Bolivian Ram Care: Complete Guide for Beginners

Diving into the world of Bolivian Rams? In this guide, you’ll get all the beginner-friendly details for successful Bolivian Ram care, from setup to feeding. It’s your one-stop resource for nurturing this unique and vibrant freshwater crew.

Bolivian Ram

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Bolivian Ram Species Profile and Identification

The Bolivian Ram, scientifically known as Mikrogeophagus altispinosus, is a vibrant freshwater fish, endemic to the upper Madeira river basin stretching across Bolivia and Brazil. Its various synonyms include Crenicara altispinosaMicrogeophagus altispinosus, and Papiliochromis altispinosus.

  • Size & Appearance: Adult Bolivian Rames reach a standard length of 70 – 80 mm (2.8 – 3.1 in). Sporting an array of colors, these fish often have a tinge of blue-green on their dark grey body, with touches of red or orange on their belly and fins.
  • Sex Differences: There’s slight sexual dimorphism where males grow larger and have more extended fins compared to females. The males are also more vibrant in color which is a tell-tale distingushing feature.
  • Geographic Distribution: This species is concentrated in the upper Rio Madeira basin in both Bolivia and Brazil. Specific records exist from the Río Mamoré and Río Guaporé drainages.
  • Habitat: Speculated to inhabit tributaries, marginal zones, oxbows, and lakes with substrates of sand or mud. Another interesting fact about its habitat is that the upper Madeira system where it resides boasts of a spectacular diversity of over 400 other freshwater fish species.

Studying these distinctive features and characteristics, you will find it relatively easy to identify these fascinating fish. Whether you’re a novice aquarist or a seasoned enthusiast, the Bolivian Ram is a great addition to your freshwater tank.

Bolivian Ram Supplies

To properly care for your Bolivian Ram, you need certain supplies to create an ideal tank environment. Essential supplies include a tank, a good filtration system, a heater, and a light.

Tank: Bolivian Rams require a good-sized area to live comfortably, and they thrive best in aquariums with a base measuring at least 90×45 cm (35×18 inches). Keep in mind that this measurement is for housing one or two Rams. If you plan to keep more, consider increasing the tank size proportionally.

Filtration System: A robust filter is crucial for maintaining water quality over time. The water flow should be 4-5 times the volume of your aquarium. So, for example, for a tank with a volume of 183 liters (48 gallons), look for a filter with a flow rate of 732-915 liters per hour (193-242 gallons per hour).

Heater: Bolivian Rams are tropical fish and prefer water temperatures of 24-28 °C (76-82 °F). A consistent and accurate heater is essential to maintain this temperature range.

Light: A light isn’t just for you to observe your fish, it also helps if you plan to include live plants in your aquarium. Bolivian Rams do not require intense lighting; moderate light levels are best.

Lastly, don’t forget to stock up on foods like bloodworm, Artemia, and Daphnia and additives to control the pH, hardness, and temperature of the water. Remember that good care begins with good setup.

Bolivian Ram Tank Setup

Let’s talk about setting up your tank for your Bolivian Ram. First and foremost, choose a tank that is spacious – minimum of 20 gallons (around 90 liters) for a pair.

  • Aim for a length over 31″ (around 80 cm) for the base, this gives your fish enough room to swim.
  • soft, sandy substrate is a must, this allows your fish to forage naturally.
  • Stay away from coarse options like gravel or small pebbles, these might disable eating, harm gill filaments, or even cause ingestion leading to internal problems.

You can decorate your tank using:

  • Wood roots and branches, but position these carefully to create lots of hiding spots and caves.
  • One or two flat rocks can serve as potential spawning sites.


  • Add aquatic plants; options include Microsorum, Taxiphyllum, Cryptocoryne, and Anubias since they can be attached to décor.

One last note, do not rush the filtration. Keep the water flow moderate and avoid big water changes. Stick to regular changes of 10-15%. With these steps, your tank should be well on its way to becoming an ideal setup for your Bolivian Ram.

Bolivian Ram Water Requirements

Keeping your Bolivian Ram healthy starts with providing the right water conditions. These fish prefer a temperature range of 75 – 82 degrees Fahrenheit (24 – 28 °C), which you can achieve with a quality heater.

Pay special attention to the water’s pH levels. Bolivian Rams need moderately acidic to slightly alkaline water, with a pH ranging from 6.0 to 7.5.

Your Bolivian Ram’s environment should also have a certain level of hardness. Opt for soft to moderately hard water, between 18 – 179 parts per million (ppm).

Also, maintain a regulated water flow in your tank. An appropriate filter is essential for achieving water flow 4-5 times the volume of your aquarium.

Finally, remember that large water changes can disrupt your fish’s environment. Instead, settle for regular water changes of just 10-15% to keep conditions pristine.

  • Temperature: 75 – 82°F (24 – 28 °C)
  • pH: 6.0 – 7.5
  • Hardness: 18 – 179 ppm
  • Water change: 10 – 15% regularly

Meeting these specific water needs will play a huge role in keeping your Bolivian Ram content and stress-free.

Bolivian Ram Diet and Feeding

By nature, Bolivian Rams are benthophagous, which means they sift through substrate to find food. In the aquarium, they should get a healthy mix of live and frozen fare such as bloodworm, Artemia, and Daphnia.

