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FAQs on Dwarf Ram Cichlid Disease/Health

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Related FAQs: Rams, Ram Identification, Ram Behavior, Ram Compatibility, Ram Selection, Ram Systems, Ram Feeding, Ram Reproduction, Cichlids of the World, Dwarf South American CichlidsCichlid Systems, Cichlid Identification, Cichlid Behavior, Cichlid Compatibility, Cichlid Selection, Cichlid Feeding, Cichlid DiseaseCichlid Reproduction,

Help with German Blue Ram      12/12/19
Hi. I have a planted 20 gallon tall with seven cardinal tetras, four Cory cats, five serpae tetras, two Otos, and one ram.
<Right. Couple things to point out here. The first is that while most Corydoras prefer cool water (72-77 F) Cardinals are happy at middling to high (say, 77-82 F) and Rams definitely need warmth (82-86 F). Serpae Tetras are tough as old boots and won't really care either way, but they're also psychotic little fin-nippers -- in other words, their ecological niche includes biting the scales and fins of larger fish. So while Serpae Tetras look lovely and will thrive on benign neglect, they aren't the safest community fish. They also have an intense pecking order (watch them at feeding time!) and small groups may turn on themselves. They're best used as low maintenance colour for planted tanks where a school of 12 or more are kept alone to complement fancy-pants Amano-style planting.>
Two seachem tidal HOB filters with sponge, bio rings, and no carbon.
<Sounds good.>
Water parameters seem good. 0 ammonia, 0 nitrite, and about 20 nitrate.
water temp is kept at 78-79 F.
<See above re: temperature. There's really no happy medium here, unless you happen to be keeping Corydoras sterbai, one of the very few Corydoras truly happy at the high temperatures Cardinals and Rams require.>
I do about 30% water changes every week treated with Seachem Prime. Only issue I fight with is that the ph is around 8.
<Which is, as you likely understand, not optimal. Cardinals, and especially Rams, require soft water.
A high pH indicates high hardness. Remember, pH isn't actually that important -- most Amazonian fish can thrive anywhere between pH 6 and 8 -- but hardness does matter. Unless you are actively reducing hardness, diddling around with the pH via chemical buffers is not only pointless but actually risky, because the pH will vary over time.>
My ram is showing this white spot on its fin and I'm not sure if its fungal or not. I've moved him into a cycled 10 gallon QT with two sponge filters, plastic plants for cover, and the same water parameters as the 20 gallon.
No other fish in the 20 gallon has any symptoms or sickness.
<Do see above, but also read about this species; start here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/fwsubwebindex/rams.htm
But also have a peruse of our previous emails on the subject, here:
Cut a long story short, Rams are 'juiced' with antibiotics by breeders to keep them healthy once they get to the shops, but as the antibiotics wear off, if the Rams are exposed to the wrong environmental conditions, their health outcomes get steadily worse with time. You are BY NO MEANS the only
person in this position, and in fact most Rams bought in pet shops are lucky to survive 6 months. Many not even that.>
I first thought it was ich so I raised the temp in the QT to 85 and treated with ich-x, following the instructions with daily dosing and water changes, with no difference in the spot after 5 days. I did a larger water change and after letting him rest for a week, I dosed according to the directions with API General Cure and E.M. Erythromycin. Again it had no effect. After some more daily water changes I began dosing with Seachem Paraguard. I'm now on day 3 of Paraguard and not seeing much of a difference. I'm contemplating aquarium salt as well for treatment, but unsure how well rams handle the salinity.
<Rams will handle the old salt/heat method just fine, as will Cardinals.
The 2 gram/litre dose used is trivial, and most if not all fish handle this better than the more modern medications such as copper and formalin. The downside of course is salt/heat takes longer to work and may require a longer duration to completely eliminate Whitespot. It's less effective against Velvet, but will work if combined with complete darkness (e.g., a blanket over the tank).>
He is eating well, not constipated, and mobile in the tank. I attached the best picture I could get to help aid in diagnosing the illness.
<The white blotch on the tail could be anything, including a Finrot-type bacterial infection but also early Lymphocystis. The latter is untreatable beyond optimising living conditions. There is some belief that stress brings on Lymphocystis, at least so far as wild fish go. Finrot should respond well to antibiotics.>
Thanks in advance.
<Hope this helps. Cheers, Neale.>

German Ram Sick /RMF      7/17/19
Hi there
Hoping you can help me...
This is Grace my female GR and over the past 2 weeks she has developed whitish coloured raised looking lumps on the side of her head (pic 1) and behind one of her fins (pic 2)... she also has no pectoral fins, clearly a birth defect lol
<Or evidence of physical trauma... This fish is very/too thin...>
Water conditions are good all 0 and ph 7-7.2
<Better a bit lower, more acidic for this species>
Temp 26o.
<And this a bit cool... I'd raise to 27-28 C>
She shares the tank with 5 serape <Serpae> tetra and 3 bristlenose catfish.
She also has clear poop which you can see in the first picture (sometimes it has little brown specks in it). I have been doing 20% water changes every 2 days for the past week. She seems interested in food but looks like she struggles to eat it.
She takes it in and spits it back out. I feed flakes and micro pellets.
<... I'd try meaty foods, live if possible, practical. Several times per day. Along w/ the water quality issues mentioned above, this fish should be eating>
She seems to take little bits of watermelon and brine shrimp when offered. I have also noticed tonight she seems to be flicking her tail almost like she’s trying to get rid of the poo!
I have read so many things it could be that I don’t even know where to start!
<Let's have you read, here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/rams.htm
and the linked files above; including ALL the Ram Disease FAQs. Bob Fenner>
German Ram Sick /Neale       7/17/19

Hi there
Hoping you can help me...
This is Grace my female GR and over the past 2 weeks she has developed whitish coloured raised looking lumps on the side of her head (pic 1) and behind one of her fins (pic 2)... she also has no pectoral fins, clearly a birth defect lol
Water conditions are good all 0 and ph 7-7.2
Temp 26o. She shares the tank with 5 serape tetra and 3 bristlenose catfish.
She also has clear poop which you can see in the first picture (sometimes it has little brown specks in it). I have been doing 20% water changes every 2 days for the past week. She seems interested in food but looks like she struggles to eat it. She takes it in and spits it back out. I feed flakes and micro pellets. She seems to take little bits of watermelon and brine shrimp when offered. I have also noticed tonight she seems to be flicking her tail almost like she’s trying to get rid of the poo!
I have read so many things it could be that I don’t even know where to start!
<<Not going to add much beyond what BobF has already shared. He's quite right that extra heat (around 28 C) is the aim, and the Serpae Tetras really can't be trusted with any slow-moving fish. What I will add is that the use of Metronidazole together with an antibiotic can work wonders with cichlids. The copious clear faeces is a common symptom of Hexamita infections, so if you live somewhere (like the EU) where Metronidazole and antibiotics are only obtainable from a vet, then a product called eSHa HEXAMITA could be useful. It's had some good reviews, though I wouldn't expect it to be as effective as Metronidazole. So if you do have access to Metronidazole, that's the best bet. Indeed, Metronidazole together with Nitrofuran is widely used as "standard operating procedure" when dealing with ailing cichlids. Cheers, Neale.>>

Wounded German Blue Ram      6/24/18
Hi Guys,
Let me start off by saying how educational your site has been for me. Thank you and keep up the good work.
<And thanks for the kind words.>
Anyway I have a pair of German Blue Rams that I keep in a 85 litre tank (Fluval c3 filter, sand substrate with rocks, java fern and moss) with 6 freshwater bumblebee gobies and 8 neon tetras.
<Interesting combo. Regardless of the optimal water chemistry requirements of these fish -- BBGs more often kept in slightly brackish water, though I agree this isn't necessarily where they live in the wild -- the big issue here is likely water temperature. Neons are low-end tropicals, doing best between 22-25 C; by contrast Rams are hothouse flowers, and really do need 25-28 C to stay healthy. The immune system of your Ram will be compromised if kept too cool, and few kept in the wrong conditions last more than a year. As a reminder, they need very soft (1-15 degrees dH) water that is not only rather warm but also fairly acidic (pH 5.5-6.5 probably best under aquarium conditions, but certainly even more acidic in the wild).>
They've been existing peacefully for almost 8 months now.
<Often the case with Rams, but it's the long-term maintenance that concerns me.>
This morning I noticed that the female ram had managed to wedge herself between a rock and the aquarium glass. Probably didn't realise she doesn't fit in there anymore. I have no idea how long she has been trapped in there. She was definitely not there when I went to bed last night. I released her and she swam back to her mate immediately. I then noticed that she has a scrape on her head and is now mostly just sitting on the substrate or rock.
Oh and her colour has really darkened.
<This is stress, and should clear up when she's happier again.>
What can I do to help her? I added some API stress coat into the tank (it says there on the bottle that it helps reduce stress in fish).
<About as useful as 'thoughts and prayers' from a politician, to be honest.>
Should I do a small water change?
<Never a bad idea.>
I'm just worried that fiddling with the tank will stress her more.
<Physical damage make a fish vulnerable to secondary infections because the mucous layer and possible the epidermis are lost. Best to treat as per Finrot, with an antibiotic, since you're trying to suppress the same sorts of bacteria. She may well recover under her own steam without medication, but an antibiotic should be safe to use. Be more cautious about other types of medication though: formalin, organic dyes, etc. These can do more harm than good if used unnecessarily.>
I have switched off the light to make it more comfortable for her.
<A good call.>
Please advice what else I can do?
Thank you so much.
<Hope this helps. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Wounded German Blue Ram     6/28/18
Hi Neale,
Thank you for the reply.
<Most welcome.>
Female ram looks a lot better now and is back to being active after a few hours so I decided to hold off with the finrot. The scrape has almost faded thank goodness.
<Good. Sounds like no further treatment required.>
I hear you about the weird combination for this tank. I started out with the rams a year ago and added the neon tetras a couple of months after. The gobies were added last 8 months ago (surprise birthday gift from a friend).
Since I live in Singapore, water temperature stays 26 to 28 degrees all year round. Also water in Singapore is very soft and I condition the water with Eiho buffer pH 6.5. Before joining the rams, I had the gobies in my other 182 litre tank with 6 baloon red eye tetras, 6 cherry barbs, 4 glowlight tetras, 2 panda corys (started off with 4 but 2 died of finrot), 10 pygmy corys and 1 very old guppy. I noticed the gobies were not getting enough to eat (tetras and barbs are fast) thus the move.
Should I relocate the gobies?
<If they are eating and happy, I would not worry just now. In the wild (i.e., Southeast Asia) Bumblebee Gobies are freshwater fish, even in quite soft water. I have kept them in soft water alongside Glassfish, another species supposedly brackish but in the wild truly a freshwater fish. It seems, to me, that Bumblebees and Glassfish live in both freshwater and brackish, and what really matters is if they're able to feed. As you've seen, they don't compete well for the small, planktonic food they need.>
I do have a small tank (30x30x36cm) from when I started my hobby with guppies. Is that too small for the 6 gobies? Would really appreciate any suggestions for the gobies.
<You could certainly keep a pair in this tank, but it's probably a bit small for a group of Gobies. Maybe try it with a pair, and see what happens? They're a fun species to breed, if nothing else. But as I say, if
your BBGs are happy now, leave 'em be!>
Thank you.
<Good luck! Neale.>

Need help diagnosing disease in Ram cichlids       8/14/17
Hi Crew (and Bob!),
<Hey Susan>
I recently introduced 6 small assorted juvenile cichlids to a moderately planted cycled 20 gallon tank (pH 7.0 - 7.2, 5 dGH, 82°F, 0 ammonia & nitrite, nitrate around 10 ppm). My plan was to move the majority of them to a 30 long gallon tank that I am planning to set up. I realize my pH is high, but they were thriving in the shop's tank at 7.2 pH and I was working on gradually getting my pH down to around 6.8 which I thought would be satisfactory. The cichlids included 2 GBR, 2 Golden rams and 2 Electric blue rams.
The first day, after acclimating them for two hours, everything seemed to be going well; the rams were eating well and actively exploring their tank. No one seemed stressed as they all came from the same display tank at my local specialty fish store. The gentleman there quarantined and treated the fish before putting in his display tank and they all were active and healthy looking with good appetites.
The third morning I noticed a sudden drop off in eagerness to eat and one of the GBR's had stringy white feces. I contacted a friend who has kept fish for years and while not familiar with cichlids, she suspected an internal parasite and told me to try Metroplex.
<Mmm; maybe. Metronidazole can/will treat for Octomita/Hexamita; and some of the classic symptoms you list>
It took two days to have the meds delivered and by then 48 hours had passed and three more of my rams had the stringy white feces and by then some of the fish had begun to lose color and stop eating. SeaChem recommended I treat at the maximum dose, but despite treatment (and gentle partial water changes before each new dose) I lost all of my fish one by one. I lost my last little guy just minutes before starting this email. SeaChem suspected Hexamita and a site devoted to cichlids suggested Hexamita intestinalis. Seachem recommended treating the tank for at least three weeks and to not introduce any more fish until the tank is clear of cysts. Others have suggested prophylactically treating any new rams with Metroplex in case they were carrying Hexamita. From what I've read some fish can suppress the parasite and appear healthy until stressed?
The shop owner is questioning why pretreatment is necessary since he treats all new arrivals for parasites as they come in.
<How, and with what? >
He and I are also perplexed how his remaining rams are still healthy and why mine so suddenly succumbed despite similar water parameters and same food.
<Some stressor, factor at play here. Your water does have adequate GH, KH?>
I fed the same high quality flakes he fed plus the addition of frozen brine with Spirulina and bloodworms. This has been a heart wrenching loss. Is there any way this could have been avoided?
<Need to know more. It is querulous that the store didn't lose the same stock>
I am hesitant to bring any more fish into my tank until I have more answers.
Any ideas guys? You have always helped me with problems in the past and I'm hoping you can offer some guidance now.
<Am asking Neale for his input here as well. Bob Fenner>
Re: Need help diagnosing disease in Ram cichlids       8/14/17

More info if this helps.
dKH is at 3°, dGH is 5°, today tank testing at pH of 7.
<Mmm; these should be fine. Am wondering if you'd be willing to place a few test fish here... Perhaps some small Danios, barbs... a platy?>
Tank is adequately filtered with Fluval C3 HOB rated for 20-50 gallons plus I have a Hydor sponge filter rated for 20 gallons with air diffuser. Ammonia and nitrite always zero, nitrate at 10 ppm. Temp at 82°F.I
Twice weekly water changes of 15%.
<The mystery goes on. BobF>
Re: Need help diagnosing disease in Ram cichlids       8/14/17

Hi Bob,
Yes, I think that is a great idea. I am extremely careful not to introduce anything into the tank, toxin wise, but who knows. Should I wait until I'm done treating the tank with Metroplex to kill off any remaining parasitic cysts (?) before introducing the test fish?
<I don't think this is a pathogenic issue.
Re: Need help diagnosing disease in Ram cichlids /Neale       8/14/17

