Caring for Ram Cichlids: A Step-by-Step Guide

German blue ram (lat. 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 ram cichlid 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.

Habitat in the wild

The ram cichlid, scientifically known as Mikrogeophagus ramirezi, belongs to the family Cichlidae. The Cichlidae family is a diverse group of freshwater fish known for their vibrant colors, unique behaviors, and often complex breeding habits. They are commonly found in Africa, South and Central America, and some parts of Asia.

Ram cichlid 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 german blue ram inhabits in the South America and Amazon river is considered to be its motherland. But it’s not exactly like this since cichlid can’t be found in Amazon river, but it is widely spread in its basin, in the rivers and streams joining the river.

German blue ram lives in the Orinoco river basin (Venezuela, Colombia). 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.

CharacteristicDescription
Scientific NameMikrogeophagus ramirezi
Common NamesRam cichlid, German Blue Ram, Ram fish, Ramirezi fish
FamilyCichlidae
OriginSouth America (Orinoco River basin in Venezuela/Colombia)
Size2 to 3 inches (5 to 7.5 centimeters)
Lifespan2 to 3 years (can vary with proper care)
TemperamentGenerally peaceful, but can become territorial during breeding
ColorationStriking colors and intricate patterning
Sex DifferencesMales are more colorful with extended dorsal fins
HabitatSlow-moving waters with dense vegetation and sandy substrates
Tank Requirements20-gallon minimum for a pair, heavily planted with hiding spots
Water ParametersTemperature: 77-82°F (25-28°C), pH: 6.0-7.0, hardness: soft to medium
DietOmnivorous – High-quality pellets, flakes, frozen, and live foods
Breeding DifficultyModerate (sensitive to water conditions during breeding)
CompatibilityPeaceful community fish with other non-aggressive species
Special ConsiderationsSensitive to water quality changes, regular water changes needed

Description

Body

German blue ram is a small, colorful cichlid with an oval shaped body and high fins. This 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.

Size

The Mikrogeophagus ramirezi is a relatively small fish. On average, they reach a size of about 2 to 3 inches (5 to 7.5 centimeters) in length when fully grown. Males and females are typically similar in size, with males sometimes being slightly larger and more colorful than females. These compact dimensions make them suitable for smaller aquariums and community tanks with other peaceful fish species.

Lifespan

The lifespan of ram cichlids can vary depending on their care and living conditions. On average, ram cichlids can live for about 2 to 3 years in a well-maintained aquarium with proper care.

Ram cichlid types

It’s necessary to note that fish has lots of graded morphs, for example, balloon, electric blue, gold, etc. Such a variety of colors and 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 ram cichlid or golden ram cichlid, 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 cichlid 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.

Taking into account the existence of different colors – gold, electric blue, albino etc., so it must be said that it’s very much worth seeing.

German Blue Ram

The most common and widely available type, known for its vibrant blue body with black markings and a red or orange throat.

German Blue Ram
German Blue Ram

Electric Blue Ram

The Electric Blue Ram (Mikrogeophagus ramirezi ‘Electric Blue’) is a stunning and popular color morph of the common ram cichlid. As the name suggests, these fish exhibit a bright, metallic blue coloration that sets them apart from other ram cichlid varieties. They are a result of selective breeding to enhance and stabilize the striking blue pigmentation.

Electric Blue Ram
Electric blue ram cichlid

Gold Ram

This type displays a beautiful gold or yellow body color with black markings.

Gold Ram cichlid

Electric Gold Ram

A combination of the Electric Blue and Gold Rams, featuring a metallic gold body with blue iridescence.

Electric Gold Ram

Longfin Ram

This type has longer and flowing fins compared to the standard ram cichlids.

Longfin ram cichlid

Balloon Ram

Characterized by its rounded, balloon-like body shape, resulting from a genetic mutation.

Balloon ram cichlid

Dark Knight Ram

Dark Knight Ram

Difficulties in keeping

Ram cichlid 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 german blue ram 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.

German blue ram is significantly less aggressive then other cichlids, but it’s rather more complicated in care and it’s far more fanciful. These cichlids is very peaceful, at bottom it’s one of few cichlids which can live in community tank with such small fishes tank mates as neons or guppies.

Care and keeping in a tank

Tank size

The recommended tank volume for german blue rams starts from 20 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.

