View Full Version : Keeping and Breeding Microgeophagus ramirezi

06-18-2009, 07:44 AM
Common Name: German Ram, Blue Ram, Gold Ram
Scientific Name: Microgeophagus ramirezi
Min. Tank Size: 15gallons or a 24”*12” foot print
Temperament: Fairly Peaceful
Origins: Areas of Venezuela and Colombia

Fish Selection:

Most Rams in the hobby are farm-raised fish from Asia, these fish are typically treated with hormones to make them color up faster at smaller sizes and also to grow faster, thus making them saleable at a faster pace. The hormones will not only damage the fish's fertility it will also dramatically weaken their immune system and make them much more susceptible to disease. As a general rule of thumb it is best to purchase either wild caught or domestically bred Rams. These will provide you with a better foundation stock, and a higher fertility rate: thus increasing the likelihood of a successful breeding project.

When purchasing your future breeders it is normally advised to buy a small group and grow them out in a minimum of a 3ft tank, allowing the fish to choose their mates naturally. Of course this is not always possible so you can sex the fish choosing a male and a female fish. As with any fish purchase those who are alert, active and do not have clamped fins or sunken abdomens.


These little Cichlids are easily sexed, especially at the sizes often seen in shops; normally at around 1.5". Males will have a longer “spike” on the dorsal fin, especially on the 3rd ray, and will also be more boldly colored. Males also lack any iridescence to the black spot on the side, and also lack any black striping to the pelvic fins. Male's dorsal fin will also be much longer and pointed than that of a female. Females, when in breeding condition, will exhibit a pink abdomen, and usually have some blue speckling on the inside of the black mark on the side and do have black striping on the pelvic fins. Female Ram's overall impression is that of a much shorter bodied robust looking fish than a male whom is more slender and long in appearance.

Tank Setup:

Rams aren't a difficult species of fish to keep as a lot of books suggest; they are instead quite hardy if given their basic water quality needs. If your intent is not to breed these fish, pH and hardness honestly isn’t a crucial aspect as long as it’s stable. They can do well up to a pH of 7.5 and moderate hardness.

Temperature should be within 78-82*F, and as they originate from areas of slow-water flow. Take care there is not a strong current throughout the tank, since Rams do best in still waters. The minimum sized tank for these fish is a standard 15-gallon aquarium, and this should be regarded as the absolute bottom end of the spectrum for housing these fish, and even then no more than a single pair should be kept in this size tank. The fish also comes from an area where foliage is sometimes quite dense, so do provide a good amount of cover for the fish to feel at home.


My recommended method of acclimation is the "drip method" which involves placing the fish and bag water into a small bucket and starting a siphon effect with a piece of airline; you then tie a knot in the airline tubing to slow the flow to the point that It simply drips water into the bucket containing the fish. I let usually let them acclimate over the course of at least 2 hours. The reason you need to take such care in adjusting your new fish to your aquarium water is due to a Ram's sensitivity level to changes in temperature, pH, and hardness. It will take the fish several weeks to fully acclimate to the change but we do need to make the initial transition as easy as possible for them.


Rams, once acclimated to the aquarium, are not picky eaters; they will accept a wide range of food from tropical flakes to small live foods. Feed a base of a high-quality dry fish food, and supplement this with quality frozen foods, perhaps fresh ground seafood, and live foods such as brine shrimp or micro worms Supplementing some greens into the diet will improve digestion and also aid in coloration.

I have a recipe that I make for most of my fish which is a mixture consisting of: 2 cups of chopped seafood (whitefish and/or tilapia and raw shrimp), 1 box of plain gelatin, 1 human prenatal vitamin, 1/8 cup fresh chopped spinach, 1/8 cup de-shelled peas, and 1oz can of cheap fish flakes. I simply run this mix threw a food processor to blend it together. I then put it into a zip-lock bag and flatten the mixture out and freeze. Just like a "flat pack" of frozen fish food from the LFS you break off however much you need and let it thaw before feeding.

Food soaks such as Seachem's Nourish, Selcon and etc are highly recommended as an addition to your Ram's diet regimen; soak your fish's favorite food in one of these products 2-3times per week as a good vitamin boost for your fish. Just as with people nutrition is the cornerstone to good health, this is especially true if you plan to spawn your fish.

