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fishy592 01-14-2014 09:59 AM

Bolivian Ram sexing, breeding questions
6 Attachment(s)
After doing some reading, I found that fading eye stripes in female Bolivian Rams can signal either a dominant female preparing to breed or a stressed out fish. My water parameters are normal (nitrate never above 10ppm) and the tank is fully cycled. She is about a year old now and the only Bolivian Ram in my 40 gallon tank. Any ideas? Originally, I also had another Bolivian Ram initially who I moved to my dad's tank after some squabbling. I am not sure of this fish's sex... This fish is the same age although a little smaller but displays a very different coloration. Is it a male? If so, should I move them back together or will potential brooding behavior be too aggressive for the other fish in my tank (glowlight tetras, black neon tetras, and female bettas)? Thanks and sorry for al the questions. :-)

the first 3 pictures of my female Ram, the second 2 of the unknown Ram (maybe female?) and the last of my tank to show cover, etc.

Chesh 01-14-2014 02:14 PM

Beautiful tank, Fishy - beautiful 'Livies, too! (my favourite fish!) <3


Originally Posted by fishy592 (Post 3733730)
After doing some reading, I found that fading eye stripes in female Bolivian Rams can signal. . . a dominant female preparing to breed. . .

I'm not sure where you read this! I suppose anything is possible, but in my experience, the exact opposite is true!
When these fish come into spawning condition, their markings become darker and noticeably saturated, while striping becomes apparent on the posterior. From what I've seen, coloration remains this way throughout spawning and brood care. I have never seen my B.Rams pale out before spawning. . .

Here is an image of my dominant female when she was guarding a clutch. This image is accurate to what I saw with my eyes - there was nothing pale about those stripes! ^__^

Both of the fish you've pictured look as if they could be happier. The one in your tank is obviously missing her stripes and spot - which in my experience is indicative of stress. The second - from your father's tank(?) is very pale - this is not actually a matter of different coloration - this is what these fish look like when they are uncomfortable and stressed out. You didn't include a shot of the second fish's home, but in these shots I don't see much cover, perhaps this is the cause of his stress. What other fish is he being kept with?

Your setup seems to be an ideal habitat for these fish - well done! Do you have any ideas as to what could be causing her stress? Bolivians can be somewhat fussy about change - are any of the fish in your tank new? Have you recently done a rescape or added/removed plants/decor? Has there been a lot of unusual activity around the tank? All of these are things that have had an effect on my (very spoiled) Bolivians in the past. A sudden shift in water parameters can also upset them - did you do a larger than usual water change, or has the parameters of your tap water changed? How is your betta sorority getting along with your B.Ram?

As far as sexing, this isn't nearly as difficult with these fish as people will have you believe, but you can't tell based on coloration or fins. The only true way to determine gender is to look at their vent. Females have a vent that is wider and angled downward a bit more to allow eggs to pass through, while the vent on a male is thinner and angled more sharply toward the tail. If you can get a clear image of the vents on these two, I'd be happy to take a look and see if I can help out?

Bolivian Rams are territorial, adding in the second could go either way. In a 40g tank setup the way yours is, I wouldn't hesitate to add the second fish back in - he looks very unhappy where he is right now. I would keep a very close eye on them until they each chose their territories and settled in, and be ready with a plan B should it not work out. . .

I hope this helps a bit?

*moving this thread into our cichlid section where it may be seen and responded to by others who may be able to offer more advice!

fishy592 01-14-2014 05:51 PM

chesh, thanks so much for your compliments and advice. My BR is by far my favorite fish :)I can't think of anything that would be stressing her out...none of the other fish bother her (she is boss) No new added fish or changed water parameters. I did remove a DIY ornament and add plants in its place but that was 2 weeks ago! Her behavior as far as eating, not hiding, etc hasn't changed at all. I just want everyone to be happy...I will try to get your better pics tomorrow. Thanks for your help!
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fishy592 01-15-2014 03:34 PM

7 Attachment(s)
so I have new pictures of the BR's vents, hopefully they are close enough and not too blurry! BR #2 in my dad's tank has a VERY small protrusion (maybe facing toward the tail but it's REALLY hard to tell). I have also included a picture of his (?) tank (20g high) BR #1's vent protrusion is larger and flatter and definitely pointing downwards so I am almost entirely sure she is female. As for her darker coloration...the only thing I can come up with is the removal of the diy ornament and changing the lighting on my tank into 2 photo periods (4 hrs on, 1 hr off, 5 hrs on) both of which occurred nearly 3 weeks ago! Could she be so sensitive that this is still bothering her?!?! Also, I forgot to mention that her stripe and spot do regularly darken at every feeding before paling again. Does this make sense?

