Ram Cichlid: Diet | Breeding | Sexing | Lifespan | Care Guide

The amazing family of cichlids commonly known as dwarf cichlids contains a huge variety of fish none more beautiful than the Ram Cichlid.

A relative of the Bolivian ram (Mikrogeophagus altispinosus) which isn’t as brightly colored as the Blue Ram or the stunning Electric Blue Ram but still a lovely dwarf cichlid. 

Different morphs of this species has given aquarists a wide variety of colors to choose from, if you can understand the different common names they all have and order or buy the right one. Here are just a few names these fish go by, blue ram, German blue ram, Asian ram, butterfly cichlid, Ramirezi, dwarf butterfly cichlid and the Ramirez’s dwarf cichlid.

Confusing I know, but usually most people go for either the Blue Ram Cichlid, the Electric Blue Cichlid or the Bolivian Ram. They are all from the same family but have slightly different body shapes and colors. All make for great aquarium fish.

The Ram Cichlid is significantly less aggressive than other cichlids and can live peacefully in a community aquarium despite their bulldog appearance. However, don’t be totally fooled, pairs will defend their home with force if needed and they can stand up to even the largest fish in your aquarium.

Ram Cichlid: Species Profile

Common NamesRam cichlid, butterfly cichlid, German ram
Now Captive-Bred
ColorsElectric Blue, Orange, Red, Yellow
Care Level
Water Conditions
73-81° F, KH 5-12, pH 5.0-7.5
Max Size 3” in Captivity
Good first cichlid?Yes
Easy to breed?Yes
Best foodCichlid Color enhancing flakes and live food once a week
Aquarium DecorPlenty of caves, rocks and plants
Lifespan3-4 years
Tank size20 Gallons+

Now that we have you interested in these wonderful dwarf cichlids, let’s take a look a what you will need to know if you’re going to buy and take care of a Ram Cichlid.

Like most cichlids kept in numbers in a home aquarium, you’ll find that they start to place an order of hierarchy within the tank. If you have several of the same species the males will start to form an authority with one being the most dominant and will act as the group leader. The more dominant fish will show brighter colors and display his authority to others. 

However, even the less dominant fish still show amazing colors if provided with the correct foods and water conditions. Both of these areas we will cover in more detail later within this article.

female ram cichlid

Wher do Ram Cichlids Come From?

The ram cichlid (Mikrogeophagus ramirezi) is a species of Dwarf Cichlid native to the Orinoco River basin, in the savannahs of Venezuela and Colombia in South America.

These species of dwarf cichlid can be found in slow-moving waters in rivers, hiding in and around the vegetation where they feel most at home. With a large amount of vegetation and wood in these rivers, it’s no wonder these fish like softer acidic waters with a slightly higher temperature range of around 75-82F.

Originally captured and imported by George S. Myers and R. R. Harry (1948) these fish soon became a sort-after aquarium fish thanks to their personality, color, and hardiness.

Wild caught German Rams are notorious for not traveling well and often arrive in poor health. Thanks to an extensive breeding program you can now buy hardier captive Rams that will adapt to aquarium life easier.A

Ram Cichlid Appearance

The Ram Cichlid is a small dwarf cichlid with an oval body and short but strong appearance. These colorful fish have large high fins in comparison to their bodies. 

The male of the species has the biggest dorsal fin and the males are the larger fish reaching 5.5cm in length in a home aquarium. In the wild, these fish have been known to reach 7.5-8cm in length. It’s safe to say most people who buy and keep these fish do so for their amazing colors and appearance.

For a complete guide to Ram Cichlid size and growth rates, Click here!

Their eyes are bright red with a black band running through them. Their yellow bodies are covered in bright blue spots and black contrasting markings and flashes of gold. For such a small cichlid they have amazing patterns and markings which can be clearly seen, especially when you have a breeding pair. Their pelvic fins are mainly red and blue.

The Electric Blue variety is one of my personal favorites and under the correct lighting standout like no other freshwater fish on the market today.

The appearance of the Ram Cichlid is misleading as they look like an aggressive and boisterous fish that will bully your aquarium. This could not be further from the truth and their common name: Butterfly Cichlid is a better description of this peaceful fish.

How to sex Ram Cichlids

These fish are often said to be difficult to sex however, I have never found this. The females clearly display a red patch around their belly area and the males do not.

german ram cichlid

What size tank do Ram Cichlids Need?

These fish will require a 20 Gallon plus aquarium, depending on the number of fish you intend to keep. They prefer a gentle flow and with clean nitrate free water.

Quality, clean water and correct diet are the two main factors for raising healthy ram cichlids. Perform regular water change and install a good quality external canister filter and you’ll have no issues raising these fish.

If you want to provide them with the best water conditions then using R/O water (reverse osmosis) is advisable but not essential. RO-DI units can easily be purchased from Amazon and connect to most home faucets without the need for plumbing.

If you want to re-create a natural environment for them, you’ll need to have a fine substrate, plenty of plants and bogwood and lots of caves and rocks for them to hide in when they feel threatened or to use when breeding. I always gave mine an upturned ceramic flowerpot with a hole made in the side for them to live and breed inside. It’s a cheap and effective way to provide them with a safe area to live in.

Ram Cichlids and Dwarf Cichlids, in general, are very sensitive to chemicals and changes to their environment. They are also subject to fish tuberculosis (piscine). If water quality is ignored, as with all fish, sickness, disease, and death can and will be inevitable.