<<For what it's worth, I feel that Ram Cichlids are increasingly at the "garbage" end of the aquarium fish trade. They are bred to a price, rather than for quality, and like Guppies and Neons, a combination of inbreeding and widespread use of antibiotics on fish farms has resulted in fish that have a poor life expectancy. Medicating with the old Metronidazole and Nitrofuran combination is worthwhile, because Hexamita is an issue with them, though usually only becoming apparent when they are stressed, for example by high nitrate or low oxygen. Extended quarantining away from community fish is probably useful too. The photograph of your dead specimen is not especially useful, though the redness around the vent is sometimes seen when fish suffer from bacterial infections such as Mycobacteriosis.
All this said, if the aquarium shop specimens are still fine, and your specimens are all dead, that does imply some stress factor at work (as Bob suggests) rather than disease, which might be expected to pick them off one at a time across a few weeks, even in the worst case scenario. My one experience along these lines was with some Nanochromis, after introduction of some wood that turned out to have been sprayed with pesticide very recently. These cichlids all exhibited stress symptoms within a few minutes and were all dead within an hour. Other fish were stressed as well, but being things like catfish able to handle pollution better, so survived
following on a water change and removal of the wood. Anyway, that's an extreme example, but might there be something in the environment that could have had a similar impact? Possibilities might include airborne solvents
(such as from paint fumes or cleaners), toxins (e.g., insect sprays), or waterborne poisons like copper (e.g., in the pipes). Also, just to be clear, your water sounds relatively soft, but I hope it isn't from a domestic water softener, which produces water with high sodium levels not at all similar to "real" soft water, and this can stress fish and cause problems. It's not likely to kill them dramatically, but it's one thing to tick off the list. I would also be more circumspect about whether the tank is actually cycled. It sounds like a new tank, but also an empty one, and fish-less cycling methods, while they can work, are not 100% reliable.
While the tank is sitting empty, I'd be adding pinches of food each day, and once or twice across the next few hours, checking that the ammonia and nitrite are genuinely staying at zero. "New Tank Syndrome" can easily
result in the sort of problem you've had. Hope this helps, Neale.>>

Re: Need help diagnosing disease in Ram cichlids     8/15/17
Hi Neale,
Thank you for the quick reply.
I use RO water, equilibrium, Seachem Acid and Alkaline buffers and aim for pH of between 6.8 -7.
<That should be sufficient, but for Rams, I'd tend to avoid trying to trying to balance pH and hardness by using acid and alkali buffers (i.e., two products that do different things) and instead use commercial Discus salt buffers, which should create ideal conditions in one fell swoop. Rams come from water with virtually no hardness, and very low pH, so Discus-style conditions are what they want and need.>
I am fanatical about toxins, cleaning agents, body lotions, etc. anywhere inside house. So if something toxic got into the tank, it had to be something I intentionally put in the tank like substrate, plants or wood. I use CaribSea sand for freshwater aquariums. I'm good about stirring the sand every few days to prevent has build up.
<Actually not necessarily, and potentially damaging. Anaerobic conditions in the sand are what you want to reduce nitrate and create the right conditions for plants. Assuming healthy plant growth (roots specifically) and a few burrowing snails, enough oxygen will be transported into the sand to prevent it going completely anoxic. Stirring the sand allows too much oxygen in, and causes any hydrogen sulphide bubbles in the sand to suddenly come out of the water! Leave the sand alone and the hydrogen sulphide creeps out very slowly, such that it is virtually instantly oxidised when it hits the clean water above the sand, thereby becoming harmless. If you look at marine tanks or ponds, where anaerobic substrates are normal, they don't stir the sand at all, just let the clean-up crew, burrowing fish, and healthy plants do the required maintenance. Alternatively, keep the sand layer really thin -- less than 2 cm -- and anaerobic conditions won't develop.>
The plants and driftwood in the tank came from the same fish store. I'm aware that plants coming from Asia are sometimes treated with pesticides, but these have been in a display tank with catfish. I did soak the driftwood in water for about a week, but if indeed sprayed who knows. I'll check with the shop owner. He seems genuinely concerned about his fish and products.
<I would imagine. But if the water has little alkalinity (not much ability to buffer against pH changes) a big amount of incompletely cured bogwood can rapidly drop the pH. Also, do understand that when buffering capacity is low, plants will dramatically change pH if they do photosynthesis rapidly enough. That's why modern planted tanks use devices to sync CO2 addition to pH, so as to offset the absorption of CO2 by the plants under strong light, which can cause pH to rapidly rise. To some degree this is natural -- pH in ponds can go as high as 8 or even 9 during sunny days --
but in tanks it is generally not helpful.>
I have checked the water parameters every morning and everything stays at zero, but yes the tank has only been cycled for 2 months and you are probably correct in that the tank may be too immature for sensitive fish such as ram cichlids. Whatever it was, they were fine for the first two days and then started showing symptoms of stringy white feces.
<The thing with fish-less cycling is that you add ammonia, which stimulates growth of ammonia-using bacteria (nitrifying bacteria). But it does nothing to stimulate the growth of saprotrophic bacteria that break down organic matter such as uneaten food or fish faeces, or any of the other bacteria that process other chemicals such as urea into ammonia. This is why I like to combine fish-less methods with bits of seafood or fish food -- these help to jump-start these other bacteria alongside the nitrifying bacteria.>
I'm even questioning my post carbon filter on my 5 stage RO system. It is rated for 1800-2000 gallons and has had maybe 980-1000 gallons max pass through it. Our water company had a line break a month back and even though
the water has no odor or taste, I'm wondering what they may have added to the water to treat any resulting contamination. I normally don't use prime to treat my RO water but recently I've added a very small amount (because I'm paranoid). I've ordered a chlorine test kit to double check and I will test a sample of my RO water and I'm switching out my carbon filter early as a precaution. I did freeze the fish in case the shop owner wants to
pursue it further.
<Good idea.>
If it was stress would they all die within a week?
I know they can get territorial but their threats seemed harmless and overall they seemed to get along great for the two days before they started showing symptoms.
<Generally, yes; Rams are territorial but their home ranges are small, maybe a square foot or so. To some degree the males prefer to dominate a harem of females, given the chance, though not as overtly as Apistogramma species do.>
Thanks again guys.
I'll try adding some hardier fish in once I'm through treating the tank with Metroplex.
<I think this is wise; some hardier non-threatening species, such as mid to surface-swimming characins that enjoy similar conditions but aren't nearly so delicate, perhaps Emperor Tetras or Penguin Tetras. Corydoras sterbai
could work, enjoying the same hot, soft water as Rams, but in small tanks Rams tend to bully catfish, so be careful when combining them.>
<Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Need help diagnosing disease in Ram cichlids       8/17/17
Thanks Neil and Bob.
Fish shop owner recommended the little rams as good community fish for my planted tank along with Cory cats and tetras. I now see that because of their special needs they are not.
<Ah yes... need quite warm, soft, acidic water... and as Neale stated, have real diminished genetic flexibility issues>

If I go get cichlids in the future it will be a species only tank and I will definitely use the Discus buffer.
Thank you for the great info on the sand and cycling.
<Will share w/ Neale>
The shop owner was impressed with your wealth of knowledge. We both learned a lot. Sad lesson learned, but now he can advise other customers and prevent future fish losses.
You guys rock!
<Be of good life Susan (Anima bona fac). Bob Fenner>

Re: Need help diagnosing disease in Ram cichlids     /Neale      8/18/17
Thanks Neil and Bob.
Fish shop owner recommended the little rams as good community fish for my planted tank along with Cory cats and tetras. I now see that because of their special needs they are not. If I go get cichlids in the future it will be a species only tank and I will definitely use the Discus buffer.
<Cool. Do look at Apistogramma cacatuoides and Mikrogeophagus altispinosus as two undemanding South American dwarf cichlids. Both are happy in medium hardness water, and both like normal temperature (25 C/77 F) so work great with midwater community fish. Mixing with Corydoras is always doable, just keep an eye out for bullying if the cichlids feel cramped. What sometimes happens is cichlids bite out the catfish's eyes, which isn't nice!
Bristlenose Plecs are safer bets.>
Thank you for the great info on the sand and cycling. The shop owner was impressed with your wealth of knowledge. We both learned a lot. Sad lesson learned, but now he can advise other customers and prevent future fish losses.
You guys rock!
<Thanks for the kind words! Neale.>

Question for Neale on cichlids; sep. file on Dwarfs      8/21/17
Hi Neale,
I'm an earlier email, you recommended cockatoo cichlids has a hardy beginner's cichlid to add to my tank once it has matured and settled down a bit. You also recommended Bolivian rams.
<Generally these are two good species. Not inbred too badly, and with more adaptability with regard to water chemistry than many other South American dwarfs. Not as tough as goldfish, say, but generally not hard to keep with some basic understanding and experience.>
At your recommendation, I'm starting off with hardy Danios.
<Good species.>
My local fish shop has zebra and leopard Danios which hopefully should do well in my tank.
<Normally do, though watch the males -- in small groups can be bullies towards other Danios and similar fish, such as White Cloud Mountain Minnows. Totally fine with catfish, loaches, and other dissimilar species.>
I was wondering if the Borelli's dwarf cichlid (Apistogramma borellii) from the same family as the cockatoo cichlid would be an appropriate choice since it is smaller and size wise might do better in my 20 gallon tank. I'm the literature, they appear to also be less sensitive and more adaptable to a wider range of pH and temperature. What is your opinion on this smaller cichlid?
<It's a nice species, though prefers slightly cooler water than most, around 22-24 C, which is ideal for Danios as it happens. Doesn't like very hard or very soft water, so again, a good match for Danios. Like most if not all dwarf cichlids it is sensitive to high nitrate and poor filtration, but other than that, farmed specimens of this species are pretty easy and do well in quiet community tanks. Wild-caught specimens are best left to experts and kept in species-only systems.>
Still no answers as to why my GBRs died. Water parameters still stable. My nitrate levels are lower than the shop's at 10 ppm (his are at 30-40 ppm). A friend thought it was nitrate shock and to buy a new test kit in case mine is faulty, which I'm doing before I add any new fish to the tank. Your comment on fluctuating pH may have been a stress factor as I only tested pH in the morning. The shop owner says they can easily tolerate pH up to 7.5 (he kept them at 7.2) but other sources state they do better below 7.0 pH. My friend kept hers at 6.8. My moderately planted tank wants to stabilize between 7.0 and 7.3. My gH is 6-7° and my kH is 3°.
<Rams will certainly tolerate pH 7.5 for a while, but rarely live their full lifespan in hard water; my experience is that the farmed specimens rarely last a year in "average" tanks. Doesn't explain your situation, but I'm still not a fan of this particular species.>
Thank you for your guidance and advice. I'm finding that I have to do my own research and not trust the salesman at LFS, even if he is the owner.
<Your retailer sounds like one of the good ones! So I'd certainly listen to what he/she has to say. Of course I'd also verify with my own reading online and elsewhere.>
I'm reviewing your (and Bob's) wonderful articles on your web site. I love this hobby and want to do what's best for the fish in my care.
<Thanks for the kind words, and your attitude does you credit! Neale.>

Male GBR lost buoyancy, lethargic, but has his balance, accepts food, good color     6/4/17
Hello WWM crew,
I'm stumped with my male German Blue Ram, who has been showing signs of illness for almost 10 days now.
For background, I purchased the fish at approximately 3 months old directly from a breeder (so no hormones, etc.) in October 2015, making him roughly 2 years old now. He has been paired with a female bought from a chain store, who is roughly the same age, though I'm less certain about her since she was clearly one of the Asian, mass-produced kinds. She had been in the tank about 2 weeks when he was added. They spawned less than 24 hours after introduction and have generally got on well, though there was a time when he was nipping her pretty good after some failed spawns due to eggs eaten by tankmates. At one point, before I added oil catfish (Centromochlus perugiae) to the tank, they had gotten to the point of free swimming fry. The oil cats now munch up any eggs the first night they are laid. With that said, my goal was never necessarily to breed them, I just give this info to give a sense of the extent to which the two fish used to get along and were apparently healthy enough to raise fry if they'd been in a species-specific tank.
The entire time I've had them, they've been in the same 29 gallon tank. It has always been heavily planted with quite a bit of driftwood as well. It originally had a black, inert plant substrate (Eco-Complete), but I covered it with light-colored sand after reading a collection report in Tropical Fish Hobbyist that described the collection site for some GBRs as having light colored sand (and it also discussed the importance of sifting sand for the GBRs which I had not heard of previously). Tankmates include a now-adult female common Bristlenose Pleco of about 4", 7 Rummynose tetras, and 9 Corydoras habrosus. All of them were in the tank prior to the rams. As far as interactions with those fish, the Rummynose tetras are occasionally the target of their ire—particularly when there is a commotion around an algae wafer or back when they were breeding. The tetras are much too fast to ever get nipped when one of the rams decides to charge into the middle of them. They ignore the small cories other than chasing them away from eggs, which never much seemed to interest the cories. About a year after getting the rams, I added the aforementioned oil catfish, both of which are female; as you may expect, they spend most of their time hiding except when I feed the tank.
I keep the tank about 78-79 degrees, reconciling the small differences in my two thermometers and fluctuations throughout the day. I'm aware that some sources suggest keeping rams in hotter water than this, but given the success some keepers have had at this temperature I've kept it this way since it is as high as the catfish can safely go in the longer term. pH has consistently been 6.5, which is where it seemingly "wants" to be since it takes no fiddling to get there. Water has 2 degrees kH and 5-6 degrees GH out of the tap. Their diet is quite varied. I feed some frozen foods, about half of which is Mysis shrimp. Occasionally, I feed frozen bloodworms and Spirulina-infused brine shrimp. I've fed some Spirulina and seaweed-infused frozen mixes that include Mysis shrimp, krill, and brine shrimp. They get New Life Spectrum Thera+A as their primary dry food. They also eagerly take the occasional Omega One algae wafer that is put in there mainly for the benefit of the Pleco. They peck a little bit at the zucchini I give the Pleco and ignore the broccoli.
One last thing. About a month ago, I had a Cory suddenly die after not showing any obvious symptoms previously. He had lost his equilibrium entirely when I saw him and was rather opaque and white compared to normal. I got him out of the tank and into a specimen container before he died, at which point I noticed that his underside was badly ulcerated. It was as if someone drilled a shallow hole into his stomach. I noticed another Cory, just before the ram began presenting symptoms, with two small areas of missing skin/armor on its dorsal side, one above its right eye and the other on the other lateral side closer to the dorsal fin. It had some white translucent fluffy growth on there at one point, though it eventually went away. At last check, the Cory's behavior still hasn't changed and the areas look less concerning. I don't know if any of these three cases (the two cories and the ram) are related, but this tank has always been quite healthy so I thought I would share this info. The last meaningful health issue in that tank was about 18 months ago, when the female ram had signs of mild hole in the head after I returned from a 10-day trip in which they were not fed. Frequent feeding and a water change seemed to clear that right up for her at the time.
So there you have the background in excruciating detail. The day after I left for a trip, my roommate told me that the entire day I had been gone, the ram had been hiding inside of what amounts to a cave formed by the shape of one of the pieces of driftwood. This didn't seem so unusual at first since he often retreats there when the lights are out or when he wants to get away from the current. But the next two days I was gone, my roommate reported he still would not come out. He did accept food, though he wouldn't go far from his cave to get it. This pattern continued when I returned home, at which point it became more apparent to me that he was also "sitting" on the ground while in his cave. That is, he would be perfectly balanced but his stomach was in contact with the substrate. He'd often be relatively motionless, just gently using his pectoral fins to keep his balance. Breathing has never looked labored, at times his gill flaps don't move much at all...but then again, he probably doesn't need much oxygen to maintain a motionless position! He does not look bloated, does not clamp his fins, and his colors look good if a bit dark, maybe because he's in a shaded place. Because I didn't know what was wrong and had suspected the other ram may have a low-level parasite issue, I treated the tank more or less prophylactically with a mixture of Praziquantel and Metronidazole in the form of the product API General Cure at its recommended dosage. That treatment has now run its course with no change in behavior for the ram.
He is now in a 10 gallon quarantine tank. I saw him swim out of his cave since he was spooked by the curious Pleco, at which point I could see that he wasn't merely "tired" but that he seemed to not really have buoyancy. It reminded me of how a swim bladder-less fish like my Kuhli loaches in another tank swim, where they can get off the ground but only for as long as they are actively fighting to stay up. Seeing this head up, tail down swimming concerned me enough to move him—that he hadn't worsened in the almost week since he first presented symptoms also made me confident that the stress of moving wouldn't itself be a death sentence. The tank is set up only for this purpose and had previously been bleach-cleaned and sitting dry waiting for the next sick fish. It has no substrate and a small HOB filter designed for 10 gallon tanks. I put a foam pre-filter over the intake after a bad experience in a sick fish getting sucked against the intake (you guess how that turned out). There are some plastic decorations that resemble houses and caves so that he can hide in them if he wants. The lights are off, though it's not pitch dark due to a window in the room. I've had the lights on a couple of hours each day just so I can get a better look at him. Temperature is 80 degrees and I'm careful to get new water to the right temperature before adding.
I noticed when moving him that he had a little "something" sticking out of his cloaca. The only time I've ever seen anything like it is when mating, when the female had the ovipositor out and he had some similar-looking protrusion that I assume related to his role in fertilizing the eggs. This made me suspect constipation, so after some time adjusting to the quarantine tank I added 1 tbsp of Epsom salt to the quarantine tank. He didn't seem to react to it much either way, so I began to slowly remove it via water changes after about 6 hours, having done enough partial changes to return to normal 24 hours later. I haven't noticed the protrusion today, but it's hard to see when that part of his body is basically in contact with the ground all the time.
After giving him a day off from the Epsom, I have dosed the antibiotic Kanamycin (Seachem Kanaplex) since it seems one of the remaining possibilities for his symptoms that he hasn't been treated for is an internal bacterial infection. I've also read that this medication is generally quite well-tolerated by fish and can be effective without being consumed, which I like since the proper dosage when making medicated food is so tricky to figure out. Still, he's now on his second day of this and hasn't changed at all, but I would expect this to take longer to work if it is working at all.
So at this point I feel lucky in that he's stable. My general expectation whenever I see a fish that is visibly sick is that it will probably die and die soon regardless of what I want to do to help; it doesn't always turn out that way, of course, but as I'm sure you know it's often the case that the presentation of symptoms comes long after the pathogen began wreaking havoc. In this case, he hasn't gotten better or worse over more than a week, so I feel that I have time to do something else for him if there is such a thing. I'd love some feedback on what the best course of action is here or what the likely problem is. I'm fortunate to have had him this long already and I'm open to the idea that this is something like a "natural" progression towards death brought on by old age, but his change was so abrupt I'm more apt to think I might be able to help him with the right strategy.
Thanks for reading such a long email and I appreciate what you folks do!
– Jacob
<Hi Jacob. Cutting to the chase, three things come to my mind. The first is that farmed Rams are *not* hardy or long-lived fish, and if yours is two years old now, it's lived several times longer than most store-bought Rams ever do! For sure the use of antibiotics and hormones on fish farms is part of the issue, but even with locally bred Rams (likely descended from a single shipment of fish, even siblings) the gene pool is so limited that you don't really get particularly good quality specimens. Next up, temperature. Rams have evolved to live in llanos habitat where shallow streams run through open grassland, and water temperatures there are very high. Keeping Rams cooler than recommended may work out for a while, but as with Discus, there's no reason to expect them to live their full lifespan in cooler water. On the contrary; we haven't bred them to live in cooler conditions (the fish farms keep them warm, and local breeders just haven't had the time or inclination to actively select for genuinely hardier fish that will live their full lifespan at "normal" temperatures). Finally, Hexamita and its close relative, Hole-in-the-Head disease, always need mentioning when cichlids fail to thrive. It's hard to say whether we're dealing with the Hexamita parasite, high nitrates, or a nutritional deficiency caused by the lack of fresh greens in their diet (almost all cichlids eat far more veggie foods in the wild than we tend to offer them). But whatever the cause, those dreaded symptoms of failing vigour, loss of colour, loss of weight, pits around the head and along the flanks, and finally death do really seem to be the bugbear of cichlid keeping. I see that you have used Metronidazole, which when used alongside a Nitrofuran type antibiotic offers the best treatment for Hexamita-type diseases, though only alongside optimised living conditions (lower nitrate, more oxygen, more fresh greens or their equivalent). That would, for what it's worth, be my response to what you're dealing with here. Hope this helps. Cheers, Neale.>