BR #2
Attachment 275417 Attachment 275449
his tank (my dad's 20g tank)
Attachment 275457
BR #1 before feeding
Attachment 275465
BR #1 vent pictures
Attachment 275473
Attachment 275481
BR #1 during feeding
Attachment 275489
thanks! :-)

Chesh 01-16-2014 08:47 PM

Nice shots!!!
From what I can tell in these images, I think you've got it right! The fish in your dad's tank looks to me like a male, and the one in your tank looks like a female!

As for why she's suddenly behaving oddly. . . it's hard to say. . . I wish I had a more solid answer to give you. :/
If the tank decoration was a place that she really liked to hang out, and that she considered her territory, taking it out could very well still be affecting her. I've never kept a BR all on it's own before - I imagine their behavior must be somewhat different as there is nobody to compete with for territory. My rams take about a weekish or so to settle in after a change in the layout - but they're competing for the best spots, and the dominant fish gets them. If I've made a change that affects where they sleep, it causes more of an upset. Have you ever noticed where your ram rests when the lights go out? Mine ALWAYS rest in their personal territories, in exactly the same spot every night. If this ornament has been in the tank for as long as she has, and if she slept in there - I can see how she may still be missing it. Perhaps you could move some of those rocks in such a way as to create a cave/shelter for her in the same area where the ornament was, and see if that helps her out?

Have you always had your lights on an on-off-on cycle? I know this is done fairly commonly in the aquascaping community. . . but it wouldn't surprise me if it was affecting her. Maintaining some form of circadian rhythm in your tank is very important to the animals that live there, and I've always wondered if/how these types of lighting routines affect the fish. I can't say for sure that this would be influencing her behavior and/or causing her stress, but I wouldn't be surprised if that were the case. I'm fairly certain that it would make mine nervous for a few weeks. Here is a link to an article written by one o four members that gives some interesting thoughts on how lighting affects our fish. It's a good read - I recommend you take a look! Out of curiosity, why have you decided to run your lighting in this way?

I have found that my rams use their coloration to 'talk,' especially when they're kept as a group. it's pretty cool to observe - if you get to know their 'language' you can learn quite a bit about them simply by watching their coloration, which subtly shift on a near-constant basis. You really have to be a nerd and watch for it, though. (for the record, I totally am!) ^__^

It is possible that there may be something else affecting her. . . has she shown ANY symptoms apart from paling? If not. . . I would put the lighting back to a more natural routine (if possible), and try creating her a little shelter and see if that helps her to feel better :/

Perhaps someone with more experience in fishkeeping, and with keeping a solo 'livvie ram will be by to chime in and help out. I hope that you've found something in all of this to help you somehow, and that you figure out what the trouble may be.

good luck!

fishy592 01-17-2014 08:27 AM

Chest, thank you for all your time and help! Now that I think about it I think you were right, she did seem to sleep by the car. I removed it because I was suspicious of the "fish safe" paint stunting plant growth near it. I was right, the pants are happier without it but she's not. Now she sleeps behind the smaller sword. I will get her another sleeping spot :-) my lights are will go back to a single photo period too. I changed it initially because my tank's pH goes though some VERY drastic changes over the day due to photosynthesis. It will read 6.6 just after lights on but 7.8 a few hours before lights out. I know it's just due to oxygen production but that's a 12x difference so I was trying to stabilize it a bit. Not worth her happiness, however.

The only thing that has changed with her other than the intensifying and darkening of her body colors and fading of her stripes is that she holds her pectoral fins close to her body and displays less than she used to. Hopefully another hiding spot will help. I'm also going to move the male in with her after some redecorating.thanks, I'll keep you posted.

fishy592 01-20-2014 02:43 PM

2 Attachment(s)
So I added a piece of driftwood to replace the ornament in my female BR's sleeping spot on Sunday and she displayed darker stripes for maybe an hour or two. Today, after a routine 25% water change, I added the male BR to this tank too. Both displayed dark stripes and normal body color :-D and followed each other around the tank for about 4 hours. She chased all the other fish away from him. There was a tiny bit of squabbling (he now has a torn tail fin) but they continued to swim together.
(female on left)
Attachment 278362

Now, the rams continue to stay close to each other but she is displaying VERY stressed out coloring while his color remains the same. :cry: Her body is very dark and her stripes are very pale. She looks like a dark colored fish with pale stripes. She alternates between this extreme coloring while swimming with a closed dorsal and tail fins and opening her fins and displaying her former coloration without stripes. The male follows her around but does not seem to be picking on her. They are moving around the tank browsing for food along the substrate.
(female on left)
Attachment 278370

The other fish in the tank are also leaving her alone and she is breathing normally. Is this display of stress normal when two rams are put together even if there are no territorial skirmishes? :-? Should I remove the male? Any advice is welcome, I will be keeping a very close eye on them!

