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. A healthy ram can display almost every color of the rainbow when it is in good breeding condition. This article features Dean, a master breeder who shares his years of experience keeping, breeding, raising, and caring for this remarkable dwarf cichlid.
What is a German Blue Ram?
Mikrogeophagus ramirezi a South American dwarf cichlid is also known as ram cichlid or blue ram or German blue ram.
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. Although a black version of the Ram Cichlid was developed recently, it is still hard 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 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. 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. Local breeders are the best choice as the rams will be kept in water parameters similar to yours, which gives them a greater chance of flourishing.
How do you pick a healthy blue ram? 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. 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. 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.
Water quality is 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. As for water chemistry parameters, rams are fairly adaptable to a wide range of pH levels, but they do better in 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. For one of them to decide he wants to become tank boss, make sure there are plenty of hiding spots.
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?
These cichlids have not been shown to be picky. They will eat almost any dry food, including freeze-dried bloodworms, sinking pellets and tubifex worms. 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 likes to feed his rams twice a day, especially while they are growing, but once they reach adulthood, once a day is fine.
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. To provide cover for the rams, place a large clump or java vine on the wood. This will allow the infusoria to grow on the wood.
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’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. You may find that the parents eat the first two to three eggs they have laid. If you wish to preserve the eggs, add a few drops to methyleneblue to a small container to protect them from 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. You can feed the fry fry baby brine shrimps or powdered fry foods, such as Hikari first bites. The parents will then direct the babies to the correct place.
Want to learn more about another type of dwarf cichlid that is easy to breed? Our complete care guide for Apistogrammas is available.