Sick rams!    1/26/17
Hello WWM crew person; and thank you for taking the time to read my questions!
I am one of those crazy masochists that keep Ram Cichlids; I have a total of 16 right now in four different aquariums, and all but two are doing quite well.
<Well done.>
I know rams are delicate and demanding fish, and I do my best to keep them properly (warm, soft, acid, buffered water with Zeolite filtration, lots of live plants, a variety of high-quality dried and frozen foods, and dithers that do not out-compete them for food).
<I think this is the issue really. They're not rubbish fish, in theory at least; just they have very specific needs not often met in community tanks. That said, farmed Rams are, at best, variable in quality.>
So far, I’ve had pretty good luck with survival and health despite buying several specimens from ‘big-box’ stores, but I have two sick boys right now who have me stumped.
The first is an ‘angel ram’ - essentially a long-finned balloon-bodied blue ram - that I rescued from a smaller, more reputable LFS specializing in cichlids. I don’t normally like fish with mutant body-types, as I know this does wonky things with their anatomy and health, but my heart went out to this guy because he had survived in horrible conditions. When I got him, he was in a quarantine tank at the LFS with one other angel ram and a number of large angelfish and Corys (one of which appeared to have a fungal infection) that had been surrendered to the store by their former owner, who decided he wanted to do something different with his tank. I took both of the rams home with me; they were pretty battered with shredded fins, red sores on their body and some of the worst HLLE I’ve ever seen (no surprise as they were in a tank with very large cichlids). The worse-off of the two unfortunately died overnight in quarantine. The other guy has since recovered from everything except for the HLLE after diligent water changes, proper water/temperature parameters, and a round of Nitrofurazone (Furan-2).
<HLLE can take time to heal; often the scars or pits persist.>
I have him in a 10 gallon, bare-bottom QT with a few potted live plants, equipped with a 71 gph HOB filter with Zeolite and filter floss, supplemented by a seasoned air-driven sponge filter. Tank parameters are pH 6.6, gph 3, kH 1, 30 degrees C, ammonia/nitrite 0 and nitrate < 5. I have administered three feedings of Metronidazole-laced food, and although he is swimming and eating well and looking and acting altogether delightfully ram-like, he still has large white spots on his left ’nostril’ and behind his right eye (see photos). His feces is normal; in fact, I’ve not seen abnormal feces since I got him. It has been two weeks since the Nitrofurazone and about a week since I fed the metro; since then, I’ve been alternating Omega One pellet food and frozen brine shrimp soaked in vita-chem, both of which he accepts readily.
<Good all-around.>
I don’t want to give him any more metro, as I’m sure he’s rather attached to his kidneys, but I’m not sure what else to do to treat the ‘hole in the head,’ if that’s what it is. If it’s just more time to recover that he needs, that’s fine, but I don’t want to miss a critical step in his treatment and end up losing this little guy as he’s fought so hard to stick around.
<The white stuff is dead tissue. It may take some time to dislodge. Short term, yes, I'd abstain from another round of medications, but simply spend a week or two providing good food and water. Then see what happens. If you need to re-medicate, then he should be ready for that.>
The second fish I’m writing about is an electric blue (non-balloon) ram. He’s actually one of the first rams I ever bought, and has been with me for the better part of a year. He paired up with one of my long-finned blue ram females and has fathered three batches of fry, two of which the pair managed to raise successfully despite my bumbling - ram fry are HARD to feed properly! Since they paired up, he's been living in a 20-gallon densely planted tank with his mate and occasionally their fry until they are large enough to move to the grow-out tank. They receive twice-weekly 25% water changes with 50% RO/50% tap (sometimes more often with fry). Parameters are kept ram-friendly, similar to the QT tank listed above; I try not to let nitrates get above 10 between water changes. The tank is equipped with a 150 gph HOB with Zeolite, and two air-driven sponge filters.
When he fell ill, the pair had just lost a batch of fry (their third) under mysterious circumstances; when I turned the lights off that night, 30-40 week-old fry were swimming about; in the morning, they were all gone (presumably eaten, although whether alive or dead at the time is up for debate). Water parameters were normal (nitrates were ~10, ammonia/nitrite 0, temp 30C, pH 6.6-6.8, gph 3). The female was behaving normally, but the male was suddenly acting lethargic, resting on the bottom. His color was good, fins weren’t clamped and I saw no other external signs of disease or distress, and he behaved/swam fairly normally when his mate came near (showing off, basically), but otherwise he just sat there. I decided to fast them just in case he had a case of constipation brought on by eating his brood, but after two days of no improvement I moved him to quarantine just in case.
He’s now been in quarantine for three days in more or less identical conditions to my other ram above; the only thing I’ve done is added aquarium salt at 1g/L, since I have no idea what’s wrong with him. Other than an occasional flare at his neighbor (their tanks are adjacent), the poor little fellow has been sitting in the same corner of the tank, looking depressed. When he does move, he sort of ‘wriggles’ along the bottom using his pectoral and dorsal fins; his tail moves very minimally. Occasionally, he ‘hops’ off the bottom with his pelvic fins, but usually doesn’t get far before he falls down to the bottom; on a couple of occasions, I have observed him doing something like a hiccup or a cough with his mouth when he does this.
<Again, I'd sit and wait here.>
His appetite is still good (diet same as the other ram above, minus the metro), and his feces is normal.
<Which implies Hexamita isn't the issue.>
I’m unsure how to proceed … any guesses on what might be wrong with him, other than maybe old age? He was fully grown when I bought him, so I have no idea how old he actually is.
<Indeed. While it's possible he has a Mycobacteria infection (quite common among farmed fish) I think in this case a combination of genes, stress, and perhaps the HLLE or whatever has rendered this chap a bit weak. If he's feeding and interacting normally, and you've medicated as per HLLE already, I think I'd simply let him live his natural life for the time being. If some obvious symptoms materialise, then maybe medicate again; but for now, leave him be.>
Thanks again for reading,
<Welcome. Neale.>
Re: Sick rams!      1/27/17

Hello again Neale,
Thanks for the advice on the angel ram with HLLE; I will keep up the water changes and hope he won’t need a second round of metro (though I’ll keep some ready just in case).
<Indeed. Nitrate is a particular worry with dwarf cichlids generally, so feeding sparingly, and carrying out regular water changes are probably the two things to watch.>
The electric blue ram who is sitting on the bottom hasn’t actually been treated with anything (other than 1g/L of salt as per Bob Fenner’s article re: salt use on WWM), because frankly I’m not sure what’s wrong with him and although I keep a range of medications on hand, I don’t like to use them indiscriminately. He hasn’t shown any signs of HLLE or any external symptoms at all other than negative buoyancy.
<Could very easily be a genetic problem. "Belly sliders" are quite common among inbred fish, for which read pretty much any fancy form, whether cichlid, goldfish or whatever. If the fish is otherwise happy and healthy, I'd tend to sit back and observe rather than anything else. Certainly, treating as per constipation rather than with medication would be my first choice. Cooked spinach and peas probably aren't going to be taken by a Ram, but daphnia and brine shrimp work fairly well as laxatives, so are well worth a shot.>
Should I treat with a general antibiotic as a ‘shot in the dark’ measure?
<I would not unless there were definite indications of bacterial infection.>
I have Kanamycin, Nitrofurazone, Metronidazole, and erythromycin as well as Praziquantel and Seachem Paraguard on hand, and can get almost anything else within two days. Suggestions?
<See above.>
<Welcome. Neale.>

German Blue Rams. Hlth.      3/27/16
Hi there! I purchased two German blue Rams (what we presumed to be a male and female) a little over a month ago, but the male isn't looking too hot.
He doesn't act sick, but he isn't as vibrant color-wise as he once was, and he holds his dorsal and pectoral fins close to his body. I have scoured all corners of the Internet to find a plausible reason for this, but I have had no such luck.
My female is totally fine, and the two of them continue to swim around together and both are eating normally.
I should mention that yesterday I did lots of maintenance in the tank. I scrubbed plants of algae and added some new sand for my shrimp and some other housekeeping things. I assumed he had lost his color because he was nervous, seeing as I had my hands in the tank and whatnot. This morning, though, a full 18 hours later, he still looks the same.
I was hoping you could tell me what's going on with this little guy and if I should worry because right now I'm stressing about my little guy, and I want to help him if I can.
His fins aren't stuck this way, either. He'll bring them out to their normal position for a split second occasionally, usually when he's with the other one. His coloring has been coming and going, too, but I'm not sure what to do. My pH is at a solid 6.6 (for my plants), and my temperature is floating at 80.3° F.
My female seems to be entirely unaffected, which makes me think it may not be a massive problem that will wipe out everything in the tank.
I'm at a loss at this point. I'm not sure what I can do because I can't figure out what's wrong with him.
I'm hoping maybe you will have some insight.
Happy Easter, too, by the way!
Thanks in advance,
<I'm afraid to say, Rachael, that a lot of Rams are "juiced" on the farms, using some unknown (and probably varying) cocktail of antibiotics, colour-enhancers, and hormones. Once they're home, the effect of these chemicals wears off, and you find their colours fade and often their vitality too. They're just not a reliable species unless you "buy local" from someone breeding them. You've touched on pH and temperature, but let me remind you hardness, rather than pH per se, is the essential water chemistry parameter here. You must have something in the "soft" range, i.e., 1-5 degrees dH. The flip side to low hardness and low pH is that biological filtration suffers (the bacteria prefer hard water and basic pH levels) so understocking is important. Alongside understocking for that reason is the problem with oxygen deprivation in very warm water. They don't do well in community tanks for all these reasons, and while I will recommend the usual Metronidazole and antibiotic combination for perking up ailing cichlids (it's particularly good against Hexamita, a real plague among dwarf cichlids) I wouldn't get my hopes up unless this fish is actively swimming, feeding and interacting with the female. Happy Easter to you, too! Neale.>

