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 a German Blue Ram?
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 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. 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. Avoid a ram with a thin belly, or any other signs of illness. These rams are very susceptible to illness and rarely recover. So make sure you choose the most healthy specimens. 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. 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?
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. They need partial water changes every other week. It can cause illness and even death if the water quality is allowed to drop. 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. 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?
In our experience, these cichlids are not very picky, so you can feed them just about any dry food from the pet store, like sinking pellets, freeze-dried bloodworms, and freeze-dried tubifex worms. They also love frozen foods, such as brine shrimp, cyclops, bloodworms, and mysis shrimp for larger adults. 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. Place spawning materials such as small terracotta pots or flat river stones in the corners of your tank. 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’s thought process behind this trick is that the abundance of fry food in the water signals to the parents that it’s a good time to spawn and then they are more likely to take care of the fry. 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. 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. 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.
Want to learn more about another type of dwarf cichlid that is easy to breed? Our complete care guide for Apistogrammas is available.