The ram cichlid is a freshwater species adapted to living in the Orinoco River basin in South America.
It is popular with aquarists, and it also goes by the names blue ram, butterfly cichlid, Asian ram, German blue ram, Ramirezi, and dwarf butterfly cichlid.
Ram cichlids are noted for adding bright colors in an aquarium. Their bodies are yellowish with black curved lines extending along their bodies.
The fins are red or yellow with blue lines that are nearly transparent, and a black dorsal fin. Wild types will often display richer colors than those in captivity.
Ram Cichlids Aquarium Requirement
The ram cichlids will typically reach around two inches, and they will need a minimum of 10 gallons. If you intend to include other fish, invest in a 29-gallon tank and above. You should count 10 gallons for every ram cichlid.
More water will make it easier for you to maintain the health of the aquarium. Ram cichlids are especially sensitive to organic levels like nitrates, which is why it is best to keep them in a mid-sized to a large tank.
Ram cichlids are not easy pets to keep, and most aquarists report their death soon after purchase. This is mainly because the animals demand a mature and established tank. You should, therefore, cycle your tank effectively and ensure it is stable before introducing the cichlids.
Like other cichlid species, the ram cichlids appreciate hiding spaces in a tank. They especially like the caves created by live aquarium plants. Organize the plants in your setup to form densely planted zones. You will stress them out if the plants are spread out, and they cannot find enclosures to hide in.
You can include both floating plants and planted plants in a ram cichlid tank. Some of the plants to consider include:
- Water Sprite – This plant is quite versatile since you can to have it as a planted or floating plant. It can grow in low light, although the rate of growth will be slow. Water sprite is ideal for creating a dense plant cover.
- Java Moss – Java moss is quite hardy, and it will thrive in a range of water conditions. Its stems blossom together in a mass of vegetation and create hiding spaces for fish and fry. It also reproduces easily, and any piece of the plant will begin to grow. Java Moss also helps to keep the PH down.
- Java Fern – The java fern does not need a lot of light, and it will prosper in your ram cichlid tank. It does not need to be rooted, and it will grow from its rhizome, which lengthens along the bottom.
- Pygmy Chain Sword – This plant is a bit challenging to start growing, but it will quickly reproduce by sending out runners. It requires moderate light, and its roots will need a decent substrate to anchor themselves.
- Cryptocoryne – There are many cryptocoryne species that will do well in a ram cichlid tank. These plants have extensive root systems, which means that your tank will need a decent substrate.
Floating plants will diffuse the light and make your ram cichlids feel comfortable in your tank. Dense background and carpet plants will leave adequate spaces for the fish to swim since they are active swimmers.
You can also add flat or slate rocks, flowerpots, bogwood roots, and clay-caves to mimic the wild water biotopes. Adding leaves to the tank’s bottom will also create a wild aesthetic in the aquarium. Other plants to consider include Wisteria, Rosette plants, and Vallisneria.
When choosing a substrate, stay away from gravel in favor of sand. The cichlids wash sand via the gills when feeding, and will get injured by a coarse substrate. Use a dark substrate to emulate the cichlid’s natural habitats. Ram cichlids also like to dig through the substrate, and you can also include several granite pebbles.
Ram Cichlids Water Parameters
The fish is very sensitive to water conditions, which is why it is vital to maintain a specific environment for them.
Ensure your setup is well-cycled before adding them, and your tank should have adequate nitrifying bacteria to break down the animal’s waste.
The cichlids will not display their full colors when you first add them to your tank because they need to adapt to a new environment before their rich colors are clearly seen.
They will thrive between temperatures of 78 to 85 °F. Ram cichlids are used to tropical waters in the wild, and a heater will help you create the optimal temperatures.
The cichlids will tolerate a water PH of 6.0 to 7.5. Ascertain that the substrate and decoration you use in the tank do not leech and impact the PH. Aquarists use driftwood to keep the PH low and to also create the “tea-stained” appearance of the Amazon River.
The water’s hardness should range between 6 to 14 GH while the current should be slow to moderate.
The cichlids die quickly in poor water conditions, which means that you will need a good filtration system. The water should be changed weekly to boost its quality.
Ram cichlids are bottom-dwellers, and they will be affected by high concentrations of ammonia and nitrates. Measure the ammonia levels every week and invest in a powerful filter.
