The Bolivian Ram Mikrogeophagus altispinosus (previouslyPaplilochromis altispinosus) is a very beautiful, small, and peaceful cichlid. This is a dwarf cichlid, only reaching up to about 3 1/2 inches (8.9 cm) in length. It has a delicate elongated oval shape adorned with long pointed fins and tail. Adult males have longer filaments off the tail fin as well.
The body color is solid overall, ranging from a light brown to a grayish blue with orange or red on the lower fins and edging the dorsal and tail fin. Often they are accented with a yellowish front half, a black spot in the center and a black crescent running through the eye. The subtle yet pretty coloring along with its long fluttery finnage has led to some other descriptive common names including the Bolivian Butterfly Cichlid, Butterfly Ram, Ruby Cichlid, Red Cichlid, and Ruby Clown Cichlid.
The Bolivian Ram is one of the easiest of the dwarf cichlids to care for and can be a good choice for a community aquarium. They are just slightly more aggressive than their popular Venezuelan cousin, the Ram Cichlid, but are not at all aggressive by cichlid standards. This dwarf cichlid is 'more bark than bite'. In addition, like other cichlids, they have a friendly and intelligent manner. They are smart enough to recognize one person as their owner and will begin to beg for food everytime you walk by!
These fish will not do well in an aggressive tank but will get along well with other non-cichlid fish and other peaceful dwarf cichlids.They can be kept in a community tank with fish of a similar temperament. They are easier to keep and breed than the Ram Cichlid and many other dwarf cichlids and are also inexpensive and commonly available.
Provide an environment with rocks, driftwood, and flowerpots for hiding to make them feel comfortable. They will also enjoy several dense plant clusters, but leave some open space for swimming. They can be easy to care for if water changes are performed frequently. If water quality is ignored, as with all cichlids, disease and death can occur. Just a little dedication will reap pleasurable results from this little fish.
The Bolivian Ram is a small colorful fish with an elongated oval shaped body and pointed fins and tail. Mature males have a more pointed dorsal fin and longer filaments on the tail fin than the females. The males are also larger, growing to about 3 1/2 inches (8.9 cm) in length while females only reach about 2 1/2 inches (6 cm). They have a lifespan of about 4 years.
The body has an overall solid color that ranges from a dull brown to a grayish blue. They can be yellow on the front half and have a whitish yellow belly. They may have a black spot in the middle of their body below the middle area of the dorsal fin, and may or may not have a crescent vertical black line that runs through their eyes (their eyes are not red like the Ram Cichlid). The tips of the dorsal fin and the edges of the tail fin are orange, and the anal and pectoral fins are orange as well.
All cichlids, along with some saltwater fish such as wrasses and parrotfish, share a common trait of a well-developed pharyngeal set of teeth located in the throat, along with their regular teeth. Cichlids have spiny rays in the back parts of the anal, dorsal, pectoral, and pelvic fins to help discourage predators. The front part of these fins are soft and perfect for precise positions and effortless movements in the water as opposed to fast swimming.
Cichlids have one nostril on each side while other fish have 2 sets. To sense "smells" in the water, they suck water in and expel the water right back out after being "sampled" for a short or longer time, depending on how much the cichlid needs to "smell" the water. This feature is shared by saltwater damselfish and cichlids are thought to be closely related.
Minimum tank size should be at least 20 gallons. They prefer slow to moderate moving water along with good efficient filtration. A mature tank with a pH of acidic to neutral water is best. Keep track of nitrate levels and maintain consistent oxygen levels for best color and health. The aquarium should have a cover and low to moderate lighting.
Provide a substrate of fine sand with some granite pebbles mixed in and strewn across the top of the sand. An environment with rocks, driftwood, and flowerpots for hiding is appreciated. They also enjoy dense groupings of plants with open space inbetween for swimming . Some good aquatic plants include Java Fern, Rosette plants like the Amazon Sword, Vallisneria, and Anubias Nana, as well as stem plants like Wisteria, and other acid tolerate plants.
The Bolivian Ram prefers to breed in subdued and mellow light, so providing some floating plants to help diffuse lighting will encourage them to spawn. Granite pebbles or plants with wide leaves are good for spawning too. Java Moss is also great as it contains micro organisms such as Infusoria to provide a good beginning food for the fry.
When using substrate or rocks, be sure they do not leach into the water and affect the pH. Substrates such as limestone can increase the pH level. You would not use sand that is for marine tanks, but some have suggested pool filter sand. Driftwood is a big help in keeping pH low and contributes to the "tea stained" coloring of the Amazon River. Using Java Moss helps with keeping the pH down too.
The Bolivian Ram is a rewarding specimen for the aquarist. They can be easy to care for if water changes are performed frequently to keep the nitrate levels low.
Males are slimmer and less stocky than females. Males have a more pointed dorsal fin and longer filaments on their lyre-shaped tail fin than the females. Unlike the Ram Cichlid, females do not have a pink belly.
The Bolivian Rams are open spawners that will form a family group and lay up to 200 eggs in the wild. In the aquarium, starting out with about 6 juveniles and allowing a pair to bond, then isolating that pair in their own tank is your best bet. If your fish are in a community tank it will be necessary to grow out the fry in their own tank so they don't get eaten.
The female will appreciate smooth pebbles or wide leaves on which to spawn, a temperature of 77 - 82.4° F (25 - 28° C), and low light. The bonded pair will spend a lot of time cleaning the top of pebbles before they spawn. The female will pass over the spawning site several times, laying eggs each time while the male stands guard. The female will lay 75 to 100 gray oval eggs. Then the male will pass over them several times to externally fertilize them. The female will fan the eggs with the male guarding the area. The male will fan the eggs at times too, though the female does most of the work.
Within about 60 hours the eggs will hatch. The parents will move the "wigglers" to a pit in a different area of the tank. In about 7 more days the fry will be free swimming. The parents will continue to move the fry by mouth to several locations for the next few weeks. Do water changes of 30% daily in the fry tank as they are very sensitive to nitrates. Do not crowd the fry as they will not grow out as much if there are too many in one tank.