Ram cichlid (Mikrogeophagus ramirezi) is a small, good looking, peaceful fish.
Although it was discovered 30 years later than it’s relative bolivian ram (Mikrogeophagus altispinosus) but it is a butterfly cichlid that is widely known and sold.
Though, both these cichlids are dwarf ones, the blue ram is smaller in size then the bolivian ram and it growth up to 5 cm of body length. In the wild this fish is a bit larger – about 7 cm in length.
It’s necessary to note that Ramirezi has lots of graded morphs, for example, balloon ram cichlid, electric blue ram cichlid, gold ram cichlid, etc.
It’s diversity isn’t limited just by the points mentioned above, since it also has different names: Ramirez’s dwarf cichlid, blue ram, German blue ram, Asian ram, butterfly cichlid, Ramirezi and dwarf butterfly cichlid.
Such a variety of names confuses amateurs, however we are talking about the same fish which sometimes has different body shape or color.
Since these variations such as electric blue or gold Ramirez’s, for instance, are the result of inbreeding and of the following degradation of fish due to intragenic breeding.
The new, more bright morphs except the beauty get also weaker immunity and liability to disease. Also sellers tend to use hormones and injections to make fish more attractive before selling it.
So, if you have an intention to buy a dwarf butterfly chichlid it’ll be a good idea to get it from the faithful seller to avoid the fish death or its turning into sad excuse for a fish shortly after it was bought.
Ram is significantly less aggressive then other cichlids, but it’s rather more complicated in care and it’s far more fanciful. These cichlidsis very peaceful, at bottom it’s one of few cichlids which can live in community tank with such small fishes tankmates as neons or guppies.
Although these cichlids can show the signs of attack, but it’s rather done to make one scared than to attack really. And this happens only if someone intrudes into their territory.
Habitat in the wild
Mikrogeophagus ramirezi was first described in 1948. Earlier its scientific name was Paplilochromis ramirezi and Apistogramma ramirezi, but in 1998 it was renamed into Mikrogeophagus ramirezi.
The fish inhabits in the South America and Amazon river is considered to be its motherland. But it’s not exactly like this since butterfly cichlid can’t be found in Amazon river, but it is widely spread in its basin, in the rivers and streams joining the river.
Mikrogeophagus ramirezi lives in the Orinoco river basin (Venezuela, Columbia). Habitat is in lakes and ponds with still water or very little flow, where the bottom is sandy or muddy with lots of plants.
The fish feeds digging the bottom looking for plant food and small insects. Also this cichlid can feed in water column and sometimes from the surface.
Ram cichlid is a small, colorful cichlid with an oval shaped body and high fins. Male butterfly cichlid has more spiniform dorsal and the male is lagger than female (about 5cm in length).
Although in nature body length reaches about 7 cm. Under careful maintenance this cichlid lives for about 4 years, which isn’t much, but for the fish of such a small size it’s a rather long time.
This fish coloration is very bright and attractive. It has red eyes, yellow head, blue and violet iridescent body with a black spot on it and bright fins.
Taking into account the existence of fish different colors – gold, electric blue, albino etc., so it must be said that it’s very much worth seeing.
Difficulties in keeping
Ramirezi is known as one of the best types of cichlid fishes for those who decided to try to keep this kind of fish in a tank. The fish is small, peaceful, very bright and it eats all types of feed.
They are isn’t demanding as for the water parameters and it adapts well, but it’s sensitive to abrupt water parameters change.
Though it’s rather easy in breeding, it’s significantly difficult to raise the juveniles. Also take into account the fact that there is a lot of weak fish, which dies either right after it was bought or in a year after. Possibly the issue that the blood hasn’t been renewed for a long time affects the fish adversely.
Care and keeping in a tank
|Scientific Name||Mikrogeophagus ramirezi|
|Common Name||Ram cichlid, german blue ram, ram, blue ram, asian ram, butterfly cichlid, Ramirez’s dwarf cichlid, dwarf butterfly cichlid, Ramirezi|
|Tank size||12 gallons (60L) and more|
|Temperature||75–81 °F (24–27 °C)|
|Size||4 inches (10 cm)|
The recommended tank volume for rams starts from 12 gallons. The fish prefers clean water with little flow and high oxygen content.