More dwarf cichlid problems, and sick neon?    3/12/16
Hello crew, hope you have been doing well.
I am writing you again, as im having troubles with a female ram I've had for about 2 years.
<Mikrogeophagus ramirezi; a difficult species at the best of times, not particularly good quality fish exported from most fish farms, and very specific in terms of requirements. High temperature, low hardness, low pH, and low nitrate all essential. Modern farmed strains are not especially long lived, either. The majority of specimens last a few months in community tanks, I'd wager, partly because of the wrong conditions, but also simply poor genes. Two years isn't bad, really. For sure they might last 4-5 years in ideal conditions, but unless you've got wild-caught (or good quality tank-bred) specimens, I bet that's pretty rare. It's also a fact these fish compete poorly in mixed species set-ups. They're mini earth-eaters, and really need a soft substrate that allows them to sift out algae and tiny invertebrates at their leisure. They'll eat flake, but whether they get enough is hard to be sure if other fish are stealing it first, and if you aren't using dried foods but frozen bloodworms (for example) that certainly isn't going to work for long.>
She is in a 150 gal high tech tank. The tanks been setup since day 1 with a seeded 1600l/h powerhead and a smaller 500l/h ( it also has a hang on back filter, and waiting on a canister to reach me via mail). Its been setup for 3 months and plants are starting to take off a lot. Im running pressurized co2 and the surface is kept with small disruption( during the night co2 is left on but there is a lot of surface disruption.)
Parameters are:
Ph: 7.2
GH: 12
Kh: 10
<Do see above. Bottom line: these are soft water fish.>
Ammonia: 0
Nitrite :0
Nitrates: 30
<Should be okay, but as with most cichlids, once nitrate goes above 20 mg/l, you're providing a source of stress.>
Since i first moved my oldest ramirezi she's been sort of breathing heavily, not gasping but opening her mouth very wide, still ate and was very active/colorful. 2 weeks ago i added another ram, this time another female, vastly larger than the one i already had in there( i would think this ones a male as it doesn't have a red belly but does have blue, iridescent spots on its black mark so not sure). I have seen the new, bigger ram bullying the smaller one. The new ram is completely ok, no heavy breathing and no hiding, while my oldest ram has taken to hiding most of the day. Just now i noticed her tail is split horizontally in two... No blood or wound, just a divided tail and she really looks stressed ( though colorful).
<Your observations are correct. Rams are territorial, and in the wild, a lot of these dwarf cichlids are actually harem spawners. Mikrogeophagus ramirezi is an exception, according to Loiselle, but to call them invariably monogamous is probably, I think, an overstatement, and more to the point, females will be mildly territorial towards one another, even if the male isn't (as with harem spawners) moving in and out of their territories each time he mates with them. So in short, yes, females will bicker, and it's a good idea to provide definite territorial boundaries (like rocks) as well as safe houses (upturned coconut shells, caves, etc.) so each female can space itself out from the other.>
This is a 150 gal, 60' x 24' footprint tank, they are the only cichlids, sharing the tank with a shoal of blue, cardinal, neon and lemon tetras, 4 boesemanni rainbows, 5 kuhli loaches, 2 Rineloricaria parva, 3 Otos, a chocolate gourami and a single, small Bala shark ( was taken from another aquarist, i have plans to rehome him/ complete his school)
<Some interesting choices there. Do review water temperature requirements in particular, as this is an issue, even with South American species. Contrary to popular perception, South America isn't just one habitat but a huge range of them, and Rams come from the "llanos", a very different environment to the rainforest. Open grassland, bright sunshine, reliably high temperatures, and very soft water are all characteristics of the llanos. Contrast this with Neons, for example, which may share similar water chemistry requirements but come from shady rainforests where the water temperature is a lot lower, 22-24 C/72-75 F being ideal for them.>
I don't think its the gas as she was like this before i started gassing the tank. Should i rehome? Would the bigger ram be the cause of her split tail? I have kept/bred about 4 other rams in a 40 gal and they never have really hurt each other, just chase/ flare.... And this is such a big tank i mean... Makes no sense.
<I doubt the problem is the CO2 fertilisation, but rather social behaviour. Given time and space they should settle down, but if you can rehome one or other, that's not a bad idea. Alternatively, allow about 30 cm radius around the cave or nest claimed by each pair, and if necessary, move some of the plants and rocks in your tank to reset the territorial boundaries. Removing the aggressive fish to a breeding trap for a few hours can help, allowing the less aggressive fish time to claim its patch. Turn the lights out before releasing the aggressor, and with luck, they'll tolerate each other better. Failing that, adding further females will diffuse aggression between them all, reducing the tendency of any one fish to be bullied. A tank your size should allow for this without problems. One cave at one end, another cave at the other, and four or five caves in between them, each about 30 cm apart, ideally with rocks and plants to break up the "line of sight" between each fish. Make sense?>
No other problems with other fish except for a neon tetras which just today showed up swimming upside down, very active and feeding... He is just... Floating upside down, struggling to keep down, i have since separated him to a 3 gal container ( with a small seeded sponge and a bubbler) , i have tried feeding him peas but he doesn't take it... Im guessing he's caught air?
<Again, Neons are very poor quality fish these days. Do review Neon Tetra Disease, and any fish suffering from these symptoms is best humanely euthanised (Clove Oil is my preference for this) to prevent infection of others.>
Im pretty bummed... I would appreciate some help with this.
Thanks again, Roberto.
<Hope this helps. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: More dwarf cichlid problems, and sick neon?     3/15/16

Temperature of tank is 26-27 c. No heater that's room temperature. Substrate is fine volcanic gravel ( soft) just a little bigger than silica sand.
The neon tetra has completely cured ( for all I can notice) but will be kept on the 3 gal for a few more days. Today while cleaning I found the ram swimming in circles, at the substrate and generally looks disoriented/ not responding. In pretty bad shape.
<Very odd. But will refer you to previous message about Neons and Rams having much different thermal requirements.>
I have made sure to keep my dwarves in clean, well filtered water ( never exceed 40 ppm in nitrates and generally kept at 20) I have had this ram breed once and an agassizii pair breed twice. I feel this is more on the parasitic side?
<Possibly, but short of the standard Metronidazole and Nitrofuran antibiotic combination that works so well with cichlids, there's nothing immediately obvious you should do. Rams just aren't robust fish in anything other than llanos-type situations, and things like Mycobacteria infections are so common with them, and so untreatable, that it's hard to pin down when they die because of illness from when they die from environmental stress. Indeed, there's probably an argument for saying one influences the other.>
She is floating right now on her side, with a slight curvature to her spine and a slight bump. She has been separated to another small tank.
<Spinal deformities usually aren't promising, and by the time this happens, the fish rarely recovers.>
Doesn't look like she can make it... But any insight into this will be appreciated. As always, thank you very much, for your time.
<If this were me, I'd be euthanising humanely, and reflecting on the appropriateness of this particular species on what sounds to be a nice little community tank. Cheers, Neale.>

.... Blue Rams, rdg.        11/10/14
Hi, I just recently purchase two German blue rams (1 male and 1 female) and the female is breathing heavy and laying on the bottom. Any advice on how to save it if at all possible?
<...? Data re the system? History? Did you search, read on WWM re Microgeophagus? Bob Fenner>

Why do my German Blue Rams keep dying?     8/11/14
I have a question that I am at odds with: I have been trying to keep GBRs alive for a few months now and they keep dying on me.
<Mmm; not a hardy species (anymore)... their genetic stock is weak; have become less aquarium suitable with inbreeding, hybridization>
I am an experienced aquarist with decades of home fish keeping experience.
I currently have a 90 gallon planted discus focused tank. Driftwood, 4- 3-5 inch Discus, 1 mature female Angel, 9 cardinal tetras, 3 bushy nose Plecos, a few Corydoras, 4 pentazona barbs, 2 clown loaches, 2 Siamese algae eaters, 2 glass catfish. I've had some of these fish for 3 years, and all are thriving.
Feeding varied, nutritious diet of Hikari frozen bloodworms, brine shrimp, tetra bits, cobalt Mysis flakes, omega one flake food, Hikari discus gold, north fin krill pellets, and Hikari algae wafers.
<I'd drop the Bloodworms... significant health issues implicated; and add more frozen, live foods to this mix>
I'm running 2 Eheim 2217's, temp is between 83 and 84,

<Hopefully with the discharges mixing air and water. I'd add more agitation, circulation. Too little DO may be a factor here>

T5 HO lighting with LED morning and evening graduated lighting to ease stress on fish. Light gravel vacuum water changes every 3-4 days, replenishing with 40% aged, heated and aerated tap water.
Treated with Seachem Prime, Excel and Flourish and API Amazon Extract.
PH in tank and out of tap is 7.2-7.4.
<Mmm; a little high for Microgeophagus... I'd keep 7.0 and under>

Hard water, don't have reading at the moment, but know it's not "very hard" on tetra strips, just "hard."
My LFS gets rams from local breeders,
<They're to be congratulated, shopped for their efforts here>
and water in the store is hard also with PH of around 8.0.
I've also purchased rams out of town from stores using RO water.
<I'd get, use your own RO device (I do and have done for decades)>
It's been running for 6 months. Water parameters have been consistent, ammonia 0, nitrites 0, nitrates 2-5 ppm. Nitrogen cycling time during the first 2 months was different as the bio filter was becoming established but stable since then.
In my estimation and experience there is no reason why GBR's shouldn't thrive in my aquarium, but they keep getting skin lesions and then rapid breathing and then dead. I've gone through many, like 8, and don't get why this keeps happening. I have treated my tank 2 months ago with tank dose Praziquantel and metronozidole soaked food
<Just once w/ the Metro/Flagyl... too toxic (nephro-) to keep over-exposing>

with focus and garlic guard to deworm my discus, other fish were treated, but no losses or ill effect on fish during that time. I'm attaching pics, if you have any idea what is causing this, I would greatly appreciate it.
<Do appear to be "breaking down"... bacterial likely... But what cause/s, or more importantly, what can be done to prevent? Better nutrition and water quality are the areas I'd emphasize. MOSTLY, I'd contact your stores supplier of the Rams and ask them what they're doing re both these>
Since most of these rams have been kept for weeks at LFS in 8.0 ph very hard water and look great when I bought them I don't get what is wrong with my conditions. I'm suspecting they are so inbred they've become extremely susceptible and weakened?
<This for sure; I agree>
Help please! I give up!
Another fish...
<Again; I'd contact your LFS, get their breeders contact info.; in turn contact them re foods/feeding and water quality.
Do please report back your further experiences, findings. Bob Fenner>

Re: Why do my German Blue Rams keep dying?    8/11/14
Thank you so much for your insight and speedy reply.
I forgot to add the sponge filter I've also been using to pre-filter and clear fine particles (including bacteria I assume?) and at the same time provide aeration that is needed for DO (I noticed a positive difference
when the initial airstone went in, and a month ago decided to add the sponge filter to be a dual purpose improvement.)
RO is not a practical option for me at this time.
<Mmm; not to be argumentative; but IF you have pressurized source water, not "that" expensive to procure gear, easy to install... MUCH more reasonable in long/shortish time frame than driving, buying, hauling otherwise>
I understand I would still have to mix it with tap water since it's stripped of all dissolved minerals,
<Or add back purposely via a commercial product, or one of your own devising (MgSO4 and sodium bicarbonate likely principally)>
and since all my fish (except GBR's) are thriving in my current routine, I need to keep these things the same. Peat to lower PH leaves me with the issue of PH swing when I do the necessary 40%water changes (I've tried it) causing too much stress on my fish. I was advised at my LFS to work with
what I have to maintain stability over and above what the PH and hardness "should" be. That makes good sense to me.
<Real good>
Great idea to inquire with their breeders to find out more on how they are kept/fed while at the breeder.
It sounds like GBR's have an issue in their genetics at this time, very unfortunate since they are amazing fish. I suppose there will need to be a slow process of selective breeding for hardiness to change what breeders have (unintentionally) done to their immune systems over time.
<Ah yes; the tried and true method of adding back heterogeneity via introduction of wild stock/s>
I may have to give up on them for the time being:(
Thanks again for your help.
<And you, BobF>

German Blue Ram with Cauliflower Head   2/28/12
Hi Crew,
Firstly, my apologies for asking yet another question about dwarf ram cichlids.  After scouring your site and the rest of the internet for an answer to this question, I've learned now that I should stay away from these fish.
<Yes; many inbred problems... I only endorse these if they can be purchased via a local breeder>
 That said, I still have to try to save him. Everything useful I've learned about fish has been from your website, so here goes.
I have a 72 gallon Bowfront that has been running since January of 2009.
The tank has one angelfish, 4 German blue rams, 12 rummy nose tetras, 10 harlequin Rasboras, 6 Kuhli loaches, 5 Julii cories, 1 panda Cory, 7 blue moon platies, 12 cardinal tetras, 3 African dwarf frogs, assassin snails and a few Ramshorn snails.  It is fully planted in EcoComplete and filtered with a Fluval FX5.  I have an Aquaclear 30 powerhead and a bubble wall running 24/7 right now.  I do weekly water changes of 30%-40% with a gravel vacuum.  The parameters I test are:  ammonia - 0, nitrate - <5, nitrite - 0.1,
<Mmm, I'd be checking this... if not spurious, some added circulation, bio-filtration is good to add>
phosphate - 0.25, pH - 8.2, and the temp is 81 F.
About two weeks ago, I noticed that the angelfish had developed a small scab by its right eye.  After doing some reading, I learned that it was hole in the head disease.  I ordered Seachem's Garlic Guard, Nourish, Metronidazole and Focus and began feeding the recipe on the bottle of Garlic Guard daily 10 days ago.  The angelfish looks better but is not fully healed.
<Mmm, some types of "neuromast destruction" are very persistent, hard to cure... Recently some folks have speculated that some element of using carbon (as in charcoal filter media) may be implicated...>
During the treatment, the ram developed white pimples in a perfect "v" from the tip of its head, back over its eyes.
<Yes; I see this. Involvement in the nares, part of the head lateralis system... What is this? Viral? Mucus?>
 The pimples turned into reddish growths (they looked to be filled with blood), then his head got swollen above his eyes, like a Flowerhorn (again, as if filled with blood), and now he looks like he has cauliflower growing from his head. 
>... the generic term Lymphocystis...<
His right eye is bulging out, but the swelling on his forehead has gone down.  He is interested in food but cannot eat because his lips seem swollen and won't open wide enough.  He has been hiding for a couple of days.  Since I received the Metronidazole, I have dosed the water directly three times with 11 scoops each time, in addition to feeding the medicated food.
My apologies for the picture.  I simply couldn't get the camera to focus fast enough after I flushed him out of the plants.  The streaks in the water are flake food.  I've been alternating frozen blood worms and brine shrimp with TetraMin Pro Crisps soaked in the recipe.
<Do switch to New Life "Spectrum" brand pellets of small size... see WWM re>
 Those flakes seem to hold together best after being soaked for a few minutes, but they still turn into small mushy bits.  I also soak HBH Super Soft Spirulina and Krill foods, but the smaller fish need the flakes.
<Mmm, not very nutrifying>
I'm at a loss and don't know what else can be done.  What is wrong with the GBR?  Will the angelfish get better?
<I suspect both these fish/diseases are related... but what, how? I wish you lived nearby... to take a look microscopically. There may be a researcher at a college/institution proximal to you that can/will take a look... Alternatively/otherwise, simply trying different medications is not usually efficacious>
  Was I wrong to start the medicated food?
<Mmm, no. I would likely have done the same. Metronidazole can be very effective...>
 Please be brutally honest if I'm being a complete dimwit.  I hope I've given you enough information to avoid frustration in trying to answer my questions.
Thank you for your help,
<Glad to assist your efforts. If this were my system, my livestock, I'd try really kicking up the water change regimen... adding/soaking food/s in HUFA and Vitamin product (e.g. Selcon)... Bob Fenner>

Re: German Blue Ram with Cauliflower Head 2/29/12
Thank you for the quick response.  I have ordered the New Life Spectrum small pellets for better nutrition and will do my 30%-40% water changes twice a week to help deal with the nitrites.
 I haven't been able to find Selcon.  You could be right about the spurious test results.  I find that test hard to read so I get my husband to tell me what range is the correct one.  I'm told that I must be colour blind!
<Mmm, nah... these colorimetric assay standards are a pain for all to decipher>
I have standard bio balls, Fluval BioMax, and the Fluval prefilter ceramic rings in the FX5.  Is there anything better I could be using for more biofiltration?
<All these and more for denitrification... archived on WWM>
For how long should I continue to dose the Metro?
<... this as well. Please use the search tool...>
  I don't want to cause
other problems. 
Your advice is again greatly appreciated,
<Welcome. B>

Blue Ram, need data, better pix   -- 1/3/12
Hello, I have been looking all over your website and I can't find what my fish may or might have. I currently have a 10 gallon with 2 Rosey Barb's,
<Mmm, need more room and individuals... a shoaling species, to be happy>
2 Phantom Tetra's, 2 Minor Tetra's, 2 X-ray Tetra's,
<These small characins as well>
and 2 Blue Ram's (One died from the same issue I'm seeking your advice for). The Phantom's showed signs of Ick so we are treating the tank.
<W/ what? How? Apistogramma spp. are sensitive to many treatments>
I also have a 29 gallon tank with 6 Ram's in it. So I am aware they are a fragile fish.
<Ah, good>
 The reason I did not put them into my 29 gallon is because of the speck's they both have on their back fin. I have attached pictures of the speck on the fin
<Can't make out... Your images, at 8 and 10 Kbytes each are too small...
Need ones of a few hundred Kbytes>
 and I am also concerned with the ram having the red spot on his head. I also sent a picture of that. Please any information is better than none.
The levels of the tanks are all good. I have never dealt with sick fish all my fish have been healthy until I purchased the ram's and the phantoms.
<... Need data re water quality... Please read here for input and examples:
and the linked files above. Bob Fenner>

full size pix

Jaundice in blue ram cichlids?   6/10/11
I have a 29 gallon tank, which has two Corys, six neon tetras, a plecostomus, live plants, and I had five blue ram cichlids but I am now down to three.
<This species, its sport mutations are not hardy at all nowayears>
The tank has been established for more than 6 months and other than some
<Define, quantify>
nitrates (no ammonia or nitrites) the water quality meets all I can find for rams. I had angels in the tank before but I sold my mated pair as I wanted more than two fish in my tank. My problem is my rams are dying off one by one, and it looks like they are jaundiced.
<Define as well... "they are turning yellow?" Better still; define and send good pix>
I cannot find anything about jaundiced cichlids and am frankly at a lose.
I separated one which was floating/swimming out of the big tank yesterday and placed it in a hospital tank that has water which is ideal, as in no nitrates, but he is lying on the gravel now gasping. Any ideas of what I might be dealing with?
<Too many possibilities to re-key. Likely environmental, and genetic as prev. noted. Have you seen/read on WWM re Mikrogeophagus? Bob Fenner>
Re: Jaundice in blue ram cichlids?... Not reading, using WWM...  6-10-11

