The much sought after Blue Ram (Mikrogeophagus ramirezi) is one of the true gems of the cichlid family. It has all the beauty and character of the bigger South American cichlids, without the drawbacks like aggression, the need for a large territory and digging habits.
Common Name(s) : Blue Ram, Ramizeri Blue
Family : Cichlidae Sub Family: Geophaginae
Species : Mikrogeophagus ramirezi
Origin : Venezuela, Colombia (Orinoco River basin)
PH : 5.0 – 7.4
Hardness : Soft to Moderate
Temperature : 24 – 28°C / 75 – 82°F
Maximum Size : 4-6cm / 2 inches
Lifespan : 4-5 years
Aggression Level : Low (2/10) Aggressive whilst breeding
Recommended Tank Size : 30 Litres +
Strata : Bottom
The Blue Ram is a small colourful 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.
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 a speccy 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 clear yellow colour and can have a black blotch on the first few rays of the dorsal fin. The female has similar colouring, but also has a pinkish orange belly.
TANK SET UP
Provide rocks, large pieces of driftwood, live or fake plants etc for lots of cover
SUITABLE TANK MATES
- Dwarf Cichlids
- Dwarf Gouramis
- Flying Fox
- Silver Dollars
Omnivores – Frozen, Live, Flakes, Pellets, Vegetables
It is recommended feeding foods high in beta-carotene to enhance colouration of these fish. There are colour enhancing sinking pellets available or you can simply feed them frozen brine shrimp which is rich in beta-carotene.
It is recommended these fish in particular are offered a varied diet to successfully keep them. Mix up several different foods at different times to keep their nutrition A1.
SEXING AND BREEDING
Sexing Blue Ram Cichlids is tricky yet achievable. Firstly, adult males grow larger than females, and possess a slightly more extended dorsal fin, forming a crest.
Most females possess a pinkish patch on the belly which is absent in males, and will also have one or many iridescent scales scattered on the dark spots below the dorsal, whereas the males spots will be solid black.
To give every chance for mature Blue Rams (mature after around 9-10 months) to breed, feed the fish a high protein diet (perhaps twice a day with one of those feeds being a frozen bloodworm or brine shrimp) for probably two weeks or so.
You can tell when the male Blue Ram is interested in breeding because his colours increase and his behaviour changes. He tries to get his mates attention by doing things like flaring its throat and gills, curling its body, body whipping and tail lashing. The female Blue Ram may return some of his advances, or may completely ignore him.
The male will then prepare potential spawning sites, such as cleaning stones, driftwood, digging a hole in the substrate or a cave. The male will often engage in shaking over the intended site, and pick at the substrate with his mouth repeatedly while the female looks on.
The female will also engage in constructing the spawning site, but not to the degree of the male. When the female begins taking keen interest in cleaning a spawning site, typically spawning is imminent. During courting the degree of aggression is quite varied, sometimes the male is content to casually follow the female around, and other times, the same male will outright harass the female, however no damage is ever inflicted; ample cover for the female is necessary for this reason.
An adult pair can spawn every 3 weeks, and most aggression is confined to the intermittent period between spawns, or early in the courting process. After the female has developed eggs and shows interest in the male’s advances, any aggression is converted to the dramatic courting displays previously mentioned.
The chosen spawning site is commonly on flat rock, a depression in the substrate, driftwood, on a heater or internal filter edge or on broad leaved plants. The pair will clean the chosen surface until the female begins laying eggs, gliding in a circular motion, depositing 6-10 eggs at a time. She will then give way, and the male will fertilize the eggs in a similar fashion. This process of exchange may continue for up to an hour.
Clutch sizes seem to vary; young females may lay as few as 60 eggs, while adult females can lay 200. Parents may cover the clutch in substrate 45-60 minutes after spawning is complete, and remove it after 36-48 hours.
The pair will take turns fanning the eggs to keep them from turning into fungus and the each defend the territory from the other fishes in the aquarium.
In 24 hours, the eggs will turn an orange-amber color, and unfertilized eggs may begin to turn white, along with those that fungus despite fertilization. Eye spots are clearly visible on the second day.
The eggs hatch after 2 and a half to three days and are immediately transferred by both parents into the pre-constructed nests. During the egg stage, the male will begin constructing these nests for the wigglers, this usually happens late in the egg stage, within 12 hours of hatching.
The pair continues to maintain shifts of fanning the young fry, and will constantly mouth and tumble the larvae.
The fry are free-swimming after seven days, and are initially kept herded into a shallow depression by both parents, which are most aggressive during this time, however, they are still quite mild mannered and seem content to just keep the other fishes on the other side of the tank, without damaging the other fishes.
Baby fry can be fed frozen baby brine shrimp after about day 5-7.
OTHER USEFUL INFORMATION
The natural habitat of Mikrogeophagus ramirezi is warm (25.5-29.5 °C, 78-85 °F), acidic (pH 5.2-6.7) in the water courses in the llanos savannas of Venezuela and Colombia.
The water is generally slow-flowing, contains few dissolved minerals, and ranges in colour from clear to darkly stained with tannins. The species is typically found where cover in the form of aquatic or submersed vegetation is available.
Blue Rams are a trickier type of dwarf cichlid to keep in an aquarium, but by following some of the advice above, we think you can be a successful owner of one of these cute little guys.