Water parameters

Now the fish can adapt well to the water parameters of the area where it lives, but still the ideal water parameters are:

  1. Temperature: 77-82°F (25-28°C) – Ram cichlids prefer slightly warmer water temperatures typical of tropical aquariums.
  2. pH Level: 6.0-7.0 – Rams thrive in slightly acidic to neutral water conditions. Keeping the pH within this range helps them maintain good health.
  3. Water Hardness: Soft to Medium – Aim for a general hardness (GH) level between 5-12 dGH. Soft water is more representative of their natural habitat.
  4. Ammonia, Nitrite, and Nitrate: 0 ppm – Ammonia and nitrite should always be at zero levels, as they are toxic to fish. Nitrate levels should be kept as low as possible, preferably below 20 ppm through regular water changes and proper filtration.
  5. Filtration: Provide efficient filtration to maintain water quality and remove waste products. Rams can be sensitive to poor water conditions, so a reliable filter is essential.
  6. Water Changes: Regular water changes are crucial to remove accumulated pollutants and maintain stable water parameters. Aim for weekly water changes of around 20-30% of the total tank volume.
  7. Aquascape: Ram cichlids appreciate a well-planted aquarium with plenty of hiding spots among driftwood, rocks, and plants. The plants also help in stabilizing water parameters by absorbing excess nutrients.

Remember that sudden changes in water parameters can stress ram cichlids and compromise their health. When introducing new fish to the tank or making adjustments to water conditions, it’s best to do so gradually. Monitoring water parameters regularly and maintaining stable conditions will help ensure the best environment for your ram cichlids to thrive.

Tank decor

The aquarium can be decorated in the style of its native river in the South America. Sand, lots of covers, flowerpots, snags and thick bushes. It is better to use sand and small gravel as a tank bottom, since german blue rams likes digging it.

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.

Diet

German blue 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 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.

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Tank mates

Ram cichlid can live in a community tank together with peaceful and not large tank mates. Live-bearing fish such as: guppies, swordtails, mollies and platy, as well as different Characins: black neon tetra, bloodfin tetra, rummy-nose tetra, neon tetra, can be good tank mates.

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 fish 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.

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.

Gender differences: male vs female

German blue rams, like many cichlid species, exhibit sexual dimorphism, which means there are visual differences between males and females. Here are some key differences between male and female:

  1. Size: In general, male are slightly larger than females. Males may reach a length of up to 2.5 to 3 inches (6.5 to 7.5 centimeters), while females are usually a bit smaller, reaching around 2 to 2.5 inches (5 to 6.5 centimeters).
  2. Coloration: The most apparent difference is in their coloration. Male are typically more colorful and vibrant than females. They have brighter and more intense blue and yellow hues, especially during their breeding phase. Their dorsal and anal fins may also be more elongated and pointed compared to females.
  3. Markings: During breeding and territorial displays, males might display darker markings, especially on their gill covers and throat areas. These markings can appear as black spots or lines.
  4. Body Shape: Males may have a more streamlined and elongated body shape, especially when compared to females that might appear slightly rounder.
  5. Behavior: Male can be more territorial and aggressive, especially during the breeding season when they defend their chosen spawning site.
  6. Breeding Tubes: When breeding, males might develop breeding tubes on their ventral area, just in front of their anal fin. These tubes are absent in females.

It’s important to note that while these differences are typical, they might not be absolute in all individuals. Some variations can exist, and the color intensity and behavior might be influenced by factors such as age, health, and overall condition.

When keeping a pair of blue rams, it’s advisable to select a well-matched male and female. A compatible pair can engage in breeding behaviors and add a captivating display to your aquarium.

Ram cichlid male and female

Breeding

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 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 German blue ram 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 tank, 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 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 couple.

Water in the spawning tank should be more acidic (at about 0.1-0.3 units) and warmer (at about 1-2 °C) 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 °C. 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 German blue ram 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 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 °C — 45-50 eggs.

German blue ram 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 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 tank. Swimming ram cichlid juveniles is still under the male care. He swims with them along the spawning tank 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 °C is also mentioned – at that electric 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, ram cichlid 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 body length is about 2 cm).

Nevertheless taking into account fertility in general the rest of ram cichlid 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. 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.