Weekly water renew and siphonate of the bottom are crucial. Since the fish commonly stays near the bottom then if ammonia and nitrates level rises it affects the cichlids first.
It’s desirable to measure the amount of ammonia in the water every week. Filter can be both internal and external although the latter is more preferable.
It is better to use send and small gravel as a tank bottom, since dwarf ram cichlid likes digging it.
The ram cichlid live aquaria can be decorated in the style of its native river in the South America. Sand, lots of covers, flowerpots, snags and thick bushes.
You can put fallen leaves of the trees on the bottom to create the environment close to the wild one.
Ram cichlid doesn’t like bright light and it’s better to put some fluctuant plants on the water surface.
Now the fish can adapt well to the water parameters of the area where it lives, but still the ideal water parameters are: water temperature 24-27С,ph: 6.5-7.5,6 – 14 dGH.
Ram is an euryphagous fish. In the wild it feeds on plant substances and different small organisms that it finds in a bottom. In a tank the fish can eat all types of live and frozen feed – blood worm, tubifex, brine shrimp.
German blue ram has to be fed 2-3 times a day with small portions of feed.
Some of the cichlids eat flakes and granules, but not very willingly as a rule. Since the fish is rather timid it’s important for it to have its meal before its more brave neighbors come around.
Ram cichlid can live in a community tank together with peaceful and not large tankmates.
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As for the interaction with shrimps – it must be said that no matter that the cichlid is small it is still a cichlid. So, it will ignore the large shrimps, but the small ones will be treated as feed.
Ram cichlid can inhabit alone as well as a couple. If you have intention to keep several couples then the tank has to be spacious and have covers, since the fish just like all cichlids sticks to its territory.
By the way, if you have bought a couple of cichlids it doesn’t mean at all that they will breed. As a rule, about dozen of juveniles is bought for breeding to allow them to choose a partner themselves.
Male can be easily distinguished from a female by its brighter abdomen, the male abdomen is either orange or red. The male is larger than female cichlid and it has more sharpened dorsal.
The 1st difficulty that aquarists face is a well known one for the angelfish fans. The fact that cichlids were kept in a tank has affected negatively their parental functions.
Lots of couples decline this idea entirely and they tend to terminate the eggs just several hours later after the spawning was over.
The 2nd difficulty is that the eggs are significantly sensible to bacterial and fungic damage. The eggs deprived from adult treatment get covered with byssus (saprolegniosis) and they die. The way to success in cichlid breeding is to eliminate these issues.
Any container of different shape with square of its bottom about 300 square cm and 15 cm high will do for M. ramirezi couple breeding.
Wash the container thoroughly, cover its bottom put a thin layer of clean send or small gravel on it (1-2 cm is enough), fell it with water and let the water defecate.
If you have time and possibility it’s desirable to use water after osmosis, but at least 3-4 days should pass between this procedure and putting fish into the water.
Water layer can be not thick – 8-10 cm, since in the wild fish spawn only in fleet water. However, this parameter isn’t crucial.
Choose the substrate thoughtfully. Ideally it’s better to use the substrate which was chosen by the fish in the community tank or the one that is maximum similar to it in its shape, color and structure.
If conditions allow try to simulate also the community tank interior in a spawning pond, which will reduce the time required for the fish to adapt to new conditions and it’ll speed up the breeding.
All these points are desirable to perform, but not the obligatory ones. Besides german blue ram cichlid often breeds not only in the open areas, but also on the internal cave walls, flowerpots or other covers.
So again the thing mainly is in the preferences of the certain fish couple.
Water in the spawning pond should be more acidic (at about 0.1-0.3 units) and warmer (at about 1-2°С) than in the community tank and it has to be completely free from chlorine content. In any case the water hardness shouldn’t exceed 10°dGH, pH value should be close to the neutral one and the temperature should be not lower then 25-27°С. Light intensity can be arbitrary.
Aeration itself isn’t required, but slow water flow is desirable. Even the most low-powered filter in such a small tank creates over-intensive water flow.
Firstly, it can cause pulp to appear which is harmful for egg laying and secondly, the flow will sweep way the eggs from the substrate. Water circulation is formed by means of long tube sprayer fastened along the narrow wall 3-4 cm away from the water surface. The speed of air feeding is defined experimentally.
