German Blue Rams Care Guide – Housing, Breeding and More
Between their iridescent colors and confident personality, German blue ram cichlids are one of the most striking freshwater fish in the aquarium hobby. A healthy ram can display almost every color of the rainbow when it is in good breeding condition. In this article, we interviewed master breeder Dean to share his decades of experience in keeping, breeding, and raising this amazing dwarf cichlid.
What are German Blue Rams?
Mikrogeophagus ramirezi is a South American dwarf cichlid that goes by many common names, including ram cichlid, blue ram, German blue ram, butterfly cichlid, and Ramirez’s dwarf cichlid.
Where do blue rams come from? Contrary to the name, ram cichlids originate from the Orinoco River basin in Colombia and Venezuela. The name “German blue” refers to a color variation of the ram cichlid that was selectively bred in Germany and became popularized worldwide in the aquarium trade.
What is the difference between ram cichlids of different shapes? There are a few body types on the market: regular, long-fin, and balloon. The most common color varieties include German blue rams, gold rams, and electric blue rams. The ram cichlid is also available in black, but it’s still difficult to find.
This gold balloon ram has been selectively bred for its bright yellow color and shortened body shape.
How big does a German blue ram fish get? Regular-sized blue rams tend to stay between 2-2.5 inches (5-6 cm) long, which is a little smaller than their cousins, the Bolivian ram cichlid (Mikrogeophagus altispinosus).
How long do German blue ram fish live? Because of poor breeding practices or improper care requirements, ram cichlids have the reputation for being less hardy compared to other species. If given lots of high-quality foods and clean water at the right temperature (see below), they can live up to 4 years.
Where Can You Buy German Blue Rams?
Ram cichlids usually come from three sources: overseas fish farms, domestic fish farms (from your own country), or local breeders. If you purchase from a fish store, most likely the fish were imported from overseas. While cichlids may appear brighter or have longer fins than they actually are, be aware that some overseas farms use hormones to artificially increase their lifespan and also make them look more attractive. If you purchase from a domestic farm in the United States, they are often raised in Florida and may come in better condition than imported fish. Local breeders are the best choice as the rams will be kept in water parameters similar to yours, which gives them a greater chance of flourishing.
How do you pick a healthy blue ram? When shopping at a fish store, make sure to select a robust, active ram that eats well and perhaps spars with other rams over the best spawning spots. A ram that is too thin, or with a hollow stomach, should not be purchased. Sick rams with these symptoms rarely recover, so pick the healthiest specimens possible. Dean suggests choosing a vibrant male with nice pectoral and extended dorsal feathers if you’re looking to breed. If you can find the female he is already paired with, you have a higher chance of successful breeding. Females can be easily identified by the fact that they have tiny, bright blue dots inside the big, black spot on the side of their bodies, whereas males lack any spangling on their black spot.
The female on the right has spangling within her black spot, while the male on left doesn’t.
How Do You Set Up a Ram Cichlid Aquarium?
Many beginners don’t realize that blue rams need to be kept at high temperatures. Ideally, between 84-86degF (29-30 degC). If you want to add live aquarium plants to their tank, make sure they can tolerate the hot water. Rams love to dig so it is a good idea to select plants such as java fern or mosses that can be attached to rocks or driftwood.
It is important to have good water quality. Give them partial water changes at least once a week because they need plenty of fresh, clean water and are quite intolerant of ammonia and other toxins. Allowing the water quality to dip can lead to illness and potentially death. Water chemistry parameters: Rams can adapt to a wide variety of pH levels. However they are more comfortable with soft water or low-GH conditions. You can soften hard tap water by adding RODI (reverse Osmosis De-ionized), Indian almond leaves, and driftwood.
How many blue rams should be kept together? A pair of rams can live in a 20-gallon community tank or in a 10-gallon breeding tank with no other fish. If you wish to keep two pairs of rams, increase the aquarium size to 40 gallons so that each set has enough territory. For one of them to decide he wants to become tank boss, make sure there are plenty of hiding spots.
Can blue rams live alone? Yes, if you have an overly aggressive individual that doesn’t play well with others, he may be happier by himself as the leader of a community aquarium without any fellow dwarf cichlids.
Are rams peaceful fish? Like many cichlids, blue rams can be a bit feisty if the fish tank is too small or they are tending their eggs. However, they are relatively peaceful and are often kept in a community aquarium with other similar-sized fish that enjoy the same water parameters.
Ram can live in community tanks, provided that they can tolerate higher temperatures and aren’t eaten.
Can blue rams live with tank mates? Yes, they can live with almost any community fish that can tolerate the same high temperatures, such as tetras, Sterbai cory catfish, plecos, discus, angelfish, and other dwarf cichlids. Just don’t put them with super-fast eaters that will outcompete them for food or larger fish (like oscars) that may consider them as food.
What are Blue Ram Cichlids able to eat?
We have found that these cichlids don’t seem to be fussy. You can give them any dry food you find at the pet shop, such as freeze-dried tubifex, freeze-dried sinking pellets, and freeze dried bloodworms. They love frozen food, including brine shrimps and cyclops as well as bloodworms and mysis shrimps for larger adults. You should give them many different foods so they can get the necessary nutrients and vitamins that they need. Dean likes to feed his rams twice a day, especially while they are growing, but once they reach adulthood, once a day is fine.
What Do German Blue Rams Need to Breed?
Chances are, even in a community aquarium, a male and a female will eventually spawn somewhere. This is usually in a protected corner. However, if you want to set up a specialized breeding tank, get a 10-gallon aquarium with a lid and background to help them feel safer. Dean prefers to use bare-bottom aquariums with no substrate. But, you can add gravel if needed. Get a gentle sponge filter (or a small hang-on-back filter with a pre-filter sponge to prevent fry from begin sucked up), as well as an adjustable aquarium heater. In the corners of the tank, place various spawning sites, such as flat river stones or tiny terracotta pots and saucers. To provide cover for the rams, place a large clump or java vine on the wood. This will allow the infusoria to grow on the wood.
Ram cichlids breed very easily, but their eggs may get eaten by other fish and invertebrates if kept in a community tank.
Get the adults ready for breeding by feeding them high-quality foods, as well as some live baby brine shrimp every day. Dean believes that the parents will be more likely to care for the fry if there is a lot of fry food in their water. New parents may eat the first two or three spawns they lay, so if you want to save the eggs, place them in a specimen container with a few drops of methylene blue to prevent fungus growth. Once they hatch in 3 to 5 days, do a 50% water change every day to gradually remove the medication, and feed them infusoria several times a day as their first foods. If the parents can take care of the fry themselves, then your job is a lot easier. Start feeding the fry live baby brine shrimp and powdered fry foods like Hikari First Bites, and the parents will guide their babies to where the food is.
Want to learn more about another type of dwarf cichlid that is easy to breed? Check out our complete care guide on Apistogrammas.