Showing posts with label Ram Cichlids. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ram Cichlids. Show all posts


BLUE RAM - My First South American Cichlid

Ram cichlid, Mikrogeophagus ramirezi
Ram cichlid, Mikrogeophagus ramirezi (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Blue Ram, Gold Ram, which is which?  This little dwarf South American Cichlid has had its name changed so many times it has every right to be confused. But whatever you call it, the Blue Ram, or the Gold Ram (originally I knew it as Apistogramma ramirezi) is one of the most intriguing fish you can keep in a passive aquarium community.  The fish has been also been called Microgeophagus (little dirt eater) and is listed in my copy of the Baensch Aquarium Atlas as Papilliochromis ramirezi.

Doesn't matter what they call it, at least scientifically, I like these fish.  They have a very gentle personality and are extremely passive, keeping pretty much to themselves when they are added to a community aquarium. In fact, this is often a problem, they are so easily intimidated by more active swimming fish that they may never become as colourful as they can be.  Even if other fish are not even trying to bother them, swift movements and rapid fish can simply be too much and the fish will waste away. For this reason, I most often will simply give the group a tank of their own and let the interactions in their own community offer the action in the tank.  In a species tank like this, I often see much more interaction between the individuals. It may only be my opinion, but the social characteristics of these fish as a group is well worth devoting a small tank just to them.

In my experience they can be quite delicate and prefer softer acid water, some of the books do note they will tolerate up to neutral (7.0 pH) water, but I feel that is a maximum limit, lower pH down to 6.5 are much more preferable.  Above all, they simply do not tolerate environmental changes well. Be very careful when adding any type of chemical, if you must treat the water for softness and acidity, try to do it naturally, possibly with peat rather than chemical treatments that can cause the conditions to rapidly fluctuate. It is much better to allow the change to be very gradual, rather than all of a sudden. and always ensure the water you are replacing during regular aquarium maintenance protocols has been properly treated outside the aquarium to eliminate chlorine and other toxins well before coming in contact with the aquarium.

If you give do give them the conditions they require and let them settle in and get comfortable, you will watch one of the true jewels of the freshwater tropical fish species as it goes about its business. Too much action by other species in the tank and it the entire group will become timid and easily spooked, but in the right conditions, it is truly a spectacular addition to the small community aquarium.  I have found the blue and gold rams can be mixed pretty easily and that they prefer to be in groups rather than simple pairs.  The interaction of the group is quite social, so having at least five or six in the tank gives them chance to interact with interesting results.

Most of the tanks that I have kept Rams of assorted types have been pretty bare of plants, but with lots of rocks and ornaments that allow them to hide and claim as territory. They have survived and flourished in a rocky environment, and even bred repeatedly on a flat rock or on a grave impression they have dug.  One of their many names was Microgeophagus - or little dirt eater.  My observations show this is a good description for them. They will dig and move the gravel and can create hollows in the bottom, some have even spawned there.  I would suggest using relatively small fine gravel for the bottom of a ram tank since they will be moving it around anyway, and large gravel will make the effort great.

I was not a fan of keeping live plants when I kept and bred these originally.  The fact that they move the gravel means that any plants you keep for them must be well anchored.  They do enjoy a planted tank with densely bunched plants that offer places to hide and disappear within, but like my previous environments, they do need plenty of open bottom swimming area as well.  In essence, the plants provide the same type of protection that a properly rocked aquarium will for them.  Either way, when planting or rocking the aquarium, concentrate near the back and ensure there is a plenty of swimming space is probably the best way to set the aquarium.  Other fish can be included in the habitat, but keep them to lazy swimming fish in the upper regions so there is little interaction between the rams and the other species.

The Gold Ram was the first Cichlid I tried my hand at keeping and breeding.  When I first saw them introduced a few decades ago to my area, I knew I wanted to see what they were about.  Once I looked into them, the general Cichlid species characteristics intrigued me, having had my fill of fish that evidence no parental behaviour, either giving birth and abandoning them as they drop or simply scattering eggs and ignoring them afterwards.  it was a refreshing change of pace to finally encounter fish that actually cared for their eggs until they hatch, protecting the clutch and the area from unwanted intruders. This is the time when rams become their most aggressive.

Sure there are a lot of other Dwarf Cichlids, and many of them are just as stunning, but I have yet to see any fish with the depth and brilliance of colour as a well-conditioned Blue Ram in full breeding colours showing off for a receptive female.  These dwarfs do not have as pronounced roles for the parental care as many of their larger cousins display. The roles blur and both do what is required without as clear-cut responsibilities.  They can be a problem to keep happy, but when they do breed and the eggs have been laid, it is best to remove other occupants and let the eggs hatch.  Once the babies are fully free swimming, they can be removed to a grow out tank.


Electric Blue Ram Cichlid

Electric Blue Ram (Male) - Photo: Wikimedia
One of the more recent additions to the aquarium trade is the ram, a color morph of the ram cichlid (Mikrogeophagus ramirezi) that was developed in 2009. Rams are still less commonly available than other ram varieties and may be more expensive. Be wary of rams sold at "bargain-basement" prices, as they may have been treated with hormones, a practice that weakens the specimens and reduces their lifespan. Always buy from a trusted, reputable dealer or breeder.