Thank you for answering so quickly! I tested the water again this morning and these were the results: temp 82 F pH 6.6, Total Alkalinity between 0-40, Soft at 75 GH ppm, Nitrites 0 and Nitrates about 80 (these have been my nemesis).
<Whoa! Much too high. See WWM re NO3, control>
I did read your site and turned the light off and did not feed them last night.
They look a little better, though the smallest one still has hardly any marking and is a pale yellow in color. He also appears to be developing an ulcer on the side of his head...Carey
<... read, fix your nitrates. BobF>
Re: Jaundice in blue ram cichlids? 6-10-11
Thank you, the nitrates were not that high last time I tested ( about 40).
<Still too high by two-four times>
I went ahead and pulled my remaining three rams and placed them in my ten gallon "hospital tank", not ideal but the nitrates are 10 in that tank.
I have read about decreasing nitrates <?> but have not had much success, is there a particular method that will decrease the nitrates quickly. I am unfortunately not having much success. (Have tried plants, water exchange (20%), and filter change...)
<... what is it about people not helping themselves... there are 30-40k of you per day... and precious few hours of "us". Use the search tool, the indices on WWM. B>
Re: Jaundice in blue ram cichlids? 6-10-11
I beg your pardon, if it is too much trouble to give some advice, don't waste your precious time answering. If I found the information on the site clear I would not have asked. No one is making you answer my questions. You seem a little stressed, please take a break and have a great weekend.
<Thanks. WWM is NOT an "advice service"... Read... here:
Learn to/use the indices, search tool...>
Re: Jaundice in blue ram cichlids? /Neale (thank goodness, him)  6-10-11
I beg your pardon, if it is too much trouble to give some advice, don't waste your precious time answering. If I found the information on the site clear I would not have asked. No one is making you answer my questions. You seem a little stressed, please take a break and have a great weekend.
<Hmm'¦ what Bob's getting at, I think, is that questions about Mikrogeophagus ramirezi almost always come down to their acute sensitivity to environmental conditions. Although there is much written about them in aquarium books, it's a fact that are more are sold to people who don't read books (or reputable web sites) prior to purchase. So here at WWM we tend to get an *awful* lot of messages about this dwarf cichlid that basically come down to people keeping them badly. Let's recap. Mikrogeophagus ramirezi needs very warm, very soft, and very acidic conditions to do well. In other words, it almost certainly won't live in tap water, and it almost certainly won't work in your community tank. You're aiming for 1-2 degrees dH, and a steady pH around 5.5 to 6. Water temperature needs to be around 28 C/82 F. Such conditions will require at least the use of an RO filter or rainwater to dilute your tap water. Realistically, you'd be better off using RO water buffered with what's called Discus buffer salt mix, useful in tanks with Discus, but essential here too. Turning the heater up to 28 C will stress, perhaps kill, other types of aquarium fish with a very, VERY few exceptions (Cardinal Tetras are perhaps the only commonly traded fish that work well with Rams). On top of this, Mikrogeophagus ramirezi is extremely sensitive to nitrate. You need nitrate levels far below 20 mg/l, realistically less than 10 mg/l. That's marine aquarium quality water. Oh, it should go without saying that ammonia and nitrite will need to be zero at all times. Because low pH reduces the effectiveness of biological filtration, an aquarium with Mikrogeophagus ramirezi needs to be very understocked and the fish should be fed very sparingly. As if all this wasn't enough, Mikrogeophagus ramirezi is very sensitive to diseases, with Hexamita and Hole-in-the-Head infections being exceedingly common in tanks with poor water quality and low oxygen levels, as well as various bacterial infections caused by stress, typically Mycobacteria infections that are untreatable. Fish farms "juice" their Mikrogeophagus ramirezi with antibiotics to keep them looking good in the shops, but those drugs wear off once the fish is sent to the retailer, and by the time folks like you buy them, these cichlids could well be incubating diseases that will strike the moment environmental quality dips below what's required. Anything else? Yes! Your "Blue" Mikrogeophagus ramirezi are inbred fish, bred for a colour pattern rather than for quality or hardiness. They're EVEN more sensitive than the plain vanilla ones. Now, I don't want to be too hard on this species. In the right tank it's a lovely fish, and easy to breed too. But beginners buy more of these fish than experts do, with the inevitable result the VAST majority end up dead within a few months. Do please review this page:
You'll see Bob and the rest of us WWM crew members get a lot of messages about this fish, and the "cures" really do come down to a small set of things: fixing the environmental conditions, understanding the needs of the species, and treating with antibiotics (or Metronidazole for Hexamita) as required.
Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Jaundice in blue ram cichlids? 6-10-11
Dear Neale,
I deeply appreciate your response as you have cleared up a lot for me.
<No problem.>
I am sorry for the trouble I have caused, I obviously did not know what I was getting into when I bought rams.
<Hmm'¦ not sure you caused any trouble. But we do get a lot of messages each day, and we're all volunteers, and sometimes we do get a bit exasperated writing out the same replies to questions we've received a dozen times already! We're only human, after all.>
I have done angels for 5+ years and thought I knew cichlids but as you said there are plenty of sites for information and it is hard to find reputable ones as they all seem to contradict each other.
<Angels and Rams can actually get along rather well, sharing the same requirements. But Angels have been made much more adaptable over the decades, so few people keep them in the soft, warm, acidic water they'd experience in the wild. Rams, for whatever reason <<More heterosis and what this implies. FW Angels are a dihybrid cross. B>>, haven't become more adaptable, and if anything, the farmed ones are more problematic than the wild ones.>
I actually buy distilled water for my tanks as the local water is unbelievably hard.
<Do be sure not to keep fish in pure distilled water. That'll cause problems of its own. You do need to mix in some Discus buffer to get at least 1 degree dH and a steady pH.>
I will try my best to keep these "mutants" alive, but I next time I will bypass the "sale" at PetSmart. I will look to your site for questions in the future as you all definitely seem to know what you are talking about. Thanks, Carey
<Glad to help. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Jaundice in blue ram cichlids?     6/11/11

<Angels and Rams can actually get along rather well, sharing the same requirements. But Angels have been made much more adaptable over the decades, so few people keep them in the soft, warm, acidic water they'd experience in the wild. Rams, for whatever reason <<More heterosis and what this implies. FW Angels are a dihybrid cross. B>>, haven't become more adaptable, and if anything, the farmed ones are more problematic than the wild ones.>
<<<Thanks for this Bob. Yes, makes sense. Angels haven't been a single species for decades, and you may well be right that hybrid vigour has helped them improve. I wonder if this holds true for Discus? Mary Sweeney was telling me that modern Discus aren't anything like the Discus traded in the 60s and 70s, and with sensible care, aren't difficult to maintain, even in community-ish settings. Cheers, Neale>>>
<And you my friend. B>

Sudden Lumps/Growths on Ram's Head - Please Help??   6/9/11
Hi WWM Crew!!
Your web site is great! I have been extensively reading through your pages and have seen the great advice you have given to others. I was hoping you would please help me as I cannot find a definitive answer, but can only suspect early HITH as a possibility??
<Mmm, not definitive unfortunately>
Have included as much info as I could think of and the last couple of week's events leading up to my current problem.
I try to keep my water quality pristine - Ammonia 0, Nitrite 0, and never let my Nitrates get above 10ppm (it generally tests around 5ppm). The PH is stable at 7.6. I test my water once to twice a week (with API drops) and perform 50 - 60% weekly water changes (temperature matched) - more if I feel it necessary. I only have a thin layer of fine gravel which I vacuum weekly and thoroughly and only ever rinse my filter media in tank water.
Tank temp is 27 Celsius.
For the last seven months I have been running a 250 litre tropical tank without any problems at all. Inhabitants were 11x cardinal tetras, 3 blue rams, 1 yellow balloon ram (who has paired up with a blue and they often spawn), 2x sterbai cories, 2x albino cories, 2x dwarf gouramis and 2x angelfish (which I have grown out since they were tiny).
Less than three weeks ago, I purchased a brand new 300 litre Aqua One tank which came with an Aqua One 1250 canister filter and I basically transferred everything from the old tank into the new one - gravel, silk plants, a couple of ornaments, the filter and about 10% of the water. The new tank had everything the old tank had in it and I ran both the old and new filters simultaneously. I tried to make it so the move to the new tank would be no different than doing a huge water change on the old one, but over the next few days, I suddenly lost 8 of my cardinals and 1 of the dwarf gouramis. All other fish seemed unaffected.
My little balloon ram then became very ill, losing all its colour, hiding and not eating. I was sure I would lose it too, when it suddenly occurred to me that I had added a couple of new live plants to go with the new tank (which I shamefully didn't sterilize) and am thinking they could be the cause of the sudden problems???
<Maybe... but I more suspect some sort of chemical contamination from the new tank, water...>
I immediately removed the plants and did an 80% water change. This seemed to have helped the sick ram because by the next day it regained its full colour, appetite and activity. Then yesterday, I noticed these protruding white lumps appeared on its head and around the eyes! I now have all four rams in a 60 litre quarantine tank and have started with salt at 0.1% and raised the temp to 30 Celsius. The ram Is behaving and eating normally, and even looks like its getting ready for another spawn with its mate. Could this be the start of HITH disease??
<I don't think so>
I have attached some photos of these lumps. Perhaps they are something else entirely.
I don't know what course of action, if any, I should take. Should I medicate and what with?
<I would not "treat">
Should I treat the whole community tank or just the quarantine tank?
I also keep discus and fancy goldfish (not together!) and would hate to cross-contaminate to their tanks with whatever this is.
Sorry for the novel, but am feeling pretty lost right now and really hope you can help me help my little fish!
<Not to worry... thank you for providing as much info. These bumps may be some sort of "pre nuptial tubercles" (hormonal happenings w/ quite a few neotropical cichlids)... Could be something pathogenic (Microsporidean, other protozoan), but I discount this, as your other Mikrogeophagus have not shown similar... And again, the fact that you state this male has been involved in spawning, the stress of the changes you list... I would leave all as is, not even continue the salt exposure. This situation will likely resolve itself w/in a few weeks.>
With many thanks,
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>


Re: Sudden Lumps/Growths on Ram's Head - Please Help??     6/11/11
Hi Bob - thank you so much for your reply and for sharing your expertise! I am very grateful. I've never seen such tubercles on a ram before - fascinating!!
<I do sometimes wish I were back in academia/the ivory tower... Would REALLY like to study hormones and behavior of various organisms>
Thanks again for your help,
<Cheers, BobF>

Cichlids slowly dying   3/27/11
Dear WWM crew,
First off, thanks for such an excellent site.
<Thanks for the kind words.>
It has been a useful reference point for many of my fish questions. However, I am now stumped by my cichlids' deaths. My tank is 150 liters or 39gallons (50x50x60cm or 19x19x23in) planted, running with an Eheim professional 2224 (700l/h or 55gal/h) and was set up 3 months ago. The spray bar is set in a way that makes a lot of bubbles but the fishes can swim easily. Temperature is 26'C / 78'F. I feed TetraMin crisps (gone through 40mL so far, expires 09/11) and occasionally thawed frozen daphnia or boiled vegetables. The tank is stocked with juvenile fishes (3-4cm): 9 Rummynose tetras,
<Can be a good, reliable species.>
5 livebearers,
<What sort'¦?>
and 3 peppered Corys.
<An excellent species.>
Also, I tried stocking it with a few German rams, but they died off one by one over 2 months.
<Ah, yes, a fairly delicate species to begin with, and inbreeding plus antibiotics on farms has only made things worse.>
I got 3 batches trying to replace them, alternating stores. However I went through 10, but each time they didn't make it.
<Unfortunately a VERY common experience.>
The symptoms weren't really noticeable at the time, they would just sulk in a corner and gasp, not eating, so I separated them (one at a time as they fell ill) in a home-made breeding box made of netting so they could stay near the surface to get more oxygen. I turned the lights off so they wouldn't be so stressed or have problems from being too warm. It went like this for every fish, with about a week between deaths. The first couple I didn't really notice that much and just netted them out and got new ones. I assumed the batch was bad (hence went to a different store for the replacements). But they kept dying so I would separate them as above, but they never made it. None of the other fishes in my tank ever had any problems, it was only ever the cichlids. I gave up on Rams and decided to get angels instead (2-2.5cm diameter)
<Although Angels are fairly hardy, at this size they are delicate. I would recommend the ones at 5 cm/2 inches body length.>
Originally 6, the angels did fine for the first weeks and had no problems just like with the rams. But then two weeks in one of them started having the same problems (lying in the corner, if swimming then always sideways, obviously trying to get to the top, not eating).
I separated him the same way as with the rams, but unlike them the angel made it through the night. He looked worse so I got desperate and set up another tank to put him in, with a kind of hammock for the fish so he could lie gasping near the surface and otherwise strong aeration. It was a 30L tank (8gallons). I just siphoned water out of my main tank to fill it and put in the fish (so he wouldn't have to adjust to new parameters), then medicated with TetraMedica+ Gold Oomed (out of desperation, it was all I had and is supposed to medicate against everything). I used the prescribed 'high' dose according to instructions. The fish didn't survive another 6 hours.
<Indeed. In general, medicating "randomly" rarely does good.>
I wanted to separate the angels to observe them individually, so I immediately set up a 70L / 20 gall tank, and put all the angels in there separated into 15cmx15cmx35cm compartments by netting. Two weeks later the same symptoms started showing up in another angel just before I went to school, and when I got home he was dead. Out of curiosity, I took him to school and dissected him at 10x magnification, he was tiny (Bio student...what can I say) but everything seemed pretty normal.
<Likely so at this magnification.>
The only slightly off thing might be that there were two darker patches in the intestines, but it didn't look clogged up or anything. I don't know about the swim bladder, though, because I've never dissected an angel before and don't know what's normal. If you want I have pictures but they're kind of gory and you may not want them on your site... Now, one week later another angel is showing the symptoms again: lying on the bottom of his compartment, not eating, if I try to net him he struggles a lot even though he was usually very peaceful when netted before, when I let him out to 'exercise' which I do twice daily for 10min or so (I'm using these fish for a science experiment involving 'shaping' their behavior with food to swim through a simple up-down maze). Anyway a few days ago he stopped being so enthusiastic over food, but when I reduced feeding to once a day he really went for it and started eating again. Today he isn't doing so well though and refused eating completely, was lethargic, exact same symptoms. I'm really worried now because this keeps happening to my cichlids, and is somehow not contagious but keeps affecting them.
<Hmm'¦ rather than being contagious I would instead think about what it is cichlids are sensitive to. Cichlids are very sensitive to non-zero ammonia and nitrite levels. I would never keep them in an aquarium less than 3 months old, and ideally one that was more than 6 months old. Cichlid aquaria should be under-stocked and over-filtered. Water changes should be substantial and regular. Cichlids are also more sensitive to water temperature changes than most fish I've kept, so check your heater is working properly.>
I did two 20% water changes today because I just don't know what else to do. This disease thing has me stumped. I tend to feed 3-4 flakes, soaked a bit prior to feeding; could it be a digestion problem?
<Unlikely if the flake food is good.>
How can I save my poor angel? Should I feed something else? And why are none of my longer-bodied fishes affected while the deep bodied fishes/cichlids are? Also I live in the Ukraine right now and it's really hard to come by some supplies. All my test-kits have expired by now and readings are all over the place, but I can't get new test kits.
<Do check nitrite and nitrate levels if at all possible. If not, then assume they're not zero and act accordingly: feed as little as possible, skip every 2nd or 3rd day, and perform regular water changes: 20% daily if you can. Check the filter is up to the job, and put as much biological media in the filter as possible. Don't use carbon or Zeolite. Don't medicate. Don't add salt. Clean filter media every 6-10 weeks, but very gently, in a bucket of aquarium water.>
Please help. I'm really desperate here!
Thanks so much,
<Hope this helps, Neale.>
Re: Cichlids slowly dying  3/27/11

