Difference Between Male and Female Lyretail Anthias

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A large aquarium is the ideal home for lyretail anthias.
A large aquarium is the ideal home for lyretail anthias. (Image: Jochen Sands/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

Lyretail anthias (Pseudanthias squamipinnis) are the hardiest and the largest of all the anthias species, and the easiest anthias to find in the pet trade. The easy-care lyretail anthias make good starter fish. Lyretail anthias go by many other names, including squami anthias, pink anthias, scalefin and jewel anthias. The social fish do well in groupings of one male to several females -- but they're all female at birth.

The Females Only Club

The unusual aspect of lyretail anthias is that they are protogynous hermaphrodites, which means that all of them are born female. When they reach maturity, the dominant female transforms herself into a male. This dominant male will keep a harem of six to eight females. Never bring two males together; there will always be a battle for dominance -- a fight to the death.

Reds and Oranges

The adult male lyretail anthias is a bright red color; females are more orange in color, with purple and pink markings similar to eye shadow around their eyes. When the dominant female becomes male, her colors darken from orange to deep red and the eye markings disappear permanently. Both sexes have orange and violet lines running from the eyes back toward the pectoral fins, one on either side near the gills.

Differences in Size

The male lyretail anthias grows to around 5 inches in length; adult females remain a little smaller at 2 to 3 inches. The dominant adult female that turns into a male will start growing again and become larger than the other females in the grouping. The bigger the fish, the more space he needs -- so when a male is present, the tank needs to be quite large. Think 60 gallons' capacity or more.

The Dorsal Difference

The dorsal fin located on the back of the male lyretail anthias is unusually shaped: It has a long spear sticking up off the end of the fin closest to the head. The smaller females lack this feature. The remainder of the male's fin resembles the female's. The tip of the "spear" points backward toward the tail of the fish. It's red like the rest of the male fish's body.

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