Conditioning for Breeding:

Now that you have a suitable pair of healthy adult fish, it is time to condition them for spawning. It isn’t a lot different from the basic husbandry of the species. You may not even need to do any changes to what you’re already doing, since properly-kept Rams often spawn right in the main tank. Generally, it is best to kick the heat up to 82-84*F for preparation of spawning the fish, and increase the amount of live/frozen/fresh foods in the diet, and decrease the dried fish foods. A good food soak that is packed with extra vitamins and minerals is also a good way to pack nutrition into the fish to make them want to spawn. Do large frequent water changes. I generally recommend 2 40% changes per week. Dropping the pH and hardness of the aquarium is also a valuable tool to ensure spawning and eggs that develop properly. I normally pack a small HOB with peat for this purpose; Indian almond leaves are also effective. Driftwood will also lower your pH and hardness. If all else fails you can invest in an RO system which will defiantly give you the water parameters that you’re looking for…a pH of 5-6.5 and fairly soft. Your Rams may breed in much higher parameters but the eggs will not develop properly if the water isn’t within this spectrum.


Rams will spawn on a smooth flat surface; this can be anything from a rock to a simple terracotta pot. I have always used the pot as they seem to like the ability to hide inside something while tending to the eggs. The female ram will typically stick right with the clutch which usually varies from 100-300 eggs, while the male will spend a fair amount of time defending the entrance to the pot as well as tending to the eggs. During this time take care not to disturb the parents any more than necessary. Keeping a light on near the tank will help deter the parents from spooking and eating their eggs. This is also why it is important to house your pair of Rams to themselves, so that they can be alone without other fish in the tank to tend to their clutch in peace. The eggs will hatch in around 48-60hrs depending largely on temperature; the fry will then not be free-swimming for another 3-4 days on average.

The Fry:

Once the fry are free swimming I move them to a separate tank (5 gallon) to maximize the number of offspring that survive. Rams are sometimes notorious for eating the fry past the point of free-swimming. You can siphon them out with a small piece of vinyl hose. I prefer to use a brine shrimp net and a turkey baster as it is a gentler means of transfer.

The fry tank should be setup with the same water parameters as the parent’s tank; I always use a bare-bottom tank outfitted with a seeded sponge filter. You will need to feed the fry every 4-6 hrs. I always use newly-hatched live brine shrimp and micro worms to feed the fry. Including floating live plants into the tank will also provide a food source for the fry in microbes living on and around the plants. Siphoning out any uneaten food as well as doing daily 20-30% water changes is crucial for healthy fry development, especially for the first month of their lives. Move them to larger tanks as they grow. The reason you don’t put them into a larger tank from the beginning is to make finding food as easy as possible for them.

I will start out with a 5 gallon tank, and they will remain, until they start to look cramped. Then, I move them to a 10 gallon and so on…they normally end up in a 20 gallon long as a final grow-out tank. When the fry reach around 1” I sell them.

Do expect casualties; it is a normal occurrence to lose some fry along the way. When the fry reach about ˝” you can start introducing some crushed flake foods and small frozen foods to the diet. At this time I also switch to 3-4 larger feedings per day, and I move water changes to every other day of 40-50%. I also cull out the smaller, weaker individuals at this point, although this practice is not necessary but IMO it helps ensure a stronger-quality genetic stock.


Rams are not a difficult fish to keep and nor to breed. They simply require ideal water parameters to successfully spawn in the home aquarium. It is often best and most successful to acquire a group of 6-8 young Rams in a larger (40 to 50 gallon) aquarium and let them choose their mates, but you can certainly sex them and hope that they are compatible. They are a delightful and entertaining dwarf Cichlid which often becomes very attached to its owner. Simply stated, if you provide them with what they need, in return they will provide you with a wonderful aquarium pet for years to come.

***I would like to extend a special THANK YOU to Dave for providing a peer review of this article as well as suggesting the idea that I write it***

06-18-2009, 03:44 PM
great write-up Killer! thumbs2:

06-18-2009, 03:46 PM
very nice!!!!!!!!

06-18-2009, 03:51 PM
Very nicely done.

06-18-2009, 03:56 PM
Excellent! Very informative and accurate thumbs2:

06-18-2009, 03:56 PM
Excellent MC, This will help out anyone wanting to breed rams. thumbs2:

06-18-2009, 05:53 PM
Great write-up, MC!! :19: This will help me greatly with my project! thumbs2: thumbs2:

06-18-2009, 05:56 PM
Well done Jenn. thumbs2: Now I suggest you purchase one or two from Algenco for your 15 gallon High. :22:

Paw Broon
06-18-2009, 06:55 PM
Very interesting read and just before i read this i finally found out my bolivians are both female.thumbs2:

06-18-2009, 08:32 PM
Thanks for the comments everyone :22: I kept and bred rams for quite a few years especially when I had the Discus bug...great little fish for sure :afro:

06-18-2009, 08:51 PM
That's a great write up, nice job!