Blue Rams, Butterfly ram, German Blue, German Blue Ram (GBR), Ram, Butterfly cichlid, Dwarf cichlid. Ramirez’s cichlid
Scientific Name: Microgeophagus ramirezi
Approx. Price: R50
Availability: Special Order ONLY, Available in Gold, Blue and Green.
Ram’s live in the Orinoco River basin, in the llanos of Venezuela and Colombia. Los llanos means “the flat plains” in Spanish and is a large area of tropical grassland plain located east of the Andes in north-western South America. In this area, the water is warm and the temperature will typically stay within the 25.5-29.5 ºC (78-85 ºF) range. The water is soft and acidic with a pH-value around 5.
The sites where Rams have been found generally have slow-flowing water. The colour of the water can be anything from dark tea-colour to completely clear. Rams are normally only found where there is plenty of cover consisting of aquatic plants or submerged land vegetation.
Ram Cichlids are somewhat stocky in shape. In Male Cichlids, the first few dorsal rays are longer and more pointed than others. The Ramirezi species tends to be colorful, but are not hardy.
The male Ram can reach exceed 7 cm (2.7 in) in length, while the female fish stays a bit smaller. The German blue ram is rather stocky built and flamboyantly coloured. The main body colour is yellow-green and decorated with blue dots that extend into the dorsal, anal and caudal fins. You can also see seven faint interrupted dark vertical stripes on the flanks of the fish, and one intense stripe that runs vertically downwards across the head through the eye. Wild Rams will normally have more noticeable bars compared to aquarium-bred strains. In specimens with pale bars, the second bar on the flank can look more like a single black spot than one of several bars. The flanks of the German blue ram are grey or blue, while head and chest are yellow, gold and black with blue shades. There is a red patch on the belly and you can also see a red patch near the eyes. Red and blue dominates the pelvic fins, while the large dorsal fin is yellow with black at the front edge. The upper and lower lobes of the dorsal fin and tail fin are red.
Microgeophagus ramirezi are sensitive to poor water conditions or incorrect water parameters. The Ram Cichlids do best in an Amazon River Aquarium environment which includes clean well filtered water, a stable pH (best under 7.0), warm temperatures between 26 to 28 C, some KH for stability (50 ppm plus), and despite some claims by others, Rams need some mineralization (calcium, magnesium, etc.) for correct osmoregulation (despite some claims by misinformed aquarists lack of understanding of biochemistry).
Products can aid in adding these essential mineral ions. For natural acid buffers/tannins; products such as Bio Lif that utilize Indian Almond leaves aid in Aeromonas bacterial control, and provide more natural Amazon conditions performing a “slow acid buffer” function.
UV Sterilization is also recommended since Rams are more sensitive than many fish to water parameters and disease pathogens.
Recommended Tank Size:
Can be successfully kept in tanks as small as 60 litres, however groups are best kept in 120 litres or larger.
Although many males may show typical male cichlid dominance, these fish are basically mild mannered and do best in groups with others of their own kind and in community tanks with med. Large Tetras, Discus, Angels, sometimes Gouramis and similar.
When you set up the aquarium, it is best to mimic the natural environment of the Ram. As mentioned above, wild rams are normally only found where there is plenty of cover consisting of aquatic plants or submerged land vegetation, and including such elements in the aquarium set up is therefore recommended. Densely grown groups of plants separated by open swimming space is ideal. The fish will also need a few caves to seek shelter in. If you want your fish to breed, provide them with flat stones in the aquarium.
Many Aquarius believe that the Ram is really difficult to keep, but this is not really true. The problem is that many Aquarius combine the ram with unsuitable species, such as aggressive fish that will harass the ram or overly energetic fish that will gulp down all the food before the ram gets a chance to eat. Other types of dwarf cichlids are also an unsuitable choice. Your Ram will do much better if you combine it will peaceful species that will leave some food for the rams. Keeping rams on their own is not recommended; they feel safer when combined with braver fish (so called dither fish). If your Rams become aggressive towards other fish in the aquarium, it is most likely caused by a shortage or suitable hiding places. It is also normal for them to become aggressive during breeding since they want to protect their offspring.
The Ram is an omnivore that needs food from both the animal kingdom and the plant kingdom to stay healthy and happy. When they arrive to a new aquarium, it is not unusual for them to loose their appetite and become really finicky. Don’t be surprised if your rams only nibble at the food or embarks on a full blown hunger strike. Try to coax them into eating by giving them really tasty morsels like frozen or live mosquito larvae or similar. Once they have started eating again, you can gradually let them try flake food, pellets and other types of food. After a while, most rams will readily accept a wide range of different foods in the aquarium.
Breeding Ramirezi Cichlids:
The Ram Cichlids form monogamous pairs and both parents engage in brood care. If you want a breeding pair to form you can purchase a group of juvenile fish and let them grow up together. They will then form their own pairs as they reach sexually maturity. Rams can reach sexual maturity at a fairly young age; sometimes the fish is no older than 4-6 months.
If you want to coax your rams into breeding, provide them with soft water and increase the water temperature a bit, up to 28 °C (82 °F). The recommended pH range is 5.5 – 6.5. Use a timer for the aquarium lights, because erratic day and night patterns can confuse them and interfere with normal breeding behaviour. It is important to include flat stones in the aquarium set up. Some pairs prefer to dig small pits in the gravel and use as breeding sites instead or in combination with stones.
Don’t forget that Rams will become more aggressive than normally during the breeding period. Plenty of hiding spots and natural borders in the aquarium is recommended.
When its time for breeding, the red patch on the belly of the female will grow bigger and become much brighter than normally. A flat stone will be cleaned or a pit will be dug out by either of the pair. The couple will also start nudging each other and/or twirling, and the male fish can dart away at a high pace or slide against the body of the female.
During spawning, the female will place small adhesive eggs on the flat stones or in the small pits. The eggs are 0.9-1.5 mm in length (0.035-0.059 inches). A typical batch will consist of 150-300 eggs, but some batches contain no more than 20 eggs while others contain over 500 eggs.
Both the male and the female fish should be allowed to stay with the offspring because this species practice bi-parental brood care and the parents work together to care for the eggs and guard the territory. A parent will fan fresh water over the eggs to prevent attacks from fungi and bacteria. The parents will also eat unfertilized eggs to prevent them from turning into breeding grounds for pathogens.
The eggs will normally hatch within 40 hours if the water is kept in the upper part of the recommended temperature range. It will then take roughly 5 days before the offspring becomes free swimming. The free swimming fry will be kept in a dense school and be cared for by the parents. They will be escorted by their mother or father during foraging.
Don’t lose heart if the first few spawnings are unsuccessful. A lot of things can go wrong and it is common for Rams to spawn a few times before they get everything right. They might for instance eat a few batches before they become good parents. Once they have started breeding, you can however expect a new batch once a month or so. Young pairs are known to fight quite a lot and the aquarium must contain plenty of hiding spots to avoid stress and injury.
If your couple continues to eat their offspring even after several spawnings it can be a sight of distress in the aquarium. Try to figure out what stresses your fish and do your best to make the aquarium more relaxing for them.