Chesh 01-20-2014 07:47 PM

Ahhhh, cichlids!
With these fish this type of behavior is expected after new introductions - nipped fins and cichlids often go hand-in-hand. In my experience with Bolivian Rams, the damage is slight and once dominance established they typically are very peaceful toward one-another.

Be sure to keep their water very clean water so that those fins heal quickly, and keep a close eye on things as they settle in. Lucky for you, this is a fun time to watch them! ^__^ You can expect to see a lot of displaying, often rapid changes in coloration as they show off for one another or pale out in submission, chasing, and lip-locking. . . particularly during mealtimes. Whichever turns out to be the dominant of the two will typically show brighter coloration, though they will challenge one another from time to time, just to make sure ;) Darkening and paling of the vertical stripes and the spot(s) is very normal, but watch out for 'stress stripes' which on these fish run horizontally from head to tail, and are made up of many small black spots. These may come and go, but if one is showing them constantly, especially when combined with pale coloration, you may have a problem.

Do pay VERY close attention to the female. . . I should have suggested that you wait to bring the male home until she had returned to her normal behavior - I'm still a bit worried about that one. :/ She won't be having a very happy week, on top of a rough patch just before! I've found that it often helps to do a rescape of the tank when adding a new ram - this will remove her existing territory, and put them both on equal footing as far as finding a new favourite spot in the tank. I would also encourage you to add more rocks/driftwood/plants if at all possible. This will create new territories, and break up their lines of sight (so they can't always see one another!) - it will certainly help them to both settle in more quickly, and hopefully - happily!

A last note of caution - you will want to keep an extra close watch on this pair (yes, repeating myself, lol all eyes to that tank!) as they are a single male and female. Rams can be very fussy, and prefer to choose their own mate, rather than having one chosen for them. If one gets sweet on the other, but the sentiment not returned, you may run into trouble and have to separate the two (this may be what happened the first time around). They can and will fight each-other to the death if they are unable to escape one another when/if desired. In a tank like yours, I think it should be okay, but pay close attention until you know for sure. If they do have trouble, you should consider in advance what you wish to do. I know you can return the male to your father's tank, you could also bring in a few more females if stocking allows for it. Hopefully, you won't have any issues - just wanted to mention to keep an eye out for them. Livvies can be fussy little critters sometimes - all cichlids can.

Fingers crossed that they settle down perfectly for you, and live long and happy lives in that pretty tank of yours! Please keep me posted on how things are going!

fishy592 01-21-2014 07:51 AM

Thank you!!! :-D I am SO relieved to hear that her rapid color changes are normal! I was very worried about her last night. They shared a new sleeping spot last night under the central piece of driftwood. He actually guarded the area while he slept which was adorable. :-) still not much by way of territorial squabbles, they seem to be content hanging out in mutual this normal? Or are her color changes telling him she is uncomfortable with his proximity? Thank you again, I love these guys but as you said, they are complex little fishies!

Chesh 01-21-2014 08:46 AM

They sure can be tricky to read! Maybe you've gotten lucky and they're courting ^__^
I've never kept only a single pair, I've always had a shoal. When my dominant male was wooing his female, they went EVERYWHERE together, slept together, fed together. If you see the male actively cleaning rocks and leaves or digging holes in the sand, he may be courting her. If you see HER clearing rocks, than she may have accepted his offer! The behavior they display during courtship is often very similar to what you would see when dominance is being established. Confusing!

It could also be that there is only one spot in which they feel comfortable, though - so do your best to ensure that there is more than one place that is somewhat sheltered, by plants, driftwood, and/or stones for one of them to call 'home,' if s/he doesn't wish to share. :)

I'd love it if you got a pairing from these two, how lovely would that be?! *crossesfingers* Keep watching!

ETA: Wishing there were someone else offering input here... I have about two years of experience with my lil' shoal of 'Livvies, but with ANY cichlid, experiences can be quite different. . . I hope I'm not leading you in the wrong direction! Just keep watching. . . and be ready to act should it seem necessary! Sounds like things are going well, so far!

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