What is the Difference Between Male and Female Angelfish? Explained

Angelfish are a part of a small genus of fish called Pterophyllum that reside in freshwater. They are part of the family of Cichlidae. Angelfish are some of the most popular fish among aquarists with freshwater aquariums. Their aesthetic beauty and relatively low maintenance make them very popular. 

Their bright and vivid colors make them very attractive. This leads to many aquarists trying to get angelfish to breed. Here is where we have a problem. Figuring out the difference in gender of angelfish is quite tricky. If you want to know how to clearly identify the male from the female angelfish, read on.

How to Determine the Gender of Angelfish

How to Determine the Gender of Angelfish

Usually, what amateurs tend to do is let the angelfish find a mate independently. This is not a bad option because it is what angelfish tend to do anyway. However, if you are interested in reproducing specific features observed in an individual fish, you need to know how to differentiate between males and females. 

Difference between Male and Female Angelfish

Difference between Male and Female Angelfish

Although it isn’t the easiest thing to differentiate between male and female angelfish, there are a few telltale signs. These make it easy for us to tell them apart. So let us read on and find out what these subtle differences are. 

Breeding Tubes

When angelfish start to become sexually mature, they develop small, cylindrical, or tube-like structures protruding from their belly. These structures are located in the middle of the ventral and anal fins. 

The catch with using breeding tubes to tell apart males from females is that they are mainly visible only during the mating season. Also, being able to observe these structures is a little tricky. So, the best way to see them is if you manage to catch the fish and separate it from observing it more keenly. Another thing to know is that the breeding tubes will not be visible if the fish is stressed.   

The breeding tube in male angelfish is thin and pointed, similar to the nib on a pen. Females have a breeding tube that has evolved into a broad and rounded shape that is also quite blunt. This is to allow for the eggs to be laid here.

Body Shape and Size

Like most species, male angelfish are relatively larger than their female counterparts. Females are about an inch or two smaller than males. The males tend to have a rounder and more plump shape than females. Females have an angular body that looks similar to a slope. 

Males have a sort of hump on their forehead. This is a nuchal hump that seems to be a crown-like feature. On the other hand, female angelfish have a smooth forehead with no disfigurations. Another thing to note is that this is not the best way to tell them apart because not all male angelfish have this feature.  

Males have a belly that retains its original shape and color throughout the year, while female angelfish have a swollen belly when they are carrying eggs.

Ventral and Dorsal Fins

The ventral fins on a male angelfish look like a split end and appear to be forked. Females have smooth ventral fins that do not have the split appearance of male ventral fins. 

Females have a dorsal fin that is angled slightly backward. Male angelfish have a fully erect dorsal fin that forms a right angle. Another point that you should note is that females have a straighter line between the eyes and dorsal fin. 


Males are a little more aggressive and hyperactive as compared to female angelfish. Males are also a lot more aggressive, active, and territorial. They may also occasionally be involved in fights. You may even observe the males chasing around the females during the mating season or swimming around them in circles. Females have a much calmer, relaxed, and subdued temperament. The only time that females might show a little bit of aggression will be if she is looking after the eggs or fry. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Which are more aggressive? Male or Female Angelfish?

Male Angelfish are far more aggressive as compared to females. They are territorial and also tend to be quite short-tempered. However, keep in mind that females too can be aggressive at times. They are very aggressive if something gets in the way of them tending to their fry. 

Will female angelfish lay eggs without a male? 

Yes, at times, female angelfish might even lay eggs that are not fertilized. Sometimes, this could happen because there isn’t a male angelfish present in the tank. This scenario is possible because it is tough to tell apart a male from a female angelfish. Therefore, mistaking a male from a female angelfish is an elementary mistake to commit.  

Can two female Angelfish pair up?

Yes, two angelfish pairing up is possible. They might lay eggs together, but this is not a good thing. If two female angelfish lay eggs together, a male is absent in the tank. If this happens, these eggs will turn white because they have not been fertilized.

Wrapping Up  

Well, like we have spoken throughout this article, telling male and female angelfish apart is not at all an easy task. At times, even veteran aquarists have a tough time telling them apart. So, to recap, the best way to differentiate between a male and female angelfish is through their breeding tubes. The breeding tubes we see in males are a little longer and pointy. Females have a broader and more blunt breeding tube to allow for the laying of eggs. The catch here is that this can be seen only during the mating season. Even during the mating season, this will not be visible if the fish is stressed out.   

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