Sexing Rams

Many of the questions we receive and a large number of posts we read on the forum sites deal with sexing of rams For some reason, sexing rams seems to present a problem for many of us. Obviously, if you are trying to breed your rams, it becomes imperative that you have both male and female fish!

Sexing rams is actually pretty simple. There are three main color variants of Rams; German Blue Rams, Gold Rams, and Electric Blue Rams. Of the three, only the Electric Blue Ram presents some difficulties, as there are no color differences between the sexes. Rams begin coloring up at about 2 months of age, and reach sexual maturity somewhere between 3.5 and 4 months old. Once they reach sexual maturity, the color differences between the sexes becomes very apparent. 

German Blue Rams (GBRs)

German Blue Rams, also (more correctly) called Blue Rams less than 2 ½ to 3 months old, cannot be accurately sexed, as their colors have not developed and there are no other indicators.  Once they become sexually mature at about 3-4 months old, the color differences between the sexes becomes very apparent.  Both sexes will have a large black spot on their sides.  On the male, the spot should be solid black, with no hint of any other colors.  On the female, the spot may have a bluish sheen to it, and will also have sliver or blue sparkles (scales) scattered throughout the spot.  Perhaps the biggest giveaway is that a well conditioned female’s belly will have a pinkish or rose colored patch.  This spot becomes very evident at around 3 months of age.

  • There are also a number of secondary traits that will develop as the fish becomes older, (around 4-5 months old).  These secondary traits will become even more apparent after the fish reach about 4-5 months of age, and include the following:
  • Male Rams tend to be about 1/3 larger than female rams.
  • Male Rams will have a taller, more flat appearance.  Females will be shorter and have a more “plump” appearance.
  • On the male, the first and second (black) rays of their dorsal fins develop elongated filaments, and may be up to 1/3” long.  On the female, the rays may be slightly elongated, but generally stay short, about the same length as the rest of the rays on her dorsal fin.
  • The back edge of a male’s dorsal fin will be more pointed, while the same edge of the female’s fins will be more rounded.
  • The males will develop much longer ventral fins, most of the time extending past the beginning of the anal fin and even the beginning of the tail.  The female’s fins will remain much shorter.
  • The male ram will also have a more noticeable V-shaped tail, while the female’s tail tends to be more rounded.
Male GBR1-WR Female GBR FS
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Gold Rams

Gold rams also begin coloring up at 3 months of age.  Gold rams are probably the easiest rams to sex, because of their coloring.  As they approach maturity, both sexes will be colored exactly the same.  The only color difference between the sexes will be that the females will begin to develop the pinkish/rose colored patch on their abdomen.  Since their abdomen is normally a crème to white coloring, this patch really stands out.  As they mature a little more, this patch becomes very bright, and sometimes turns a bright, blood red.  More than once, we have had a worried hobbyist contact us thinking that something was wrong with their fish when the patch turned red.

All of the secondary traits described for the German Blue Rams, IE: size, body shape, fins, etc. also hold true for the gold rams as well.  The main difference is that the dorsal rays are gold, not black (duh!). 

Male Gold - FS Female Gold Ram FS
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Electric Blue Rams (EBRs)

Electric Blue Rams are really the only rams that present a challenge when trying to sex them as there really are no color differences between the sexes, making sexing fish less than 4 months old very difficult.  Once the fish reach about 4 months of age, their body shapes and fins begin to change, making sexing a little more reliable.  All of the secondary traits described for the German Blue Rams, IE; black dorsal fin extensions, fin length, body shape, etc. also hold true for the Electric Blue Rams.  Most of the time, we use the body shape and size to determine the sex of EBRs. 

Male EBR FS MJ-Female EBR-FS
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Reproductive Organs

One absolute, 100% positive way to determine the sex of your fish, is by observing their behavior prior to spawning.   When a female ram is preparing to spawn, her ovipositor will protrude from the area around her vent.  The ovipositor is a small, white tube through which the eggs are deposited.  The female’s ovipositor will be blunt, and thicker (remember, eggs must pass through it) than the male’s reproductive organ (sperm tube), which will be short and pointed (insert your own joke here) like the tip of a thorn.

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