Thanks for your fast reply. Although that Angel didn't make it, I've changed my maintenance routine to include the daily water changes and hopefully that'll do the trick and the rest of them live long, happy lives.
<Certainly for the first 2-3 weeks, doing small water changes every day will help offset any water quality problems. Afterwards, 20% water changes
once a week should do fine.>
Thanks again,
<Cheers, Neale.>

Blue Ram is acting strange 10/10/10
Rams Need Help
Hi Crew, I was hoping someone could help me. I bought three rams about 3 weeks ago from my LFS to go in my community aquarium (2 angel fish, red tail shark, shoal of penguin fish, Bristlenose, 3 rainbows - 190 litre corner tank) and one died last week and now another is acting strange. It is swimming and staying just in the corner of one tank and seems to be moving its mouth quickly. It is still eating but I really want to help out and make sure this one does not die too. My tank water is regularly tested by my lfs and it is fine
and all other fish are acting as normal. Its a shame as I would like to have my rams breed at some point and don't want to lose this one.
Of the two left this one is slightly bigger than the other (I'm guessing its a male and the other is female due to the markings on them)
Any help would be much appreciated...Thanks Mark
< Rams come from the open water savannah areas of the Orinoco River basin.
There is no cover and the water gets very hot, well into the 90's F. I would check the temp to see if the water is at least 82 F. This is a good place to start.-Chuck>

Re: Ram Cichlid Pairing  9/18/10
Ok, I'm starting them on Bloodworms and Daphnia today.
I have another enquiry. Is it normal for them to dash against the gravel a few times everyday?
<If every day, several times a day, no, not normal, any more than persistently scratching yourself wouldn't be normal. Usually the problem is Whitespot or Velvet, but sudden changes in pH can have the same effect.>
The male did this a few days ago, did it again just now and the female did the same a minute later. I am quite sure there is no Ich in the aquarium, as I have not seen any spots. None of the other fish do this.
<Review conditions required for this species, check water quality and chemistry, observe the fish for signs of stress or laboured breathing, and act accordingly. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Ram Cichlid Pairing    9/19/10
Yes this morning I now see numerous flat white spots (well actually, they look light grey to me) primarily on the fins. Especially noticeable on the caudal fin. I will treat it with salt.
<See, I'm good at this! Does sound like Whitespot; treatment with salt/heat should work, as should most commercial Whitespot medications, cichlids not being especially sensitive to either copper or formalin. Cheers, Neale.>

Popeye / Tumour on Ram Cichlid  7/13/10
Hi Team,
Your website has provided me with a wealth of useful information and learning resources. However now I must seek your help with my Ram cichlid.
Following on from the learning of others in WWM, I *was* treating this ram in a hospital tank before finally deciding to put it bank in the main tank based on other Googled resources from forum users indicating Popeye for a single eye is not contagious.
<Almost always this is correct>
While I was treating this ram in quarantine, I initially used Methylene Blue for 7 days with a 10% water change daily but no improvement.
<Not expected on my part>
Maracyn is not sold in Australia so my other option was Trisulfate and Tetracycline.
<Mmm, also not often efficacious. I would ask a doctor or veterinarian for the Maracyn/Erythromycin>
Following that 7 days, I allowed ram to have a day rest in fresher water (50% WC). I then treated it with Trisulfa for a week and Tetracycline another week. During treatment, the eye just got bigger and turned out like a whiter. I found a resource on Google search where I followed it by proceeding to try to suck out the white stuff using a hypodermic sterilised needle which I purchase from a pharmacy/chemist.
<Mmm, browsers, please don't do this>
I found the white stuff was like a blob and the needle could not suck it out.
So after this attempt I put it back into quarantine with Methylene Blue as antiseptic. 5 days later I Google searched and found that one Popeye is not contagious so I thought the fish would be happier to live in the main tank for as long as it can.
(the hospital tank was next to main tank so the fish was always looking into the main tank saying hi to friends maybe??).
Now it's in the main tank for past 10 days and the eye looks like a tumour.
Only yesterday, the fish breathing has increased while the other tank inhabitants are breathing normally. Fish continue to eat well, very active, very curious, and responsive when it sees me. There are also 3 holes developing on the head (HLLE?).
<Could be Neuromast destruction>
I feel sorry and guilty when the fish rushes to the front of aquarium to greet me. It looks happy but I know it could be suffering. What's your suggestion as I do not want to kill this fish because it has the biggest personality for such a small fish!?
<Really to just keep doing what you are. Good care, patience, hope.>
Would it be worth taking to a fish vet? But what would a fish vet do --- remove the eye or *heal* the eye?
<Mmm, I might try Epsom Salt... Please read here:
but a minimal dose. Bob Fenner>
Re: Popeye / Tumour on Ram Cichlid  7/13/10
I just realised I should provide you this information:
pH: 7 to 7.2
<High for this species...>
Ammonia: 0 ppm
Nitrite: 0ppm
Nitrate: 5ppm
Eheim Pro2 canister filter with bio-noodles, Substrat pro (bio balls), white foam media. No charcoal or other chemicals in the filter.
Planted tank with CO2. Lighting is on 5 hours per day as there is ample light from the windows during the day.
<Oh! Do check re the tolerance of the plant species you have to salt exposure. BobF>

"Failure to thrive" in female Blue Ram cichlid... -- 7/7/10
Hello Crew! I'd say Good Evening, but seeing as you're dotted all over the world, it might not be evening for you....
Let's get straight to the nitty-gritty, shall we?! I have a 10 gallon well-planted tank containing a Betta (shorter-finned variety so as not to tempt nipping, and it seems to work), two Blue Ram cichlids (male and female),
<Garbage fish.>
and a Dwarf Gourami.
<If you believe it, even more worthless.>
That's it - I've been told I can have more but I'd rather they all had plenty of space to swim around in.
<Who told you this? Ten gallons is a trivially small amount of space. A pair of Ram Cichlids would be pushing your luck. It's not about the "inch per gallon" rule but about oxygen, nitrate dilution, pH stability, and just plain psychological need for space.>
And the different species have always ignored each other really, with the exception of the male ram occasionally getting a bit territorial with the Betta.
Ammonia and nitrites nil, nitrate at worst <10ppm when it's due a change.
<Ram Cichlids are very sensitive to nitrate, especially when other factors aren't 100% perfect.>
I religiously do a 30% water change twice a week as I'm a bit obsessive about the idea of my fish swimming around in their own filth - I'd hate it, so why should they have to put up with it?...
Oh, and temperature is a constant 26.5 degrees C.
<Too cold for Ram Cichlids; these really need 28 degrees C minimum, and 30 degrees is better.>
Tank is just under a year old.
<Nothing said about water chemistry. Be crystal clear about this, Ram Cichlids need virtually no hardness and a very low pH; 2-3 degrees dH, pH 5.5-6. One thing many people don't understand is that in very acidic water bacteria barely grow. This has two effects. It makes biological filtration unreliable, which is why Zeolite is used instead. But, and this is central, it also means fish used to such acidic conditions hardly need much of an immune system. There's nothing for them to get sick from. Move them into harder, less acidic conditions and BAM! they get overloaded with bacteria.
This phenomenon is very well understood now, and has been demonstrated as the reason why wild-caught "blackwater" fish such as Discus, Chocolate Gouramis, Liquorice Gouramis, Pikeheads, and yes, Ram Cichlids have failed so often in captivity. To some extend this has been bred out of Discus, but the solution with Ram Cichlids has been to "juice" them with antibiotics on fish farms. Once the poor cichlids are removed from fish farm conditions and they aren't receiving antibiotics, they get sick. Every single bloody time as far as I can figure. I wouldn't waste my money on them unless [a] I was buying quality fish, preferably wild-caught or F1 stock; and [b] I had a very soft, very acidic aquarium to move them into.>
Anyway. My problem is with the female Ram. I've had the pair of them for nearly 5 months now.
<Oh dear...>
They both started off a similar size and colour - the male obviously slightly brighter, with longer dorsal spines, and the female with the pinker belly. With time, the male has become positively gorgeous (and doesn't he know it - the tart!) and almost doubled in size, whilst the female is almost white - the only colour being a broken horizontal stripe from mouth to tail, with a very slightly pink belly. I can only describe it as a "failure to thrive", in that she's stayed pretty puny in size compared to her Mr. Flashy Pants partner!
<Indeed. Could be anything; a bacterial infection and of course Hexamita, a very common dwarf cichlid disease, would both cause these symptoms, especially at a chronic rather than acute level. I'd start assuming it's Hexamita and use Metronidazole.>
Her appetite is fine - they all eat heartily on a diet of tropical granules, with treats of freeze-dried bloodworm and brine shrimp twice a week. But I'm convinced she's thinner than she should be (definite concavity to the belly). I've quarantined her on 2 occasions, treating her for internal bacterial and parasitic infections separately,
<Useless. Metronidazole is the only thing useful against Hexamita.>
but no improvement. And then I thought it might be that she's being slowly harassed to death by the randy male in the tank who wants to breed 24/7 (she does unfortunately have to seek shelter amongst the plants and ornament fairly often) - only she didn't improve when quarantined on her own.
<Obviously social stress will make a bad situation worse. She needs quarantining, medicating.>
I've read soooo many articles trying to work out what might be wrong with her, but haven't yet reached a conclusion. Please help?! I really value the WWM crew opinion above all others (seriously - not just being a suck-up, honest!) so would really appreciate any suggestions you might have to offer.
<Happy to help. Cheers, Neale.>

Balloon Ram and Popeye?   5/23/10
Hi Guys,
Great site!
I'm having some problems with one of my balloon rams - he appears to have developed Popeye.
<Need to know the conditions. Mass produced Mikrogeophagus ramirezi are weak fish at the best of times, and this is made worse because many aquarists are mislead (or don't research) about their requirements. To wit, they need very warm (28-30 C) water that is very soft (1-3 degrees dH) and very acidic (pH 5.5-6.5). Try to keep them in hard water and you're essentially taking a gamble. Balloon Rams are inbred and deformed, so they're obviously even weaker than the standard sort, and like farmed Rams, they're exposed to bacterial infections and "juiced" with antibiotics and hormones. I routinely recommend people don't buy them, and I know lots of pet store managers who dislike stocking them, but the market for Ram cichlids is huge.>
As I'm from the UK then I'm kind of limited to the treatments I can apply. To date I've been treating him with Interpet 9,
<Yet to see/hear this cure anything.>
but his condition hasn't improved!
This includes dosing as advised and also a 3 day 'intensive' daily dosing in case of a 'hardened' bug!
No change! I'm currently trying a treatment of Epsom salt in an attempt to 'draw' the infection.
<Doesn't do anything of the sort. "Drawing" infections is a mediaeval concept, so let's put it to one side. Epsom salt changes the water chemistry, and draws out fluid from the body of the fish while relaxing muscles. This can help reduce swelling, though in and of itself, it isn't a cure or a medicine. It's like taking a hot bath with Radox salts: makes you feel better if you have 'flu, but isn't actually curing you any.>
I'm getting a little concerned that he may have fish TB!!
<Fish TB is very rare in freshwater fish, but unfortunately more generic Mycobacterium infections are far from uncommon among specimens of Mikrogeophagus ramirezi. If the careless fishkeeper exposes Ram cichlids to
water that is too cold, too hard, and not sufficiently acidic, they often become subject to these types of infections. These is very well known in the hobby, and much discussed in the cichlid literature; for example, I have a copy of Baensch's Aquarium Atlas dating from 1989 that mentions this. It eludes me why people still buy this species.>
I am keeping him in a small hospital tank in a darkened quiet room.
<Make sure you're not moving him from bad to worse conditions. like all cichlids, Mikrogeophagus ramirezi is extremely sensitive to ammonia and nitrite, so you must keep tabs on water quality. And also like all cichlids, Mikrogeophagus ramirezi is very sensitive to nitrate, and nitrate levels above 20 mg/l can be virtually guaranteed to cause dropsy and pop-eye, which together can be easily mistaken for Mycobacterium infections.>
He seems quite perky when I check on him 3/4 times a day, although he doesn't seem to be eating much (I just put in 1 or 2 single flakes daily)
<OK. But do be careful that the hospital tank stays healthy. If the filter is not cycled, he'll be perky while ammonia and nitrite levels are low, but then health deteriorate quickly once conditions worse.>
I have read that a treatment containing copper sulphate my help - however I am a little concerned about treating the little guy with a barrage of medicines (Melafix next perhaps)!
<Copper isn't the thing here. Almost certainly going to need Metronidazole,
which in the UK is something you buy from a vet. Not expensive, but it's an extra hoop to jump through.>
The other thing that I'm thinking is that as 'balloon' fish are man-made (so to speak) then perhaps this is his genetic appearance - however his tankmate doesn't sport the same look.
Else perhaps the Popeye has been treated OK and he shall just be left like this??
<In dwarf cichlids, poor environmental conditions, especially non-zero nitrate levels, are strongly associated with type of thing. Do be sure to read Paul Loiselle's 'The Cichlid Aquarium' for more on dwarf cichlids.>
I don't want to keep returning/removing him from my main community tank and stress him further.
I can send a pic if it would help (don't want to load your inbox!)
<As we state, keep images to 500 KB.>
Grateful for any comments.
Best Regards,
<Cheers, Neale.>

Ram w/ speckles...  4/30/10
Hello, my 1year old gold balloon ram has White sprinkles of sand like substances on it's tail n fins but not on the body, I suspect ich and have him in a 60litre tank with a male Siamese fighter n 2 female fighters Who are showing no signs if illness...I've treated with risen temperature n salt with big water changes & also with Protozin several times now over the past 6 weeks with no result, I don't know what else to do, he seems healthy enough and is eating fine with no signs of any other irregularity..I'm running out of ideas now, could I be treating him for the wrong illness?
Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated...
Thanks in anticipation
<Hello Lindsay. This species, Mikrogeophagus ramirezi, is a difficult fish to maintain. To have any degree of success you need to ensure the following. Firstly, a tank at least 15 gallons/60 litres in size. Water temperature must be 28-30 degrees C (82-86 degrees F). The water must be extremely good quality, zero ammonia and zero nitrite, and the nitrate level must be below 20 mg/l. On top of that, the water must be soft and acidic, pH 5.5-6.5, and between 1-5 degrees dH. Unless you're an expert fishkeeper, it's almost certain you aren't providing these things, which is why most casual/inexperienced aquarists who buy these fish end up dealing with sick fish. Do read:
Unfortunately for shoppers who don't read books (these problems have been known for years) the retailers suggest these fish as good community tank fish. They're not. Breeders "juice" them with hormones and antibiotics, making them seem hardy and colourful for a few months after purchase, but sooner or later, something goes wrong. At the very least, you can make sure the water is warm enough. You can also treat for Ick using a standard method or medication; like most other cichlids, they tolerate Ick medication well. But without at least trying to provide somewhat soft and acidic water, and also ensuring perfect water quality, maintenance of this little cichlid is usually doomed to failure. Cheers, Neale.>