Ram Cichlids Tank Mates
Ram cichlids are ideal for community tanks. They require a peaceful setup as they will get stressed with aggressive tank mates. The best companions for the cichlids include:
- Guppies – Guppies are incredibly popular in community tanks, mainly because they are easy to rear. They also get along with many other fish species. The diversity of guppies means that you can end up with a mixture of different and attractive hues in your tank.
- Swordtail – Swordtails can reach an adult size of six inches, and you need a large tank to keep them. They also add a touch of color to any setup. Keep them in a shoal, but avoid keeping more than one male to tame any aggression.
- Platies – Platies have been extensively in-bred, and you can get them in a variety of colors. Buy a small group of them, and ensure the females outnumber the males.
- Mollies – Mollies will fit a beginner tank, and they are quite social and active. They are also affordable and easily available in fish stores. A female shoal is best because male mollies are known to harass the females.
- Tetras – The neon tetra is among the most attractive fish you can get for your aquarium. These small animals will easily fit a mid-sized tank. Like ram cichlids, neon tetras demand a mature and well-established setup. The black phantom tetra is another ideal tank mate for your cichlids. It has a characteristic small black patch on the side with a green or silver outline around it. Buy a school of at least six with one male.
- Bristlenose Plecos – These pets are algae-eaters, and will help in cleaning your tank. Most plecos will be brown with several spots, although you can get them in varying patterns and colors.
- Kuhli Loach – Kuhli loaches roam the bottom of an aquarium scavenging for food. They are active at night, and their shy nature will keep them out of the way of your cichlids.
- Dwarf Gouramis – Gouramis generally need big tanks, but you can get the dwarf gourami for a mid-sized tank. Buy a handful of them to ensure they are comfortable because they are a shoaling fish. Keep the ratio at three to one because the males are known to be aggressive with the females.
- Discus Fish – If you desire a lively aquarium, the colors of the discus make it a great tank mate to consider. It is generally peaceful, although you can detect some aggression during spawning. A shoal will give your set up a brilliant burst of color.
- Silver Dollar Fish – The silver dollar fish are known for being more peaceful than the piranha. Buy at least five for a colorful school to avoid getting them stressed.
- Dwarf Neon Rainbowfish – This fish needs a mature tank, and it gets stressed easily. It is very colorful as long as you maintain a healthy environment.
Other tank mates to consider are clown loaches, Corydoras, and rummy nose tetras. Avoid keeping large and hostile cichlids like the Green Terror.
Any non-fish residents you keep in the tank should not be small enough to be eaten by the ram cichlids. Ram cichlids will generally ignore large shrimps, but it will prey on smaller ones.
Ram cichlids should not be kept with energetic species that will eat most of the food. Avoid aggressive dwarf cichlids and other bottom-dwelling fish species.
It is not recommended to keep the cichlids alone. They have been shown to thrive in a tank with dither fish like neon tetras and cardinal tetras.
You can pair up the ram cichlids with different genders. A male and female cichlid will not generally mate in your tank. If you want to have several males, divide the tank into several territories and provide hiding spaces.
Feeding Ram Cichlids
Ram cichlids are omnivores, and they need a varied diet of plants and meat.
In the wild, the animals rely on plant matter floating on the water and small insects and invertebrate. Ram cichlids will typically refuse to eat as they settle in a new tank.
Entice them with treats like mosquito larvae after a few days, and then establish a regular diet.
They will eat brine shrimp, earthworms, artemia, blood worms, tubifex, white worms, and cyclopeeze. These meals can either be live or freeze-dried. With live food, ensure it is free of contaminants like bacteria to protect your cichlids.
Some cichlids will welcome pellets and flakes, although this should not make up the major portion of the diet. The flakes should sink since they are bottom-dwelling fish. Give them two to five small pinches of meals several times daily, instead of giving a lot of food at once. This practice will also preserve the water quality for longer.
Add some plants and vegetables in their diet.
Ram cichlids are quite shy during feeding, and you will need to isolate and feed them before the braver fish become active and eat all the food.
Breeding Ram Cichlids in Aquariums
The ram cichlids are vulnerable to common tropical fish diseases, particularly in poor water conditions. There are more susceptible to illnesses when stressed, and long periods of stress will weaken the immune system of your cichlids.
