stays close to any objects in the tank, e.g., rocks, plants, ornaments. So what if your tank is heavily decorated and she’s simply disappeared? That usually either means she’s hiding from aggression, she’s sick, or she is in fact guarding eggs or fry.

I have posted before about knowing your fish. Just like with your pet dog or cat, you should recognize changes in behavior. A female cichlid who’s on her way to maternity will let you know.

  • Does she come out to eat as often as she used to?
  • When you see her, does she hang out in one particular space and seem reluctant to leave it?
  • Do other fish seem to avoid the space where she hangs out?
  • Have you noticed a change in her color (e.g., gravid females of some Julidochromis species will often display a yellower belly than normal)?
  • Depending on the species, does her male partner stay close to her and/or has he become increasingly territorial?

A “yes” to several of these questions is how you can tell if your female is, or is about to be, a mom.

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