Ram with resistant Ick? 4/16/10
Hi I recently contacted you about a Koi Angelfish I was having problems with, unfortunately she died. Thank you very much for your help on that issue.
<Sorry to hear things didn't work out well.>
But....I have another one in a different tank. I have 2 German blue Rams in a 20 gallon tank, I have noticed for quite some time now that they have had white spots on there fins, none on the body what so ever, so I assumed
it was Ich.
<Perhaps. But might also be Velvet or for that matter Lymphocystis, both of which have vaguely similar symptoms. Velvet is finer than Ick, and tends to have a golden sheen, hence the name. Lymphocystis is a viral disease the causes distinctive, often quite large, nodules to develop on the fins and body.>
I treated with quick cure and raised the temp a few degrees to 84F. <<The treatment occurred in the main/display tank... Likely materials in the system absorbed the medication. The formalin in the QuickCure, if treated at therapeutic dosage, will have killed off the nitrifying microbes... RMF>>
<Raised? You do realise that Mikrogeophagus ramirezi needs to be kept between 28-30 C/82-86 F all year around? It gets sick when kept cooler, and this is one reason it's a poor choice for community fish.>
I treated for a couple weeks but the spots did not go away. They don't seem to be bothered by them but lets face it they are ugly to look at, the spots not the fish, and I would love to get rid of them. Do I need to treat longer?
<Ick cysts should only last a few days. The cysts themselves burst, releasing "larval" parasites that swim about and then affect the fish again, so what you have is a succession of generations. Now, the cysts can leave behind wounds, and these can become infected with Finrot. Curing Ick depends upon breaking the cycle. You CANNOT treat the cysts at all, so by raising the temperature you cause them to burst more quickly. Then whatever you put in the water kills the larval forms, and hopefully that puts a stop to the whole thing. Standard Ick medications work well provided carbon is removed from the filter.
Note that some Ick medications are toxic to catfish, loaches, and certain other species, so check the instructions carefully before use. Alternatively, the use of salt at up to 2 g/l can work well and is less risky. Do see here:
Maybe change the meds I'm using? I use QuICK cure. Water parameters are excellent: PH6.5, nitrate 0ppm, Nitrite 0ppm. Let me know your thoughts <Cheers, Neale.>

Sick Ram Cichlids   1/11/10

To the Crew, Recently I have noticed 'small red spots' on my German Blue Rams and Yellow wild rams.
< Yellow rams are a color form from Asia and are not found in the wild.>
Yellow Rams:
I have one that actually appears blind, he know food is in the tank but cannot seem to see it. He dives into the sand at the bottom looking for food, but often comes up empty with just gravel and spits it out, even though food is inches away on the bottom. Another seemed to have Popeye the other day and was severely bloated before he/she died.
Blue Rams:
Yesterday I noticed another blue ram having issues and he had a red spot on his side, and this morning I found him sitting on the bottom, very unusual.
I had my water tested last week at my local fish store (I trust them since they do an extensive job on testing the water) and everything was perfect according to them.
Water Conditions:
82 degrees
pH 7.0
All other readings for ammonia and nitrates were excellent according to the fish store.
My question is am I doing too large of a water change? I remove 20 gallons out of a 50 gallon tank which probably equates to a 50% water change each week, considering rocks, plants and sand in the aquarium. Is this causing stress to my fish?
< The ammonia and nitrites should read zero. The nitrates should be under 20 ppm. I recommend that you get test kits and learn to take these tests yourself, especially the nitrate kit. Water changes are needed when the nitrates get over 20 ppm. Check your tap water and then check the aquarium water. If the nitrates in the aquarium were at 20 ppm and you did a 50% water change then the nitrates would be at 10 ppm. Check again in a week.
If the nitrates are back at 20 ppm, then you know your tank produces about 10 ppm per week. You will need to change 50% of the water once a week or keep less fish in the tank to prolong the water changes. These water parameters may give you some insight to the bacterial infections you have been seeing. on your rams. Isolate the rams in a hospital tank and treat with a combination of Metronidazole and Nitrofuranace.>
Second questions, is their a chemical treatment that every aquarist should have in their tool kit that is safest for most fish?
< The only real chemical I would recommend is a good quality water conditioner that removes both chlorine and chloramine from the water. I only buy fresh antibiotics when I need them to treat fish in my quarantine tank.>
My tank consists of:
6 Ram
3 Angel Fish
4 tetras
2 Cory cats
1 Plecostomus
Thanks Steve
< The rams fit in with the other fish in your tank.-Chuck> 

Blue ram flesh wound? 8-23-2009
Last night I was watching my pair of blue ram cichlids and something is not right. They have been inseparable since I got them about a month ago, their colors have been amazing, the female has been red in her belly after a week of having her and last Tuesday they even laid eggs. After the male did not become territorial in terms of the female, they took turns guarding the eggs and worked together as a team, the eggs ended up not producing fry.
<Does happen... may require a few "attempts" to get things right. Sometimes adding a few surface-swimming dither fish can help.>
Last night I noticed my female had a red spot near her tail, I thought I was seeing things and it was just her belly, but I looked closer and it appeared as though a piece of her was ripped off.
<Whatever the immediate cause, does appear to be a secondary bacterial infection. Usually caused either by water quality issues or physical damage, but with this species, Mikrogeophagus ramirezi, other factors come into play. Their quality just isn't good to begin with, and if you've had them less than a couple of months, they may be infected with something they caught on the fish farm or in the retailer's tank. Mycobacterium spp. infections are a particular nuisance. Hard water causes real problems with its high bacterial count, and these fish really do need very, very soft water to do reliably well: pH 5.5-6.5, general hardness 1-5 degrees dH. If a biological filter works, then it's likely the water is too hard and basic for Rams to do well, and they're best kept in soft water tanks filtered with zeolite and carbon.>
Also, when I looked at her straight on there was like a weird mark around her eye, almost appearing as though she had a 3rd eye. As I watched her and the male interacting, the male was being very aggressive to her, actively looking for her then pushing her out of the way'¦ basically bullying her around.
<Can, does happen; if a male decides a female is too sick to be worth mating with, he may well drive her off to make space for another female. Remember, these fish likely don't form stable pairs in the wild, and may be, to some degree, harem spawners.>
For the first time since having them they are separated and the female is basically hiding from the male. Oddly enough the male is not bullying the 5 cardinal tetras at all.
<Again, reinforcing the idea that his behaviour is "normal", even if not attractive or desirable.>
This afternoon I went to check on the female again while I fed them and she just sitting at the bottom near the corner and did not even move; her not eating is a huge concern for me because they beg for food normally. Is it possible that the male has bit her?
<Judging by the wound, no, I think not.>
I have included pictures and I'm sorry about the quality, I tried to get the best ones I could. Also, I just want to note that there is NO way this is an issue involving water quality, it's a 10 gallon/81-82 degrees F, and I do water changes basically every day (5%) to every other & I use stress coat.
<The thing with water quality is that at very low pH and hardness levels, biological filtration doesn't work properly, so if you're using a biological filter at all, the water is too hard and basic. Therefore it's always a risk under such circumstances that Rams will contract opportunistic bacterial infections. It's a similar situation to that with other black water fish: wild Discus, checkerboard cichlids, chocolate gouramis, Hemirhamphodon, pikeheads, and so on.>
I just need some help/insight as to what is going on asap, love these little guys, they are the most beautiful ones I have yet to see. I greatly appreciate your help, thanks again.
<A general antibiotic such as Maracyn or Maracyn II may help, but do review the general issues with Mikrogeophagus ramirezi.
Not a cichlid I recommend, and well known for being difficult to maintain, despite being widely sold.
Cheers, Neale.>  

Re: Keeping Rams and Neon/cardinal tetras. 2/25/09 When/if I get them should I use jungle parasite clear on them when they go into the main tank, or should I use a separate, tank.? Also is it better to use fake plants then live?- I know if I did so it would save on lighting and help reduce care in an already "Demanding" setup. <This is apropos to what? I don't keep track of my WWM correspondence! But if we're talking about Mikrogeophagus ramirezi, yes, quarantine them first for 4-6 weeks, and if they show signs of disease, treat accordingly. But no, randomly dumping in medications without good reason is pointless. As for plants, they couldn't care less. Floating live plants will help the most though, since they remove nitrate as well as provide shade. Nitrate is the big killer with dwarf cichlids, and the thing you should worry about almost more than anything else. Cheers, Neale.>

White fleshy lump on my Ram! 05/11/08 Hi WWM crew, <Greetings.> I am truly hoping you can help me. Having scoured the web for an answer I am at a loss. First up - tank statistics: 63L, 4 rummy nosed tetras, 3 albino Cory's, 3 female + 1 male guppies, one Male and one Female dwarf gourami, and finally one Male + one Female German Blue ram. <Hmm... somewhat overstocked, and more to the point not all these fish are reliable investments. Dwarf Gouramis and Rams are very low down the scale of "good value" fish thanks to a combination of poor farming practice and very specific requirements. For example, Rams need soft, acidic *very warm* water (around 28-30C) to do well; anything else and they become very disease prone. Your Guppies would hate you with the heat of a nova if you put them into sufficiently soft and acidic water for the Rams to do well, while the Corydoras would be severely stressed by the high temperatures Rams like, being essentially subtropical fish. Now, whilst all these fish are sold as "community tropicals", my point here is that that's more a marketing gimmick than a reflection of biological reality.> My problem lies with my male Ram. A few weeks ago he developed a white lump on his back, just at the join of his dorsal fin. At the time he was guarding the latest batch of eggs that the female laid. I had removed a few of the eggs to raise myself (left them suspended in the main tank in a net near the water flow from the filter), as the eggs left with the parents succumb to fungus. In order to feed the fry that hatched from the eggs I had removed, I used green water from an outside "pond". <Whilst I'm thrilled your fish are spawning, I'd suspect that the cyst is somehow related to the fact your fish is (presumably) not in ideal environmental conditions. There's really no two ways to put this: Rams require conditions that *aren't* those enjoyed by most community fish. When kept in community tanks, they sooner or later manifest a problem because their immune system isn't working 100%.> I was slightly concerned about the lump on the male ram, but as he was feeding and acting normally I just hoped that it would resolve itself. It didn't seem to bother him at all, in as much as he guarded another batch of eggs a couple of weeks later. The lump hasn't resolved itself and has recently got much larger and is rather "fleshy" looking now (not cottony). It is cream coloured and lately has red streaks through it, making me think this is blood. <Could be one of at least two things. The first is Lymphocystis, a disease that is reasonably commonly seen with "advanced" fish like Cichlids. It's a viral disease the causes of which remain unclear, but in the wild at least, biologists usually put the appearance of Lympho as being related to water pollution. For the aquarist, the best that can be said is that it's a sign that all is not well. Lympho isn't treatable, but under good conditions will clear up after a few months (or years!). The second option is a simple secondary infection similar to Finrot; i.e., damage to the superficial tissues has allowed bacteria to form a mass of necrotic (dead) tissue. Because the "lump" is red and sore-looking, I'm favouring this latter.> He seems to be in some distress now, as he isn't feeding and seems to be "breathing rapidly" with a wide open mouth (not a the surface of the water though). He is clearly off colour as the female laid eggs last night and nothing she could do could get him interested. <Ah, if the infection is spreading, then yes, that would account for respiratory or other distress. In any case, definitely need to assume Finrot (or similar) and treat with a suitable antibiotic/antibacterial.> I have now seen the appearance of 2 red dots on him (looks a little like blood blisters), one further forward than the fleshy lump on his dorsal but still at the fin/body join; and the other dot on his anal fin, where it meets the body. <Blisters are commonly associated with Aeromonas/Pseudomonas infections of the type that cause Finrot. Put simply, the immune system is overwhelmed by the bacteria, allowing tissue to die. Blockages in the blood vessels result in the red colour.> Having now realized that this is not going to fix itself, I am currently treating him with Bactonex (1ml: 1.66mg Aminacrine hydrochloride + 0.025mg Methylene blue). I have a feeling that perhaps he's picked something up from the pond water that I introduced in order to feed the young fry - He is the only one in the tank that is sick however. I've attached 2 photos that I took (as best I could) that show you the lump, and the two red spots. <While it is certainly possible "something" came in with the pond water, in reality these secondary infections are typically caused by bacteria in the aquarium anyway. Aeromonas for example are "good" bacteria when the fish are healthy, playing a role in the nitrogen cycle by breaking down feces and uneaten food into the ammonia the filter can deal with. But when the fish is weakened (e.g., by being kept too cold) the bacteria can become troublesome. This is *prime* problem with Rams, simply because they have evolved to live in very warm water.> I do hope you can help me identify what disease or parasite he has so that I can treat him appropriately. He is my favorite fish as he is stunning and has grown into a great dad :( <Rams are indeed lovely fish. But they do need warm (28+C), soft (1-3 degrees dH), acidic (pH 5-6) water -- which is not what most of us keep our community tanks at. Because of this, the vast majority of specimens die a few months after leaving the fish farm. For aquarists after a hardier "ram" cichlid, I'd heartily recommend the Bolivian Ram Mikrogeophagus altispinosus, a species that lives in cooler, harder, and more neutral water conditions. Not so pretty perhaps, but easier to keep. Apistogramma cacatuoides is another superb little South American dwarf cichlid ideally suited to "normal" water chemistry.> I look forward to hearing from you soon! Worried Ram Owner. <Hope this has helped. Cheers, Neale.>
RE: White fleshy lump on my Ram! 5/15/08 Hi Neale, Unfortunately my ram was dead last night when I returned home from work. <Sorry to hear that.> Strangely, his white lump had disappeared... <Likely decayed away...> Thanks heaps for your advice, I'll take it onboard and redistribute some of my fish! <Very good. Trust me on this... keep fish that *all* like the same conditions, you job is a lot easier!> Saddened Ex ram owner <Cheers, Neale.>
More fish issues... Ram et al fish dis.... env. and "medicine" derived   4/7/08 Again I come to you. I don't know if I will be "talking" to the same people that I did last week but the Black Sailfin Molly Passed away :( And he succumbed really really fast. It was less than 48 hrs after first sign of fin rot (turned into body). I started treating with fungus cure about 10 hrs before he died but I am guessing it was too late. Well, I don't know if it was because I moved him back into the main tank from my QT (thinking he was doing better, it all started with just a shimmy that stopped) or what (I actually think he might have caught the fungus in the qt tank because I have never "disinfected it" I only changed the water. At any rate...the humpback Danio and possible neon tetra diseased tetra are still alive and seem okay (not eating well but a little) and I have developed more problems in my main 100 gallon tank. UHoh. Well, a few weeks ago my Bala sharks (3 out of 4) started showing fin slits and pieces missing. <Something/s awry here...> They were otherwise healthy so I just added some salt and they haven't gotten any worse. <Not all animals, plants... tolerate salt/s> BUT on of my German Rams and possibly on my giant Gourami there are signs of fungus and/fin rot. (attached photos) <I see this/these> Due to the size of the tank Maracyn treatment would be way too expensive <And not efficacious> and I cant put them in the qt tank for fear they will catch what those other two fish have (I don't know what to do with them) I do have a 20 gallon with 3 guppies, 2 neon tetras, 2 dwarf Gouramis, 4- 3 month old molly fry, <See WWM re... Mollies are not compatible here... need "other" water conditions> and 1 platy (I am thinking about moving them to the 100 gallon and using this as a qt tank and crossing my fingers). I am currently treating the 100 gallon with PimaFix and MelaFix <... see WWM re... my copious opinions re... these are junk products... Cause far more problems than they'll ever be worth> because it was the only thing I could find that wouldn't kill my plants, wasn't too expensive and wouldn't mess with my biological filter <... this is not so> (although after taking out my carbon filter media I did have a slight ammonia spike despite my 3 bio-wheels) My parameters have been fine (0,0,10)up until yesterday (when I had the slight (less than .25) <... toxic> spike and I did a 25% water change) so I am not quite sure WHY I am having "outbreaks" but I need to help my Ram and the 3 still split fin Bala's (like I said haven't got any worse) any recommendations? And how exactly will I know when it will be safe to put my neon tetra back into my 20 gallon and give my dad back the hunchback Danio to re-enter into his tank? Thank you SO for your time <... The vast majority of your issues here are environmental and secondly psychosomatic/"medicine" derived... Read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwdis3setsfactors.htm and the linked files above to gain valuable insight and perspective... and on to the further input archived on FW disease/health... Fix the environment of the life you have and its health will improve. You don't likely have a "very" pathogenic situation... Bob Fenner>

