Family: Cichlidae, Sub-Family Cichlinae
Common Names: Blue Ram, Common Ram, Gold Ram, German Blue Ram, Electric Blue Ram
Origin and Habitat: Rio Orinoco basin, in llanos or savanna areas, in Venezuela and Columbia. Found in standing water pools and ponds scattered around the dry landscape.
Compatibility/Temperament: Peaceful especially for a cichlid; males are territorial with their own species at all times. Should always be kept in a male/female bonded pair, and with "dither" fish to alleviate their natural shyness. In larger tanks, a group is possible providing each male has space for his territory. Good companion fish with discus and angels, and any non-aggressive characin, small catfish and loaches, gourami, or rasbora provided these can manage in the essential warmer water.
Blue Ram Diet
Omnivore by nature, will accept most prepared foods such as flake and small pellet; frozen bloodworms and daphnia or live worms as treats.
Less than 2 inches.
Minimum Tank Suggestion
15-20 gallon for a single pair.
Water parameters for Blue Ram
Wild-caught fish: Very soft (hardness below 12 dGH but preferably less than 5 dGH), acidic (pH below 7, preferably 5-6) water, temperature 27-30C/80-86F. Commercially tank-raised fish should be maintained in water close to that in which they were raised.
One of the truly beautiful dwarf cichlids, but also one of the most demanding in terms of water parameters and conditions. Should always be introduced to a well-established tank having very stable water conditions since they are extremely sensitive to fluctuating conditions with respect to hardness, acidity and temperature as well as minimal levels of ammonia, nitrite and nitrate. Temperature should never drop below 80F, and preferably remain at 82F or above.
Wild caught fish can still be found from specialist importers, and are more colourful. Most of the commonly-available fish are commercially raised, and considerable inbreeding has resulted in less-colourful fish. Some hybrids have been developed: "German" blue rams were developed with increased blue colouration; "Gold" rams are basically yellow and some believe the most water-sensitive form; "Balloon" rams are selectively bred with midbody swelling and spinal curvature and are notorious for health problems related to swim bladder, digestive, and internal organ deformities, and should be avoided.
Fish have been caught in pools having a hardness of less than 1 dGH, a pH of 4.6 (though the average is a pH of 5-6), and a temperature from 82-88F. Maintained in aquaria not providing such conditions, wild-caught fish do not live long; in a well-planted soft and acidic water aquarium, it will live for more than four years.
Distinguishing sexes is very easy in wild-caught fish: adult females have a rosy pink belly, while males have long extensions on the first 3 black rays of the dorsal fin. The first photo below depicts a pair, the male the upper and the female the lower fish. Commercially bred fish are sometimes difficult to distinguish due to inbreeding. The left photo above shows a male; the right photo a spawning pair with the female (lower fish) cleaning the spawning site. The fish is a substrate spawner, and in soft, acidic and warm water will readily spawn; spawnings in basic harder water will usually not hatch, or the fry may not develop properly. Wild fish are stated to be better parents
This fish usually forms a bonded pair; spawning will be more successful if the male is allowed to select his mate. When a female is placed in with the male, he may often reject her, to the point of death. A group may be acquired, allowing the fish to form their pairings; or a bonded pair can often be observed in the store tank.
This fish is easy to breed and baby brine shrimp or infusoria should be first food. Parents protect the eggs and fry for a couple weeks. Moving the fry to another tank is the optimum option. Having 1 male to females is the best option so the male can select his mate. The eggs hatch around 60 hours. Successful rearing of the fry will usually require a breeding tank for the pair, as any other fish in the tank will usually manage to eat eggs or fry. High water quality is optimal and weekly water changes is a big deal. Condition the pair with live or frozen food. While the eggs are being protected, feed the fish food often to prevent the fish from eating the eggs. If the fish are stressed they will eat the babies, so try to keep the loud noises down and walk lightly. The male and female take turns guarding the eggs; if a piece of flat rock or slate is provided for a spawning site and used, it can be removed to a hatching tank.
The original description by Myers & Harry in 1948 placed this species in the Apistogramma genus of dwarf cichlids. Within ten years, ichthyologists realized that the fish had significant differences from the Apistogramma species, and it went through a series of genera including Microgeophagus, Pseudogeophagus, and Pseudoapistogramma. In 1977, a complete redefinition of the two "ram" species was made by the Swedish ichthyologist and cichlid authority Sven Kullander that established the name Papiliochromis for the rams; scientific discussion again occurred in the late 1980's and in 1998 Kullander settled on Mikrogeophagus and this is now the valid name.
The genus name derives from the Greek mikr [= small], geo [= earth] and phag [= eat], literally "small eartheater." The species epithet is Latin and honours Manuel Ramirez, an early collector and exporter of the species.
Kullander, Sven O. (2011), "Nomenclatural availability of putative scientific generic names applied to the South American cichlid fish Apistogramma ramirezi Myers & Harry, 1948 (Teleostei: Cichlidae), Zootaxa 3131, pp. 35-51.
Linke, Horst and Wolfgang Staeck (1994), American Cichlids I, Dwarf Cichlids, Tetra-Press, 1994.
The following members have contributed to this profile: Byron, Christople
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