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. You can see almost every hue in a healthy ram when it is in breeding condition. We interviewed Dean, a master breeder, to discuss his many years of experience with dwarf cichlid keeping, breeding and raising them.
What is the 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 types of ram cichlids are there? There are three basic body shapes: regular, long fin and balloon. The most common color varieties include German blue rams, gold rams, and electric blue rams. Although a black version of the Ram Cichlid was developed recently, it is still hard 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 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. Although cichlids might appear to have longer fins or brighter colors, they can also be subject to hormones from overseas farms that may artificially enhance their appearance and 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. The best-case scenario is to purchase from a local breeder because the rams are kept in water parameters that are more similar to yours and thus have a higher chance of 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. Do not choose a skinny ram, especially if it has a hollow belly. If a ram is suffering from these symptoms, it will rarely recover. Therefore, you should choose the best rams. If you are looking for a pair to breed, Dean recommends choosing a colorful male with extended dorsal fins and nice pectoral fins. If you can find the female he is already paired with, you have a higher chance of successful breeding. You can easily identify females by their tiny, brightly-colored dots in the black spot at the side of the body. Males don’t have any spangling.
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?
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.
It is important to have good water quality. They need partial water changes every other week. The risk of illness and death can be caused by a low water quality. 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. If one of the rams decides to take over the tank, give him or her several hiding places.
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 live in community tanks as long as the other tank mates can tolerate higher temperatures and won’t eat them.
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. For larger adults, they love brine shrimps, cyclops and bloodworms. They also enjoy mysis shrimp. To ensure that they are getting all the nutrients and vitamins they need, you should offer them a variety of food. Dean feeds his rams twice daily, particularly while they’re growing. But once they reach adulthood, they can be fed once per day.
What is the best way for German Blue Rams 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. For cover and infusoria, add a large clump java moss/java fern to wood.
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. The first few spawns that they lay may be eaten by new parents. To prevent this, you can place the eggs in a container with a few drops methylene blue. After they hatch, give them a half-hour water change each day to slowly remove the medication. Then, feed them infusoria multiple times per day. 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.