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German Blue Ram Care And Diet


German Blue Ram (Mikrogeophagus ramirezi)

It's no secret that GBRs are one of our favorite fish! This peaceful, dwarf cichlid has both personality and looks to spare--it's no wonder we love them!
  • Lifespan: 2-3 years (tank bred rams seem to have a shorter lifespan than wild caught--possibly due to over breeding, etc., so a 2 year figure, is probably more realistic)
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Size: Just under 2 3/4 inches (female will be significantly smaller)
  • Native Habitat: Slow moving, very soft, acidic, waters of the Orinoco River Basin, Colombia and Venezuela
  • Hangs Out: Will swim all over, but seems to prefer the lower regions of the tank.
  • Diet: Omnivore
  • Care level: Difficult
Water Conditions
  • Temperature: 79-84 degrees
  • pH 5.0-7.0
  • KH 5-12
Tank Layout
Let's get the mundane out of the way....a fully cylcled tank with a lid is a must (as are pristine water conditions). Small, frequent, water changes of 10-15% are better than large volume, infrequent, changes. The flow in the tank need not be very strong--a gentle current works well. As far as planting goes, try to plant in groups, leaving open spaces for swimming. If you plan to breed your rams, you'll need to provide them with flat rocks or some sort of cave where they can lay their eggs. We have both caves and rocks, but ours always opt for a cave. There are special cichlid stones that you can buy, or you can use terra cotta pots, but if you want a more natural look, then lace rock might be your best bet. It's loaded with all sorts of nooks and crannies that appeal to rams.

Posted Image
Ram guarding eggs in cave

Tankmates
Based on personal experience, we feel that rams benefit from having other fish in the tank. We initially tried pygmy cories, but it sort of seemed like the cories annoyed the rams on some level. The rams weren't aggressive, they were just not amused (probably because they occupy some of the same spaces). Next, we added a small school of kubotai rasbora, and for whatever reason, the rams like them a lot (even schooling/hanging out at times with the rasbora). Rams and discus are practically synonymous; we have never tried this combination, but our local fish store always houses them together and it would appear that it works out quite well. Besides micro rasboras and discus, other options might include small tetras. Just remember--rams like fairly warm water, so be sure their tankmates do as well and unless you have a VERY large tank, do not house multiple males together. Male GBRs are extremely territorial and aggressive towards one another, so it is best to have a mated pair or a solitary ram. Speaking of mated pairs....just before laying their eggs, both the male and the female become quite feisty. If we stick our hands in the tank and they're about to lay eggs, then without fail, they will literally bite the hand that feeds them. They are very determined and want us out of the tank. For some odd reason, the naughty behavior has not been inflicted on any of their tankmates.

Diet
Feeding our rams, has never been an issue and right from the get-go, they accepted everything we gave them. In the morning they receive sinking pellets, made especially for cichlids, and in the evening, they get some sort of live (blackworms, baby brine shrimp and mosquito larva) or frozen (tubifex, rotifers, cyclops, daphnia, brine shrimp) food. Some rams will go to the top to eat, while others will not, it depends on the fish, and why we recommend using small (1mm size) sinking pellets, as opposed to floating food. They're very methodical munchers and it can take them forever to eat--they just sort of snick at things. If you have them in a community tank, double check to make sure that they're getting their fair share. You can also feed them foods such as Repashy, algae wafers, and fresh veggies. We prefer to use Repashy Gel over wafers because it stays together longer and doesn't break up in the tank, plus, the fish seem to like it better.

Posted Image
Male ram at the top of photo, female ram is at the bottom.

Other
We labeled these a difficult fish for several reasons. Besides the need for pristine water conditions, they have a couple of other idiosyncrasies that need to be addressed. If you do any sort of research on rams, you'll read time and time again, how around the 2-3 month mark, they just up and die for no apparent reason. This happens to advanced, as well as beginning, aquarium keepers. The reasons are unknown, but it occurs often enough for there to be quite a bit of chatter about the phenomenon. In fact, when we first brought ours home there was some question as to whether or not they would survive. Shipping obviously had not agreed with them, and they were stressed to the max. What finally did the trick was turning off the tank lights for a couple of days. Since there are aquariums on either side of the rams they had plenty of light to eat and get around, yet it was very subdued (more so than just floating plants). We knew they'd turned a corner when on the third day, they came out to greet us. Since then, they have been very easy to care for.

Sexing rams is another issue. Not sure if the lines have become blurred with the tank bred fish, hybridization, or what, but they are much harder to sex (especially when young) than wild caught. Males are larger and have an elongated top fin. Their bottom fins are normally devoid of any black, but I have seen males that have black on their fins. The black patches on the side of the female will have distinct, blue dots. The easiest way for me to tell them apart is the pink patch on the lower portion of the females sides. Observing them in the tank at the store is helpful as well--oftentimes, you will see a couple that have already paired off. Of course you can also ask advice from your local fish store--they will be more than happy to help you.

Some other common names for GBRs, include butterfly cichlids, blue ram, Ramirez's dwarf cichlid, and golden ram.

There is a long finned variety of the German Blue Ram.

As previously mentioned, these fish are personality plus! Ours like to "huff" CO2 bubbles on a regular basis and we have the video to prove it. We sure hope this is not detrimental to their health, but so far they have shown no ill side effects. Although, all the bubbles clinging to their mouths make it look like they have a disease. If you're willing to put the time and effort into their care, they will reward you tenfold with their antics.



Sorry to have to do this, but because of the plethora of spammers, it has been decided to disallow comments on any of the fish articles, product reviews, etc. Should you have a question or comment about anything posted on Aquarium Speed, please go to the forums section and ask your question or make your comment there. Thanks!


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