Practical Information About Keeping, Breeding and Buying Dwarf Cichlids

Fish Profiles & Photos
South American  
    sp. "Abacaxis"
    sp. "Putumayo"
    sp. "Steel Blue"

West African 

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Mikrogeophagus ramirezi

Microgeophagus ramirezi female and male Blue RamBlue Ram female German Ram    Blue Rams, Microgeophagus ramirezi, are often difficult to sex. I find the best method is to examine the dark spot on the side of the fish. On males (top fish) the spot is solid black. Females (lower fish) will have one or many iridescent scales scattered on the dark spot.
    The Blue Ram, Mikrogeophagus ramirezi, is one of the best know and most popular of all cichlids. It has a host of common names including; the Butterfly Cichlid, the Ram Cichlid, Blue Ram, German Blue Ram and Gold Ram. Although they are rarely referred to as Butterfly Cichlids any more, most of the other names are commonly used. The Gold Ram is a true-breeding color strain that has been in the hobby for many years. Although they are very different in color they are exactly the same fish and easily cross breed with Blue Rams. In 2009 a new color form was introduced to the hobby and the "Electric Blue Ram" is now found in many pet stores.
German Blue Rams?
    In most of the United States the name German Blue Ram has become the standard label to apply to any of the farm raised Rams that are commonly available. Typically, these fish are stouter and more robust than wild fish. They are often spectacularly colored but, of course, so are wild Rams!
    While some of these fish are raised in hatcheries in Europe, most of them are raised on fish farms in Asia. Here they are mass produced for export and are found in the tanks of many shops and hobbyists.

    Ram cichlids were first introduced to the hobby in 1947 and were described as Apistogramma ramirezi by Meyers and Harry in 1948. Although it was described as an Apistogramma it quickly became obvious rams were very different from the fish of that genus. In 1958 the name Microgeophagus was first suggested but the use of this name was never widely adopted. In 1960 Wickler suggested using "Apistogramma" in quotes in recognition of its uncertain status. Unfortunately, this suggestion was not followed and the name Pseudogeophagus was suggested in 1969 followed by Pseudoapistogramma in 1971. In 1977 the Swedish ichthyologist Dr. Sven Kullander weighed in with a complete redefinition of the genus and established the name Papiliochromis. Most considered that the Ram name game was decided and Papiliochromis was briefly
accepted universally. However, in 1982, the debate began anew as several authors advocated for the adoption of Mikrogeophagus and in 1998 Kullander began to use the name Mikrogeophagus. All of this means that there is now a general agreement that Mikrogeophagus is the correct genus name, however, there is still confusion as to the exact spelling of the name and it is very common to have the name spelled Microgeophagus.

Neon Blue Ram cichlid Electric blue
Electric Blue Rams

Electric Blue Ram cichlid
    The new brilliantly blue color form of the Blue Ram, Mikrogeophagus ramirezi appeared on the market in late spring 2009 and there have been large quantities available for import from Asia and Germany. It is most likely that this colorful form is the result of careful breeding. Perhaps it began as a "sport" that appeared in a spawn and has been bred to be a pure color. The other possibility is that they were produced by careful cross breeding of the most colorful fish. Opinions vary widely about this fish as some people love them and others think they look totally artificial. I believe that you just need to make yup your own mind about these fish. They have been marketed under a number of common names including Electric Blue Ram and Neon Blue Rams. Some people have r reported having difficulty in finding females and speculate this is intentional to make breeding more difficult. However, others report fairly even sex rations. All agree that they are tougher to sex than standard Rams. Breeding is exactly the same as for other color forms (see below) but so far I have not found any accounts of successful parent rearing of this strain. This is not surprising as many fish that are artificially reared for many generations lose some of their instinct to parent. I expect that this color strain will become a common fish in the hobby and, although they are initially commanding a premium price, I expect that in the future they will be priced similar to the other forms.

Gold Ram male with fry
click photo to enlarge
    This Gold Ram male attentively guards his day old fry. Gold Rams are a color morph that can be found at times in fish shops. They are brilliantly colored and really brighten up a tank.
    Whatever common or scientific name you use for Rams they are stunning fish. They are brilliantly colored gems that glisten and sparkle as light hits them. Since they were first introduced, Blur Rams have been a staple of the hobby and remain one of the most highly sought and widely kept dwarf cichlids. In many respects they are a perfect first dwarf cichlid. They remain small with an adult size of no more than 2 inches. They are not picky eaters and are not too aggressive. They can be easily spawned but successfully raising the fry can be a problem. Rams do best in soft acid water but most of the fish sold today are farm raised and are adaptable to a wide range of water conditions. Rams do require water temperatures that are higher than the ideal for many other fish and are best maintained at temps of at least 80 degrees F.
    Ram cichlids are found in the savanna areas of the central and lower Orinoco River in Venezuela as well as similar areas in Columbia. These savanna areas, or Llanos, are not at all the type of rain forest habitat that Apistogrammas are typically found in. This area is a vast dry plain that is used primarily for cattle ranching. Spread throughout the dry grasslands are a number of natural and man made ponds where the Rams are found. These pools are often very shallow and exposed to the direct sun in sweltering hot conditions. Consequently the waters may get very warm and collectors have discussed catching fish in water as warm as 88 degrees F and it is generally assumed that they inhabit waters much warmer at times. In their native habitats the waters are very soft with low pH. Most describe pH values between 5 and 6.5 but there accounts as low as 4.6 and as high as 7.3.

    Rams are omnivores, eating both vegetable and animal foods. They take any sort of small live food and will eat most prepared foods with few problems. When kept over a sand substrate they spend hours sifting the sand through their gills filtering out any food bits they find. Follow the general directions provided in our Good Habitat
and Good Food sections and you won't go wrong. Although they are generally peaceful to other fishes, Rams can be very aggressive to others of their species. Parental Rams, like most cichlids, are fierce protectors of their fry and will often bully fishes much larger than themselves.

    Breeding Blue Rams is often rather difficult. We have prepared another page that deals specifically with


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