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Super Blue Rams

Papliochromis ramirezi
(Microgeophagus ramirezi)

Super Blue Rams

By Tony Griffitts

My favorite dwarf cichlid, the Ram, is native to Venezuela and Colombia, where it inhabits clear, slow moving water that is very soft, acid, and  very warm. This little gem has a bad reputation as being very hard to keep.  This reputation is brought about more by lack of knowledge of this little cichlid than the facts.

I have successfully bred and raised Rams for about three years and I must say that most people expect too much of this cichlid.  Many people have discovered that these fish don't seem to live to long after they get them home from the aquarium shop. The reason for this is because this fish has a very short life span. On average, this fish only lives about a year, with the oldest Ram I ever had lived about 2 ½ years. This fish is believed to be an annual fish in nature, which accounts for it's short life span in the aquarium.

When purchasing this fish, I recommend that you buy 4 pairs at a time and raise the offspring, if you would like to keep this species in your tank for a long time. Otherwise plan on buying and restocking your tank with these guys every 6 months. That can get a little costly, as a high quality Ram sells for about $9 each. Choose smaller Rams as they will probably live longer in your tank than that big one in the dealers tank. One good thing about these cichlids is that it only takes 2 ½ to 3 months for them to mature and start reproducing. Yes! That's not a typo, 2 ½ to 3 months.

In the two photos above of the Super Blue Rams you can tell the difference between the sexes by the longer dorsal and ventral fins on the male, and the female usually has a rosy belly and is stockier than the male. As you can see in these photos, the female also has a black spot midway through the body. Females in this strain can often have two blacks spots side by side, while the males most often have no black spot.

Breeding this fish is quite simple. They prefer soft water, with a pH of 5.5 to 6.5. I keep my Rams in a temperature of 82° to 86° F (28° to 30° C).  The substrate can be bare bottom tank, or very fine gravel (#3). These fish will prepare the spawning site by either biting at the hard surface or digging a shallow pit in the sand or gravel. They seem top prefer a shallow pit over a hard surface most times, but there are exceptions on occasion. The fish will lay about 100 to 400 eggs, of which 50% on average will hatch in about 36 to 48 hours. The fry will be free swimming in about 4 days and will need to be fed newly hatched brine shrimp that is less than 24 hours old. Because the fry from Rams are so small, not all the fry will be able to eat the brine shrimp. The ones that are too small will die in a few days from starvation. Usually the fry that will remain after a week of free swimming should have no problem living a full life. I feed the fry newly hatched brine shrimp for about three weeks, then over a course of 4 days I wean them off the brine shrimp and on to a beef heart mix, which is the food they will live on for the rest of their life.

As far as tank companions, I like to keep my Rams with Discus and tetras.  Rams inhabit the bottom of the tank while the Discus and tetras are mid water swimmers so there is very little conflict between the different species. Rams can be kept in as small as a 5 gallon tank without any problem, but I prefer to keep them in large planted aquariums where they accent the plants with a splash of color. Rams should not be kept with larger cichlids that will compete for the same bottom space.

For those of you who have tried to keep Rams before, I hope you feel better after reading this article. All this time you probably thought that this fish was difficult to keep, now I hope you see that it really wasn't. Just don't expect more of this fish than it can deliver and you will see that it is no more difficult to keep than an Angelfish.

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