Housing an Electric Blue Ram
The ram is not recommended for beginners, but it is not overly difficult to keep either. One pair can be housed in a 20-gallon aquarium, while two pairs will require a tank of at least 40 gallons. As always, more water means that it will be easier for you to keep the water quality high and stable, and since the ram is sensitive to organic waste, such as nitrate, it is unwise to skimp on tank size if you manage to get your hands on this uncommon and beautiful fish.

Since the ram is a type of ram cichlid, your safest bet is to provide it with an environment similar to the habitat of its wild ancestors. Give your ram plenty of cover, ideally by including aquatic plants or submerged land vegetation in the setup.

Densely planted areas and surface cover, combined with at least one open area for swimming, would be ideal. In addition to plants, the electric ram should be given a few caves to shelter in. If you intend to breed the electric ram, provide it with several flat stones or breeding slates in the tank to choose among since this fish likes to deposit its eggs on a flat, horizontal surface.

Suitable Tankmates
The electric ram should never be housed with aggressive fish or quick and energetic species that will devour all the food before the ram finds it. A common mistake is to house ram cichlids and electric blue rams with other dwarf cichlids - avoid this at all costs. Keeping electric rams on their own isn't recommended either; they need some peaceful and docile species in the aquarium to feel safe. Go for slow-moving and tranquil species that won't outcompete the rams at mealtimes.

If your electric blue rams start displaying aggressive tendencies toward tankmates, try including more hiding spots m the setup. A scarcity of suitable sheltering spots can lead to aggressive behavior. Also, electric blue rams always get aggressive during the breeding period because they need to keep their youngsters safe.

Keeping Electric Blues
Electric blue rams should not be placed in newly set up aquariums; they need a stable environment with low levels of organic waste. Successful keeping normally includes mechanical and biological filtration as well as regular water changes. Strong water movement will not be appreciated because wild ram cichlids live in slow-flowing waters.

The normal temperature range for wild ram cichlids is 78 to 85F, and the water in which they live is soft and acidic. A pH value in the 5 to 6 range is ideal for electric blue rams, but aquarist-raised specimens normally adapt to anything below pH 7.1. There are even reports of aquarists successfully housing German blue rams in moderately hard water so this might be possible for electric blue rams as well.

Feeding an Electric Blue Ram
The electric blue ram is an omnivore and needs to be kept on a diet of both meaty and green foods. The stress of being moved to a new environment can make the fish lose its appetite, so be prepared to coax it with mosquito larvae or similar foods. Once it's eating enough, you can start introducing other types of food, such as flakes and pellets, as well. 

A well acclimated electric blue ram normally accepts many different types of food. Keep an eye on the fish during feeding time. As I mentioned, electric blue rams are a bit slow moving and may starve if kept with faster-moving species. To find out more, you can check out Electric Blue Ram Cichlid.


Tips on RAM CICHLIDS - Care and Spawning

The Ram cichlid or Microgeophagus ramirezi belongs to the family Cichlidae more commonly referred to as cichlids. They are endemic to Orinoco River basin in Venezuela and Columbia. The aquarium industry markets rams under several trade names including; Ram, Blue ram, German blue ram, Asian ram, butterfly cichlid, dwarf butterfly and Ramirez's dwarf cichlid. The Ramirez's dwarf cichlid is a hybrid originally bred by fish enthusiast Manuel Ramirez.

A female M. ramirezi
A female M. ramirezi
(Photo credit: 

Rams are arguably the most peace loving of the entire cichlid family. This makes them very popular with aquarium owners. They make wonderful community tank fish provided they are surrounded by equally docile tank-mates. They mix exceedingly well with tetras. Another aspect of their popularity is their size. They only grow to about 2.5 inches unlike their cousin the angelfish that can grow to up to 6 inches in diameter. This makes them perfect for smaller aquariums such as desktop models. They are most at home in well planted aquariums.

Ram Cichlids thrive in slightly acidic water. A pH of 6.8 with a water temperature range between 72- 78°F is the ideal environment for keeping rams. Under premium conditions you can expect your ram cichlids to live for up to four years.

Rams are omnivorous. They can survive just fine on common variety tropical fish flakes. But supplementing their diet with live food such as brine shrimp, frozen or freeze dried food will help insure their vigor.

Distinguishing males from females isn't difficult. This species is sexually dimorphic, males being larger than females. Males typically possess longer spines on the front of their dorsal fin. Females have rounder abdomens than males. This trait is quite apparent when they are carrying eggs.

Breeding Ram Cichlids

Both the male and the female typically become more colorful when its time to breed. The abdomen of a females' body turns reddish or pinkish when she enters into her spawning cycle. A slightly acid water and warmer water temperatures will help induce spawning.

You will want to place the pair in a breeding tank. Males can become territorial when they enter their breeding cycle.

You will know your rams are about to spawn when the expectant parents begin to clean a flat surface to deposit their eggs on. Cichlids rarely deposit their eggs on barren substrate when a more suitable nursery is available.

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