Care Guide for German Blue Rams – 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. When you see a healthy ram in breeding condition, almost every hue of the rainbow is displayed. We interviewed Dean, a master breeder, to discuss his many years of experience with dwarf cichlid keeping, breeding and raising them.
What are German Blue Rams?
Mikrogeophagus ramirezi, a South American dwarf cichlid goes by many names including ram cichlid (or blue ram), German blue ram (or butterfly cichlid), and Ramirez’s dwarf cichlid.
Where did blue rams get their name? Ram Cichlids are from the Orinoco River basin, 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 are the different types of ram cichlids? In terms of body shape, there are regular, long fin, and balloon rams on the market. There are three most popular color choices: the electric blue, golden, and German blue rams. A black version of the ram cichlid has been developed recently but is still difficult to find.
This gold balloon ram is bred selectively for its bright yellow color, and shorter body.
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 they receive high-quality foods, clean water, and the right temperature (see below), they can survive for as long as 4 years.
Where can I buy German Blue Rams in Germany?
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. The cichlids may seem to have brighter colors or longer fins, but be careful because overseas farms sometimes use hormones that will artificially boost their appearance but also negatively impact their longevity. 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. A local breeder is the best option as they will keep your rams in similar water conditions and have a better chance of them thriving.
How do you select a healthy blueram? 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. If a ram is suffering from these symptoms, it will rarely recover. Therefore, you should choose the best rams. Dean suggests that you choose a male with long dorsal fins, nice pectoral fins, and a bright color. A higher chance of successful breeding is if the male can be found with his paired female. The small, brightly colored dots that are visible inside the large, black spot on their bodies can help identify females. Males have no spangling around their black spot.
The female on the right has spangling inside of her black spot, whereas the male on the left does not.
How Do You Set Up a Ram Cichlid Aquarium?
Most beginners aren’t aware that the most critical component of their husbandry involves keeping blue rams at high temperatures, ideally between 84-86degF (29-30degC). If you want to add live aquarium plants to their tank, make sure they can tolerate the hot water. Rams like to dig so choose plants such as Java Fern and Mosses that don’t require substrate and can be attached with rocks and driftwood.
Water quality is essential. They need partial water changes every other week. Allowing the water quality to dip can lead to illness and potentially death. The water chemistry parameters are quite adaptable for rams to a wide range pH levels. However, they perform better in soft water and 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. Give the rams several places to hide from each other in case one decides he wants to be the tank boss.
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 Cichlids can be kept in community tanks provided they can tolerate higher temperatures without being 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 do Blue Ram Cichlids 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. Give them a wide variety of foods to ensure they get all the essential nutrients and vitamins they need to stay healthy. Dean feeds his rams twice daily, particularly while they’re growing. But once they reach adulthood, they can be fed once per day.
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. Place spawning materials such as small terracotta pots or flat river stones in the corners of your tank. Add a large clump of java moss or java fern on wood to provide cover for the rams and to grow infusoria that the fry can feed on.
Ram cichlids breed very easily, but their eggs may get eaten by other fish and invertebrates if kept in a community tank.
You can get the adults ready to breed by giving them high-quality food and some live baby brine shrimp each 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. You may find that the parents eat the first two to three eggs they have laid. If you wish to preserve the eggs, add a few drops to methyleneblue to a small container to protect them from 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. Your job will be easier if you can help the parents care for the fry. The parents can start feeding fry live baby brine shrimps and powdered fry foods such as Hikari First Bite to their children. This will help them guide them to the right food.
You might be interested in learning more about dwarf cichlids that are easy to breed. Check out our complete care guide on Apistogrammas.