How To Know If Your Cichlid Is Pregnant

Estimated read time 4 min read

If you have ever wondered if your Cichlids are pregnant, don’t worry; you’ll find four easy ways to tell if your female cichlids are pregnant.


Step 1: Know The Types Of Brooder You Have

Before you can tell if your female cichlids are pregnant, you’ll need to know if you have mouth brooder cichlids or substrate brooder cichlids in your aquarium.

Here’s how they differ from one another;

The Mouth Brooder – These fish will hold their eggs in their mouth for up to 21 days. During this time, they will not eat, and you might be able to see some of the eggs in their mouth if you look closely.

The Substrate Brooder – These fish like to lay their eggs on flat surfaces in your aquarium. In fact, you’ll typically see the males preparing for the eggs by clearing some substrate right down to the glass at the bottom of the aquarium.

Step 2: Take A Look At The Females

Although it’s difficult to tell, Some female cichlids will show some physical displays that will tell you they are pregnant.

Colors – Many female cichlids will display brighter colors when they are pregnant. This is especially helpful for Male substrate brooders who will take this sign as an indication they need to start clearing out some substrate to create a brooding pit or cave.

Bigger Bellies – Females first begin to produce eggs in their bellies, which causes their mid-sections to look a little bloated. In fact, they will be noticeably bigger in their midsection when compared to males of the same species.

Step 3: Watch The Males Behaviour

Dancing – When substrate brooders have finished clearing out a romantic cave getaway, you’ll notice the males trying to get the females to enter the cave.

To get the female cichlids’ attention, you might notice the males coloring becomes brighter or they will flare out their fins.

You’ll also see them shimmy and shake, which is their way of flirting.

Aggressive Behaviour – You may notice that some of your male cichlids start to act aggressively toward other males in the tank.

If this happens and you are sure your females are ready to breed, you should remove any other males from the tank to avoid injury and even death.

Step 4: Is Anyone Missing?

If you are still unsure after you’ve followed all the steps above, another way to spot a pregnant cichlid (if you can find her) is to find out if one of your females is hiding in a cave or clearing created by one of the male cichlids.

If you find her hiding or resting near the bottom of your tank, try to see if her mouth is full of eggs, chances are she’s just waiting for them to hatch and turn into baby cichlids (fry).

Further Reading: Check out our Cichlid care guide where you’ll also find 8 Cichlid Tank Mates to pick from.

How long are cichlids pregnant?

Cichlid eggs will hatch 10-15 days after being fertilized. After that, the females will hold the fry in their mouths for up to two weeks after hatching.

Do cichlids lay eggs or give live birth?

Cichlids lay eggs and will protect the eggs until they hatch. The most common place you’ll find eggs is in caves, under rocks, or anywhere they can hide them.

That said, you’ll find two ways your cichlids will lay and protect their eggs.

  • The Mouth Brooder
  • The Substrate Brooder

Will cichlids eat their babies?

Cichlids will eat their babies (fry). Since Cichlids keep their young fry in their mouths occasionally, you’ll catch these fish eating their own fry or the fry of other cichlids in the same aquarium.

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