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. A healthy ram can display almost every color of the rainbow when it is in good 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 are blue rams from? Ram cichlids actually come 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 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. The ram cichlid is also available in black, but it’s still difficult to find.
This golden balloon ram was carefully bred to have a bright yellow color and a 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 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. 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. A ram that is too thin, or with a hollow stomach, should not be purchased. These rams are very susceptible to illness and rarely recover. So make sure you choose the most healthy specimens. Dean suggests choosing a vibrant male with nice pectoral and extended dorsal feathers if you’re looking to breed. You have a better chance of success breeding if you can find the female with whom he has been paired. 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?
Blue ram husbandry is a crucial part of any beginner’s hobby. They should be kept at high temperatures (ideally between 84-86degF and 29-30degC). 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.
Good water quality is also essential. 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. To soften hard tap water, you can dilute it with RODI (reverse-osmosis deionized) water.
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 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 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 also love frozen foods, such as brine shrimp, cyclops, bloodworms, and mysis shrimp 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 prefers to feed his rams two times a day while they are young, but once they become adults, it is okay to give them one time 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. In the corners of the tank, place various spawning sites, such as flat river stones or tiny terracotta pots and saucers. 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.
High-quality food is a good way to get adults ready to breed. You can also feed them live baby brine shrimp daily. 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. 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. You can find our complete care guide to Apistogrammas here.