Ram Cichlids do not like bright light, however, you will need them to help grow your aquarium plants. We use LED lights in all our home aquarium setups. You can use floating plants to provide suitable shading without reducing the essential light spectrum your plants will need to grow and thrive.

Be careful what type of substrate you use as some can cause the pH to increase. Don’t ever use saltwater substrate like coral sand as this will have a dramatic affect on your aquarium water pH. We use driftwood/Bogwood to help provide a natural looking environment but also use it to maintain a good pH level from the natural elements that come from the wood. We buy ours online from Amazon because they offer fast delivery and great prices. I have included their link above to make it easier for you to see their prices.

Ensure the wood is washed well and soaked in warm water before adding to your aquarium for two reasons. Number one to help the wood sink otherwise it will float to the top and secondly to stop it turning your water brown.

What do Ram Cichlids eat?

Ram Cichlids are Omnivores and in the wild will eat a large variety of plant material and small organisms. In the home aquarium, you will need to provide them with the best possible diet. As responsible aquarists, we have a duty of care to provide them with a variety of quality fish food. How would you like to eat one type of food for the rest of your life?

We have always fed ours with Dried Flake food mixed in with live foods like Blood worms, Brine Shrimp, tubifex, and Daphnia. You can also feed them very finely chopped Earthworms as a treat. Just ensure they are washed really well to prevent any cross-contamination from the soil or garden chemicals.

We also like to feed our smaller rams with Cichlid Pellets ( Read our review ) which have been designed especially for these fish to provide them with all the nutrients they need without overdoing it with protein, which can be harmful in large quantities.

Our complete Ram Cichlid feeding guide has all the information you need to provide your rams with the best possible diet.

Are Ram Cichlids easy to breed?

To breed Ram Cichlids we advise feeding them a rich diet of live foods for a couple of weeks and then raising the water temperature to around 82-83F which will encourage them to start mating.

  ( Cichlid Fry Powder )

On average Rams with produce 200 amber colored eggs usually on a flat surface, on a rock or in the plant pot you have provided.

These fish are monogamous, and both parents will take equal turns taking care of the eggs until hatched. The eggs will take around 4-5 days to hatch and will be constantly guarded and fanned by both parents.

After the fry have hatched, they will be carefully watched over for around two weeks before the parents start to lose interest and leave the vulnerable fry alone and prone to attack to being eaten by others, including their parents sometimes.

You have two options at this point to ensure the safety of the newly hatched fry. You can remove the parents and other fish from the aquarium or remove the fry into a smaller hatching tank where they can be raised safely and fed on Cichlid Fry Powder or Hikari First Bite fish food which we highly recommend until they are big enough to feed on other foods.

Ensure any uneaten food is removed quickly to prevent any food rotting and increasing the nitrate levels within the aquarium water. We recommend you monitor the levels in the fry raising-tank regularly to ensure they have optimum water conditions to get them through the first few months, which I are the most critical for their survival.

Common Cichlid Diseases Ram Cichlid Might Get

As with all cichlids they are prone to various diseases especially when stressed or bullied. This can manifest in the form of Ick, parasitic infestations (protozoa, worms, etc.), fungal infections, and bacterial infections.

Most of these diseases can be treated successfully if you act fast. Knowing how to treat them before they start to show a downward turn in health will help you catch the issue early. Read up on the most common tropical fish disease before you get caught out.

Wild caught species don’t travel very well and often show signs of illness on arrival into your local pet store or aquatic shop. If you have ordered some wild caught rams we suggest that you wait a few days to collect them and ask to see the fish feeding before you agree to buy them.

If you see any reduced activity in their behavior or lack of interest in eating, we suggest you give them more time before bagging them up and subject them to more stress, as this will surely lead to death.

Captive-bred specimens are much more hardy and will travel better and adapt quickly to their new environment.

Can Ram cichlids be kept together?

Are these fish suitable for a community aquarium? This is a question we get asked all the time and the answer is simple. YES.

They look more fierce than they really are. Don’t get me wrong, if their territory or young fry are invaded they will retaliate with force and they pack a big punch for such a small fish.

However, force is the last resort for these fish. They will get along with even the most peaceful fish in a community aquarium like Guppies, Neon Tetras, Rainbow Sharks, Loach, Plecostomus, Siamese Algae Eater and the Dwarf Gourami.

 The only time they become aggressive is when guarding their fry. 

You can keep these fish singly or in pairs. We would only suggest multiple males if you have a larger aquarium with plenty of rocks and hiding places in case of fights erupting.

The ultimate decoration is the Cichlid Cave we have pictured. It’s perfect for smaller cichlids like rams. The best price we found was from Amazon.

Larger aggressive cichlids should be avoided as they will pick on smaller, dwarf cichlids but other dwarfs are fine like one of my favorites the Electric Blue Cichlid.

There are many types of ram cichlids but all come from the same cichlidae family. There are long fin varieties and short fin type and many colors to choise from. All are perfectly suited to the home aquarium. For more information on the different types of cichlids read our article Ram Cichlid Types.

Conclusion: Complete Ram Cichlid Care Guide

In conclusion, I would only have to say if you’ve never kept one of these fish and been put off by the name Cichlid and thinking they will grow huge and fight all the time then rest assured you’re wrong.

They make for wonderful community aquarium fish and will definitely be one of the most interesting and colorful fish to house in your fish tank.

Should you buy a Ram Cichlid?… YES.  Should you wait?… No.

Go out and at least take a look at these fish in your local store. You won’t be disappointed at all. Please let us know if you already own some and how you find them or if you’re thinking about buying some. We’d love to hear from you. 

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