Ram cichlids can be affected by ich, which manifests as small white nodules on the skin. It is best treated early with an elevation of the temperature to 86ºF for three days.
They are also vulnerable to parasitic infestations by worms and protozoa, bacterial infections, and fungal infections. In addition to tuberculosis, the cichlids can also contract Costia Disease and infestations by flatworms and tapeworms.
In the wild, ram cichlids are noted as open spawners. They will create a family group and lay around 150 to 200 eggs.
Ram cichlids are quite hard to sex, and established couples are expensive as a result. The more popular method used is to purchase juveniles and allow them to grow together. The cichlids will naturally pair up as they grow.
Ram cichlids form monogamous pairs, with both males and females being active parents. It is recommended to keep a bonded pair in a breeding tank and provide optimum conditions for spawning.
Try and mimic the community tank in the breeding tank to reduce the adaption time on the part of the cichlids, and you can use the same substrate and decorations.
The water in the breeding tank should be warmer by about 1 to 2 °C and slightly more acidic at around 0.1 to 0.3 units. Ensure the breeding tank has a slow water flow.
Feed the mating pair with a small dose of live blood worms and white worm once a day. They will take two to three days to adapt to the conditions of the mating pond, after which breeding will unfold.
Aquarium Setup for Ram Cichlids Breeding
Equip your tank with flat stones for the cichlids to use as breeding sites. Hiding spots will also reduce the aggression of the cichlids during the mating period.
The breeding time is signaled by the red spot on the female cichlid becoming bigger and brighter. Either fish will dig a pit in the tank or clean a stone in preparation. The pair will begin nudging each other and twirling, and the male can be seen sliding against the female’s body or darting away quickly.
The female subsequently places adhesive eggs on the pit or stones in batches of between 150 to 300. If temperature conditions are stable and optimal, the eggs will hatch within 40 hours.
The male and female cichlids work together to protect the eggs and the fry. They will fan fresh water over their eggs to keep bacteria and fungus at bay. The cichlids will also consume unfertile eggs so that they do not become breeding zones for pathogens. It is therefore recommended to leave the eggs in the care of the paired cichlids.
The offspring will typically take five days before it becomes free-swimming. The fry will develop in a dense school and will accompany its parents when foraging.
It is common for several spawnings to be unsuccessful at first. The couple can sometimes feed on the initial batches before they get the hang of parenting. If they continue to prey on their fry, it can be a sign of stress in the tank.
Paired cichlids also fight a lot, which is why you need to avail a lot of hiding spots. Remove the female if you observe the male being aggressive. The male will mostly take control of the fry, and he will take them into his mouth to “clean” them once they begin to swim.
You can start feeding the fry with infusoria and microforms. Include baby brine shrimp when they reach a week-old. The male can dig a larger pit at this stage to accommodate the growing fry. Make 10% water changes daily because the young cichlids are sensitive to water changes if the tank’s water is not exact.
The male stops guarding the young ones when they are about 2 ½ to 3 weeks, and he can be relocated to the community tank. You can do 50% water changes at this point with reverse osmosis.
Are Ram Cichlids Aggressive?
Ram cichlids are known as peaceful residents of community tanks. They like to hide away, and they are best kept with braver fish. The aggressiveness of ram cichlids is only seen when they are breeding, and it is best to separate the female if the males become aggressive.
Do Ram Cichlids Jump Out of the Tank?
Ram cichlids are bottom-dwelling pets and will rarely venture past the middle part of your tank. You should, however, cover your aquarium in case they get scared.
What is the Lifespan of Ram Cichlids?
Ram cichlids will generally live for three to four years. To prolong the lifespan of your pet, provide a high-quality diet in addition to the appropriate water conditions.
Is Ram Cichlids Good for Beginners?
Ram cichlids are not a good beginner fish, primarily because they are very sensitive to organic waste and other pollutants. If they are contained in a small setup, an experienced aquarist will be better equipped to maintain stable water parameters.
The colors and the peaceful nature of ram cichlids make them perfect for community tanks. It will live harmoniously with equally peaceful and smaller fish like neon tetras and dwarf gouramis.
Ram cichlids need suitable water parameters and an omnivorous diet to thrive in any setup.