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Discus Males vs. Females (The Key Differences in Gender)

Discus Males vs. Females (The Key Differences in Gender)

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This post is written to the author's best knowledge and is not intended to be used in place of veterinary advice. In addition, this post may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

It isn’t always easy to tell male and female fish apart. Many people don’t know where to begin when they’re first starting out in the hobby.

If you’re buying discus fish, you might want to make an effort to ensure that you have some males and some females in the group. To do this, you’re going to want to know the differences between males and females.

Keep reading to learn how to tell male and female discus fish apart. You’ll learn a bit about the anatomy of the fish as well as other differences that will help you out.

Discus Fish Anatomy

You can tell the difference between male and female discus fish by looking at them. The anatomy of the two fish will be different enough once both fish have reached sexual maturity.

Below, you’ll learn about identifying the gender of the fish. You’ll learn about the important differences between the two so you can determine whether you have both male and female fish in your tank.

If you don’t own any yet, this information will help you to pick out both male and female fish. Many people want to do this when they plan to breed discus fish.

Gender Identification

There are enough differences in the way that male and female discus fish look that you’ll be able to tell them apart. Of course, you still have to know what to look for.

The first thing to note is that male discus fish are generally larger than females. It takes a while to be able to determine the sex of these fish no matter what, though.

They have to grow large enough to develop differences. Typically, these fish will take two years to reach their full size of six inches long.

Once they’re sexually mature, you’ll see that the male discus fish are larger. They’ll also have significantly thicker lips than their female counterparts.

When looking at the forehead of a male discus fish you’ll see that it’s much more prominent as well. This is because males are known to headbutt other males when competing for the affection of females.

Female fish stand out in certain ways, too. These fish are going to be a lot more colorful overall.

By comparison, male discus fish have a faded appearance. So the colorful look of the female discus fish makes them more attractive to many fish tank owners.

However, males do often have better and more impressive patterns. In the varieties of discus fish that feature patterns, it’s more common for males to have detailed patterns.

There are differences between the fin shapes that you should know about as well. Males have pointed fin tips while females have rounded fin tips.

Are There Any Behavioral Differences?

Yes, there are behavioral differences between male and female discus fish. Males are generally rowdier fish since they’re more likely to nip.

Discus fish aren’t incredibly aggressive or anything, but they are more likely to fight or nip. Males will fight with each other when they’re trying to get the attention of females for breeding purposes.

Males also show behavior that involves protecting or blocking the female fish. A male fish will often put itself in front of the female to block other fish from getting to it.

Female fish are known for sticking close to the males. They often swim behind or very close to the male fish.

Can You Have Both in a Tank Together?

It’s normal for people to keep both males and females in a tank together. Of course, you’d need to do this if you want to breed the fish.

You also need to keep in mind that discus fish are schooling fish. They’re used to living in groups and are most comfortable when kept in groups in a fish tank.

Most experts recommend keeping at least six discus fish in one aquarium. Some say it’s okay to keep just three, but it’s truly best to go with six.

Each discus fish that you buy needs to have ten gallons of space. So buying a 60-gallon fish tank is the best course of action.

Going with an even larger tank would be wise if you have the room. It makes it easier to keep the tank clean.

Many people just start by purchasing six or so juvenile discus fish. You won’t be able to determine the sex of the juvenile fish, but you’ll likely wind up with a mixture of males and females.

Which Is Better to Own?

This isn’t a case where one is necessarily better to own than another. You’ll likely want to have both males and females in the tank.

Males are a bit more aggressive and they aren’t as colorful as the females. However, they do often have more impressive patterns.

Both types of fish are a bit delicate. You need to take care of the fish tank well to keep them healthy.

Water quality is important when caring for discus fish. That’s true no matter which type of discus fish you own.

So you don’t have to buy only females or only males. It would likely not be good to buy only males anyway since that would be an unusual situation.

You should buy a mixture of males and females. Or just buy a group of juvenile discus fish and you’ll find out which fish you end up with once they all reach sexual maturity.

Final Thoughts

Now you know how to tell the difference between male and female discus fish. Doing so isn’t all that hard.

There are fairly pronounced differences between males and females. However, you can’t tell the difference between the fish until they reach sexual maturity.

So you have to be patient and wait for them to grow. Many people just buy juvenile discus fish and wait to see what sex they are until they reach the right size and age.

Caring for these fish can be a good experience. It’s likely that you’ll want both fish sexes in your tank.

Breeding discus fish isn’t all that difficult. It’s pretty common for discus fish to form breeding pairs without you having to coax them.

Knowing this, it might give you some incentive to have both male and female discus fish in the tank. It just depends on what you want to happen and whether you’re looking to have more discus fish to care for in the future.

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