  • Good quality, sinking dried foods of a suitable small size are ideal.
  • Gelatine-bound recipes containing a mix of dried fish food, pureed shellfish, fresh fruits and vegetables also work well.

Remember, wild fish may initially refuse dried foods, but they tend to adapt over time. Creating consistency in their feeding patterns will most certainly help. For example, having a daily feeding time ensures continuance.

While it’s okay for them to feed on naturally occurring matter in the tank, their diet should be supplemented. The key is giving them nutrient-rich meals. This can guarantee Bolivian Rams are receiving enough sustenance.

Overall, maintaining a balanced diet is key.

Diet Importance
Live & Frozen Fare Provide critical nutrients, are relatable to their natural food sources
Sinking Dried Foods Substitutes for natural, live prey
Homemade Recipes Ensure a well-rounded diet, and can be molded to an ideal size/feed

Remember, the health of your Bolivian Rams is directly related to their diet and overall tank conditions. With proper feeding, your fish can live healthy, vibrant lives.

Bolivian Ram Care Schedule

Care for your Bolivian Ram isn’t complicated. Below is a suggested care schedule that you can easily incorporate into your routine:


  • Check the water parameters. Maintain a temperature between 24-28°C (75-82°F), pH between 6.0 – 7.5, and hardness between 18 – 179 ppm. A testing kit will keep you right on track.
  • Inspect your fish. Look for signs of poor health, including unusual behavior or physical changes.


  • Perform water change. You should aim for a 10-15% change.
  • Vacuum the substrate. This helps remove uneaten food and waste that can spoil water quality.


  • Inspect all equipment. Ensure the heater and filter are working properly.
  • Inspect plants and decorations for signs of disease or algae overgrowth.

Remember, every fish is unique. Adapting and revising the schedule to suit your Bolivian Ram is a great idea as you get to know them better. Regular care is key to a healthy and happy fish. Understanding and following this schedule will make you a more successful fish keeper.

Bolivian Ram Health Problems

Maintaining your Bolivian Ram’s health is crucial, but some issues might arise. Lowered water temperature or quality, and an improper diet can often lead to diseases among aquarium fishes.

  1. Hole in the Head Disease: Symptomatic of eroding flesh around the head and lateral line pores, the disease manifests itself as small pits. To prevent this, ensure the tank’s conditions don’t deteriorate, as the Bolivian Ram is susceptible to such sicknesses.
  2. Gill Filament Damage and Blockages: These can be caused by ingesting coarser substrates like gravel or small pebbles. Feeding your Ram softer substrates will reduce these risks.

From the start, it’s advisable to quarantine new fish before introducing them to the main tank. Regular water changes, maintaining a suitable diet, and responsibly sourcing your fish are vital steps. Failure to follow these guidelines could lead to disease outbreaks, causing unneeded stress for your Bolivian Ram fish.

At the first signs of unusual behavior or visible discomfort, isolate the fish and provide the necessary treatment. Prompt and timely action will ensure your fish’s optimum health. Stay observant. After all, prevention is the best cure.

Bolivian Ram Tank Mates

Selecting the right tank mates for your Bolivian Ram, scientifically known as Mikrogeophagus altispinosus, is crucial for nurturing a tranquil aquarium environment. The Bolivian Ram is not a solitary fish but prefers company–a peaceful cichlid that bodes well with group of 6-8 mixed sex.

Keep your Ram’s tank mates peaceful, and avoid those who could exhibit aggressive or territorial behavior.

  • Characidae: Bolivian Rams meld well with open water-dwelling characids, small shoaling or schooling fishes. They find comfort in numbers, so a collection of these fishes will give your Ram an environment free of threats.
  • Corydoras Catfish: As a ground-dwelling species, the Corydoras spp. is an ideal companion for your Bolivian Ram. They peacefully co-exist, adding balance to your tank’s ecosystem.
  • Small Loricariids: Abundance of smaller loricariids also makes them a suitable match as they cohabit harmoniously.

Remember, the Bolivian Ram can be sensitive to changes in their environment, so opt for other creatures that thrive under similar water conditions. Do your research and bring home mates that your Bolivian Ram will welcome.

Bolivian Ram Breeding

Bolivian Rams are biparental substrate spawners, meaning they lay their eggs on a solid surface. Good news for you, there’s no special trigger required for their breeding process.

  • Best Set-Up For Spawning: It’s best to breed them in a dedicated set-up with no other fishes present.
  • Formation of Pairs: Unless you can get a sexable adult, start with a group of young fish and allow pairs to naturally form.

The breeding happens in a typical style. The female lays one or more rows of eggs, then the male fertilizes them. Inexperienced pairs can eat their brood at first but they tend to get it right after a few attempts.

  • Incubation Period: Incubation lasts 2-3 days. After hatching, the fries are immobile for an additional 5-8 days and do not require further feeding.

If you decide to leave the fries with the parents, they’ll transfer them to a series of pre-excavated pits. Once they’re free-swimming, consider feeding them with microworm, Artemia nauplii, and similar foods. Should you wish to raise a good number of fries, you’re advised to either remove the eggs or tankmates.


Caring for a Bolivian Ram can be a rewarding experience once you have all the necessary knowledge to maintain a healthy environment for them. Remember, every little effort you put into ensuring the welfare of your pet makes a significant difference in their life.

We’d love to hear from you, don’t hesitate to leave a comment about your experiences or questions about caring for Bolivian Rams.

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