The Ram Cichlid Mikrogeophagus ramirezi (previously Paplilochromis ramirezi) is a beautiful, small, and peaceful cichlid. Though they were discovered over 30 years later than their cousin the Bolivian RamMikrogeophagus altispinosus, they have been imported more regularly and are currently better known. Though both the Bolivian Ram and the Ram Cichlid are dwarfs, the Ram actually only reaches about 2/3 the length of the Bolivian Ram. It will reach about 2 inches (5 cm) in length in the aquarium, though natural specimens can attain a length of about 2 3/4" (7 cm).
This delicate oval shape cichlid is adorned with long pointed fins and a bright, snappy color patterning. Its body coloring is yellow towards the front and blends into a whitish-blue moving back. It has a orangish red on the forehead and edging the yellowish fins, with females having a pinkish orange belly. It is accented with a curved black line running vertically down the head, right through the eye, and can have black blotching on the front of the dorsal fin. The "Golden Ram", a naturally occurring color morph, displays more yellow on its head, more white on the body, and orangish red coloring on the forehead and tips of the fins.
Note that these fish have spawned a large progeny of color forms and varieties bred between both wild caught specimens and captive bred fish. Some of the other common names and forms of this fish are the Butterfly Cichlid, Dwarf Cichlid, Ram, Ramirezi, Blue Ram, and Singapore Ram. Selective breeding has created a variety of color forms known as the Balloon Ram, German Blue Ram, German Ram, Electric Blue Ram Cichlid, Gold German Ram, Golden Ram, and Blue German Ram.
Unfortunately, excessive interbreeding of captive fish has often resulted in smaller fish with weaker color displays, along with malformed and damaged fry. Constantly reintroducing wild caught fish into the breeding pool can help keep the lines healthier. Also some females being bred in Asia are loaded up with hormones to make their color vivid. The results of this have been infertility and death within a few months. These fish are generally sold under the "German Blue Ram" label. To avoid these specimens, purchase from a reputable dealer, a local breeder, or obtain wild caught fish.
These dwarf cichlids are a little less aggressive then their Bolivian counterpart, but are a bit more difficult to keep and breed. Even so they give an aquarist the same joys as other dwarf cichlids. They are also inexpensive and much easier to acquire. 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. The only real challenge these fish present in terms of maintenance is consistently and diligently performing water changes. 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 Ram Cichlid is a very peaceful fish and is one of a select few cichlids that can be kept in a true community tank, including a tank with non-cichlids. This fish is 'more bark than bite' and will not do well in an aggressive tank. They make a good inhabitant for a community tank with fish of a similar temperament. They are personable with their owner too, and will quickly associate them with food, happily begging for more whenever you approach the tank.
The Ram Cichlid is a small colorful fish with an oval shaped body and pointed fins and tail. Mature males develop more pointed dorsal fins than females and also grow larger at about 2 inches (5 cm) in length in the aquarium, though they can attain a length of about 2 3/4" (7 cm) in nature. This fish can live up to about 4 years.
The body has a yellow area on the first third of the body starting at the nose, with the last two thirds being whitish blue to blue. There is a curved black line that runs vertically from the forehead, through the eye, and then down to the chin. There is a black spot in the middle of the body. The fins are a clearish yellow and can have a black blotch on the first few rays of the dorsal fin. The female has similar coloring, but also has a pinkish orange belly.
The naturally occuring color morph known as the "Golden Ram" has a yellow head and more white on the body. It also has orangish red coloring on the forehead and tips of the fins.
All cichlids, along with some saltwater fish such as wrasses and parrotfish, share a common feature 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.
The Ram Cichlid is an omnivore whose diet in the wild consists of plant material and small organisms. In the aquarium it can be fed a mix of meaty foods that are live or frozen; such as brine shrimp, blood worms, white worms, chopped earthworms, cyclopeeze, and artemia.
Some may eat flakes and pellets, but these should not be the staple of their diet. Feed 2 to 5 small pinches of food a day in smaller amounts instead of a large quantity once a day. This will keep the water quality higher over a longer time. All fish benefit from vitamins and supplements added to their foods.
It is recommended to keep these fish in a minimum of a 10 gallon tank. They prefer slow to moderate moving water along with good efficient filtration. R/O water (reverse osmosis) is preferable. A mature tank with a pH of acidic to neutral water is best. Keep track of nitrates. Also, oxygen levels must be maintained 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 and an environment with rocks, driftwood, and flowerpots for hiding is appreciated. They also enjoy several dense plant clusters but be sure to leave some open space for swimming. Some good aquatic plants include Java Fern, Rosette plants like the Amazon Sword, Vallisneria, stem plants like Wisteria, and other acidic tolerating plants work great.
The Ram Cichlid does not like to breed in bright lighting. Some floating plants will help to diffuse lighting if you are encouraging them to spawn, as will R/O water (reverse osmosis). Provide granite pebbles or plants with wide leaves. Java Moss is also great as it contains micro organisms such as Infusoria which provide a good beginning food for the fry.
When using substrate or rocks, be sure they do not leech 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.