During the spawning period butterfly ram cichlid is fed once a day with small amount of live bloodworm, white worm. It’s undesirable to use frozen and dry feed, since it can lead to pulp occurrence.
As a rule it takes ram cichlid male and female about 2-3 days to get used to the new environment, then the breeding follows. The process itself was discussed in details above.
In addition it should be said that depending on the breeders age and the level of readiness their eggs laying can number from 70-80 to 300-400 oval eggs (in some references the number are different: 72-80 eggs, under 27-30°С — 45-50 eggs.
Male takes more part in the cover guarding. It more often stays with the eggs and patrols the territory frequently.
Parents functions during this period are to waff the eggs with their fins to form the flow, eggs ventilation and sweeping away particles of dirt, removing the dead eggs and putting the fallen ones back on the substrate. From time to time one of the parent take some egg into its mouth, “chews it”and then puts it back.
The ich fry has a big umbilical vesicle due to which it feeds for the next 5-7 days. First two days ram cichlid ich fry stays on the substrate (parents put the fallen ones back on the substrate) and then the male starts moving them to the pits in the bottom made in advance.
He does it several times a day. By this time the female is already taken out of the spawning pond.
Swimming juveniles is still under the balloon ram cichlid male care. He swims with them along the spawning pond and teaches them to feed.
Microworms or infusoria can be used as start feed. Several days later it’s better to get the mail back to the community tank, and put the juveniles into the other tank with bare the bottom. Under such conditions it’s easier to keep the tank clean, since the juveniles are rather demanding as for this point.
So, it’s necessary to siphonate the bottom removing the feed leftovers and the juveniles waste products, then adding some fresh water with the same parameters instead of the one poured off.
In case of eggs artificial incubation the process is almost the same, except for the bottom coating and decorations which already aren’t necessary at the very first stage. If breeding happened in a community tank, the eggs are taken away together with the substrate.
Don’t remove it from the substrate not to damage its tiny shell. For the same reason it’s better not to let the eggs contact with air, i.e. the substrat with the eggs should be placed in a container deep enough filled with water and then remove the eggs drowned in water together with the container.
As it was mentioned above the eggs left without any care are rather sensitive to external influences. In such situation the water flow should be regulated more thoroughly and the substrate should be placed thoughtfully (as for direction and speed of the water flow).
In any case it’s recommended to rise the temperature in the incubator up to the maximum allowed values to decrease up to the minimum the eggs fetation period. In the references the threshold of 36°С is also mentioned – at that electric blue ram cichlid eggs grows so rapidly that it there is no time for it to be affected by saprolegniosis.
After ich fry chips the temperature is gradually decreased to the common values. Once, I have performed the experiment and I really obtained ich fry (about 15-20% from the total eggs amount), but it seemed to me that later on the juveniles appeared to be weak, although viable.
However, juveniles obtained from the eggs incubated in water under the lowest level of temperature range are also weak. On the other hand, one can’t make conclusions as for any regularity basing only on one experiment.
No matter how good and differently juveniles are fed one can’t obtain their fast growth. Besides, these tiny cichlids can’t be called healthy.
The percentage of dead juveniles is rather large even under the favorable conditions. Usually about one third from the total amount can’t make it to the stage which can be called marketable (the fish body length is about 2 cm).
Nevertheless taking into account fish fertility in general the rest of juveniles can be enough to keep the number of fishes in the tank and for selling them.
Stable level of fish number growth are obtained at the account of timely switch of juveniles feed to the one appropriate to their age and to the tank capacity. Ram cichlid juveniles start their coloring during the 3rd month of their life, but they get maximum color not earlier than being 90-100 days old.
The juveniles can be transferred to the community tank when reaching 1-1.5 cm of body length at the condition that this won’t lead to the tank overpopulation. But if possible it’s better to keep them isolated up to their puberty which gives the ability to watch if they get enough feed and if they aren’t pressured by the adult fish.
Paul Townsend is a founder and author of Meethepet.com. He’s been fond of aquarium husbandry since his early childhood.
His favorite aquariums are biotopes (Amazon River), Echinodorus and Angelfish. However, through the years he’s had experience of keeping almost all types of freshwater fish and shrimps.