Pimple on ram's forehead 12/20/07 Hello Crew, <Nicole> I know you are all very busy, so not to worry if I don't get a reply right away. <I wonder where everyone is? Oh! Shopping, visiting...> I've noticed this growth on the head of my blue ram now for a few days now. I thought it would go away on its own, but it seems to be growing... <I see it> though I am not positive about this, it could just be my imagination. It looks like a pimple on a person, that is, it looks like a pustule with something in the middle. I took pictures, but none came out so well - this one was actually the best I could do! At least it gives you an idea of what it looks like. Any thoughts? I thought at first he might have bumped into something. Now I am just starting to worry that it might be a louse or parasite, although this would be very odd since I have not added any plants or fish to the tank in a couple of years. The aquarium he is in is a well established 29 gallon, with two other gold rams, the rest of the fish are tetras and a few Corydoras. I'm just a bit surprised, since I've never had any problems with any of the fish in this tank. Could this lump just be a sign of old age? He's about 3 years old, and I've heard rams are short lived. Mostly, I just wonder if I there's anything I can do to help... <Mmm, it looks like a growth following an injury... though might be a tumour of some sort, perhaps the manifestation of some type of internal protozoan, or...? Not much, anything to do other than good care... If a trauma, will likely heal in time (weeks). Cheers, Bob Fenner> Well, thanks so much, and happy holidays to you all! Nicole

Sudden death of blue ram  7/5/07 WWM Crew, <Scott> Yesterday morning I noticed that one of my blue rams was hiding in a corner which is not typical behavior. Then in the evening when I returned from work she seemed to be resting behind a piece of drift wood (also not typical). When I fed them last night she came out but this is where things get strange. She seemed to be hungry, but kept eating the same little speck of food over and over again alternately spitting it back out. It is the only piece of food she paid any attention to even though there was many floating past and landing nearby. This morning I woke to find her lethargic with frequent trips to the surface for air. Then within minutes of the light coming on (it is on a timer) she went belly up. <Yikes... frightening> The other ram seems to be in terrific health, as do the other occupants in the tank, including 4 silver dollars, 3 Corys and 1 bushy nose Pleco. The water seems fine (0,0,<10) Ph-6.8 and temp-78. It's a 75 gallon tank with an EHEIM Pro II filter drawing water from the bottom and from a surface skimmer, and pumping it back in via a 3 foot spray bar just under the water line so it agitates the surface. The only (possible suspicious) recent introductions are two pieces of Malaysian drift wood that was boiled several times over 3 day period before putting into tank 4 weeks ago. Another mishap at the same time as introducing the driftwood was that Vacuumed all the gravel at the same time (since I removed all the decor to rearrange with new wood) which is something I usually do not do because the water always clouds up when I do that, and yes the water clouded up and is still cloudy. I do not have live plants, and only allow algae to remain on the back wall for the Pleco. I can't think of anything else to tell you. Should this be something to be concerned about (further fatalities?) my fault?) or does it sound like an isolated event? Scott <I'd almost bet large sums on the latter... Had you had the/se Microgeophagus long? Perhaps the one just got something "stuck" (like a piece of wood) somehow, somewhere in its buccal cavity or alimentary system. Bob Fenner>

German Blue ram problems  6/20/07 Hi WWM Staff! <Ave!> I have a 55 gallon south American Community tank. It has 2 angel fish, 2 German blue rams, a couple cardinal tetras (working on getting to 6), 5 green fire tetras, 3 red phantom tetras, 4 black phantom tetras, a handful of guppies (male) and some Otos. <Apart from the guppies (which need hard/alkaline water) an excellent set of fish ideally suited (or requiring) soft/acid water. The only question marks are the Otocinclus, which personally I have found to be troublesome, and the red phantom tetras, which are subtropical fish. In other words, the Otocinclus I have seen suck the mucous from the sides of larger fish, in doing so causing serious damage. Others have seen this on discus, so I wouldn't be the least surprised if they went for angels as well. Red phantom tetras prefer fairly cool water, around 20-22C, and will be noticeably less hardy when kept in warmer water. At the least, ensure the tank is clean, not overstocked, and has adequate oxygen for these tetras to be happy.> A few months back I had an outbreak of a fish plague which wound up killing off quite a few fish. <Fish plague??? Never heard of it...> I think it may have been neon tetra disease mixed with some internal parasites. <No, doesn't work like that. Internal parasites are shorthand among hobbyists and retailers for "damned if I know" explanations. Internal parasites are relatively rare for a variety of reasons, but primarily because these parasites often have complex life cycles that cannot be completed in aquaria, and so they die out. The #1 source of internal parasites is people feeding feeder fish to predatory fish, and after that parasites infecting wild-caught fish. Beyond that, don't get too hung up on the idea. Now, Neon Tetra Disease *is* a serious problem, but to be fair it is only somewhat dangerous to cardinal tetras and almost never seems to trouble other common tetras. NTD is best dealt with by removing infected fish *on sight* since the bacteria goes from the corpse to healthy fish when the healthy fish nibble at the corpse or are otherwise exposed the bacteria as the corpse decays. If you do this, you can short-circuit NTD relatively easily. Naturally, any neons infected at the retailer will die, but at least any neons you buy that are currently healthy will stay that way.> I got that cleared up 2 months ago and have only added 2 fish since then. It has been a month since any fish were added, and those fish were quarantined for 5 weeks prior to introducing them into the aquarium. <Very good.> Currently, I am having a problem with my oldest German blue ram. I got her (I think it's a her) about 5-6 months ago. When I got her, she had a white fuzzy growth on her dorsal fin that has been cleared up for 3 months. <Likely fungus.> Within the last couple of days, her behavior has changed. She is hiding more often, seems to have some trouble staying horizontal (sometimes her face is tilted toward the ground and sometimes her tail) and she has stringy, whitish clearish feces trailing from her anus. <Almost certainly Hexamita ("hole in the head") disease. Treatment is extremely difficult, and relies on antibiotics, which may be available either at your retailer (primarily the US) or from vets (most other places). See here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/hllefaqs.htm > She does eat and will occasionally "defend" her territory...but is acting strangely. Her belly looks like it is slightly sunken in. The temperature is at 82-85 degrees, the ph is 8.4, nitrate below 5, weekly 50% water changes. <Well, the pH is far too high for most of your fishes. Rams are notoriously sensitive to the "wrong" water conditions, and despite their wide sale and low price, they are actually very difficult fish. You need soft/acid water, certainly less than 10 degrees German Hardness (dH) and a pH around 6.0-6.5. The guppies cannot tolerate such conditions though, and will get sick very quickly if exposed to such conditions. The other fish should be fine, though as mentioned earlier the red phantoms will resent the high water temperature.) I feed daily a mix of a New Life spectrum small fish formula .5mm sinking pellet along with a pinch of Wardley's Total Tropical flake. I have really become attached to this fish and would like to save her, but I have no idea what is wrong with her. Any suggestions would be helpful. Yours truly, Jamie <Hope this helps. Neale>

Red, Protruding Spine-like things... Ram hlth.  -- 06/08/07 Hi there, <Hello.> I have three Bolivian rams in my 40 gallon tank along with some other tank mates and I just recently lost one of my rams. He had these red spines that were protruding from his underside. Now I am noticing that the surviving three also are beginning to show signs of this. <Hmm... are these spines associated with the fins, or sticking out of the body far away from the fins? Without a photo, it's difficult to identify the problem.> Do you know what it is and if so, how would I go about treating this? <My first guess would be Finrot. When the fins decay, the membrane goes but the spines remain, and these could be the red spines you're seeing. Untreated, Finrot will kill fish. It is treatable using a variety of commercial medications. Ideally, choose a remedy that treats fungus as well, as the two things often happen together. Now, Finrot is 99% of the time a symptom of poor water quality, so check the ammonia and nitrite levels especially. Bolivian rams (like most other dwarf cichlids) are also very sensitive to high levels of nitrate. You should be doing 50% water changes weekly, and the nitrate level should be well below 50 mg/l. Ideally, as close to zero as is practical. Hardness and pH aren't terribly important, but you're aiming for low to moderate hardness and a pH around between 6-7.> I really like these fish and I don't want to lose anymore. <Yes, they're lovely animals.> Thanks and I look forward to your reply, Trish <Good luck! Neale>
Re: Red, Protruding Spine-like things -- 6/8/07
Hi Neale, Thanks for your reply. <You're welcome.> Now, I would believe you except that my levels are all good and I always do water changes... Now the other thing is that these guys' fins are beautiful! There is nothing wrong with any part of any of them. <Okay.> This red spiny thing sticking out is protruding from the anus so is coming from inside the fish. The one that died had them really big and they would go in and out. The fish now just have a small piece poking out. Do you still think this is Finrot? <Ah, the plot thinnens. No, this doesn't sound like Finrot any more. More like intestinal worms. Rather rare in freshwater fish kept indoors, but they do occur. If these worm-like things are wriggling about and obviously alive, then they're definitely intestinal parasites. You will need an anti-helminth (anti-worm) medication to treat these. Depending on your local laws, you will either be able to obtain such drugs from your retailer or from a vet. In the UK for example, Flubenol is available over the counter from aquarium retailers but most of the others used by American aquarists are not. Your own mileage will vary, as they say. The only other thing they could be is stringy faeces. This is actually very common in cichlids, often through the wrong diet or as an additional symptom to things like Hole-in-the-Head disease. In this case, the stringy faeces hang out the back of the anus like threads, but are clearly inanimate. If this is the issue, it's a case of identify the problem, then treat. Diet can be fixed with, for example, more vegetables in the diet. Hole-in-the-Head usually requires antibiotics.> Trish <Hope this helps, Neale>

Problems with German Blue Rams  6/3/07 > Wet Web Media Crew, Hello - I just had all 10 of my German blue rams die, within an overnight 8-hour period. I have them in a 70-gal tank, with barbs. We have not had any problems - they just died overnight. I purchased them from an excellent breeder 7 days prior - he raises mostly angels and discus for sale in his home. Water temp is 80, pH is 7.4, no nitrites, ammonia or nitrates present. Any ideas? < Rams like warm (82 F), clean (0 ammonia or nitrites, 0 nitrates?) acidic water. If all these conditions are being met then it could be diet. The breeder may have been feeding something different. next time get some of the same food from the breeder and slowly accurate the fish to you food over a week or so.-Chuck> Two of my large barbs are now developing Popeye. One was listless, almost blind - so I just took him out of the tank. Any help would be greatly appreciated. The German blues were beautiful - I am very bummed! Thor < The bodies of the rams might have caused an ammonia spike and stressed the other fish. Check you nitrate levels again. I find it hard to believe that you have zero nitrates. treat the infected barbs in a clean hospital tank with Metronidazole.-Chuck>

Rams With Popeye. German Blue Ram with many symptoms  - 04/04/2007 Hello, I have a five gallon aquarium with two German blue rams and two Rasbora hets.  The ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, and temperature are all ideal.  The pH, alkalinity and hardness are a little high (8.4, 200-300 and 300), but that doesn't seem to be a problem (or at least it wasn't).  I went on vacation and my dad fed the fish every other day, and when I returned, the larger of the two rams was showing signs of Popeye.  I began treating for ich and Popeye that same day (Maracyn 2), as well as using "Formalin MS" (active ingredient:37% formaldehyde for parasites.  After removing everything else from the tank, I have made almost daily 25-30% water changes (still ideal conditions), using a dechlorinator in addition to the other 3 medications. The ram has darkened considerably, his eyes have discolored from orange to black (I'm beginning to think that he can't see), and he's hanging out at the top of the tank behind the filter.  Sometimes, he's nearly vertical, and he can't swim hardly at all (he moves his whole body instead of his tail). This is day 12 and the Popeye still has not cleared, in addition to the other ailments.  The white stuff previously on his dorsal fin and between his eyes has disappeared.  I have only seen him eat once (just feeding flake food).  The only other thing to note is perhaps the rams fought while we were away.  The Maracyn is supposed to be treating for fin rot, as the smaller of the rams pectoral fins are shredded, but as it has not cleared up in so long, I don't know what else to think.  Should I try to bring down the hardness?  What should I use, Epsom salt?  Should I change the bio-filter? I removed the charcoal when medicating , so now the only filter left is the bio-wheel. Please help!  Thank you, Lucinda < Your rams were probably overfed and this caused an ammonia spike. The spike stressed the fish and all the diseases came out of the wood work. remove the Bio-Wheel and place it in a shallow pan of aquarium water. Check the tank temp. should be around 82 F. Do a 50% water change, vacuum the gravel and clean the filter. Treat with a combination of Metronidazole and Nitrofuranace. Treat every other day for three treatments. Change 50% of the water in between the days that you don't treat. At the end add carbon to remove the medication and then replace the Bio-Wheel.-Chuck>

Can't Keep Ram Cichlids Alive   12/21/06 People, Have done all the web searches etc, spoken to local aquarium owners and have been working on their suggestions without it stemming the deaths. I am after help with why my Blue Rams are dying. The fish live in a communal tank with around 150 other tropical fish (50 of these are Cardinal Tetra). Over the last 5 weeks I have lost at least 1 fish a week. The fish appear to lose colour, hide on the bottom and die within a couple of days. No other fish have died during this period. I have had a water sample to the local aquarium which has performed numerous tests with nothing found. Any assistance would be appreciated. Regards Veronica Pattison < Wild rams come from the open plains of the Orinoco river system in South America. The water is very soft, very clean and acidic. But one other strange observation is that the water is very hot. With no shade trees to cool the water it can easily get up close to 90 F but stays around 85 F most of the time. If you have your tank in the mid 70's to low 80's then it may be too cool for them. there is a genetic strain developed in Europe called "German Rams". These are a little darker in color but are much more tolerant of aquarium conditions than their wild counter parts. These are very popular in fish stores because they are attractive and much harder to kill. A third possibility is that you have purchased some old breeder rams indirectly from Asia. Many farms breed these fish extensively and sell the old breeders to the US. They are old and worn out and usually don't like too long because of the shipping stress. I would recommend that you try some young German rams next time. I would only keep wild rams in a species only tank. These are one of the favorite all time fish.-Chuck>

German Ram With Swim Bladder Problem 9/20/06 Dear WetWebMedia Crew, Can harder-than-desired water cause problems to a German Blue Rams' swim bladder? < It is possible.> I discovered the GH in my tank water was at 14 degrees or 250.6 ppm. A day before I discovered this my blue ram was acting kind of weird, staying near the bottom of the tank under some plant leaves. I have since done a water change with distilled water and brought the GH down to 7 degrees or 125.3 ppm, but it has been 3 days and the ram is still acting strange. It seems like he is having a hard time swimming. His nose points upward as he tries to swim. He no longer swims with conviction but coasts around the tank and he still sits at the bottom of the tank a lot too. Is it possible the hard water has affected his swim bladder? Or could it be something else I'm unaware of? Sincerely, Jocelyn < Internal infections are caused by stress. Poor food, water too cold, too hot, aggressive tankmates, wrong food, etc... You get the idea. Rams originally come from the Orinoco river basin in South America. Their the water is very soft ,acidic and hot! Sometimes close to 90 F. German rams are a line bred domestic form of their wild cousin that is supposed to be much hardier and easier to breed. If you are having problems then I would check the water quality. Ammonia and nitrites should be zero. The nitrates should be under 20 ppm. Less than 10 for wild rams. Try treating with Metronidazole while figuring out the cause.-Chuck>

A Thank You ... using WWM!   7/28/06 Crew, <<Tom with you this time, Alex.>> Not a question, but a quick thanks for all of your work.  Story: One (not so) fine day I noticed some short red wormlike things trailing out of my Bolivian Rams' anuses.  After less than five minutes on WWM, I found a question from a person who had the same species of fish that also had Camallanus worms, and saw how to treat it.  Within a day of discovering the worms, thanks to your site, I had purchased PraziPro and started treating the fish in a quarantine.  Unfortunately, it was too late to save one of the rams, but the other, along with the Zebra Danios that shared the tank, appear to have turned the corner in terms of vitality, eating, etc.  The point?  Within five minutes of opening my web browser, I:  found someone that had the same problem, diagnosed the problem, found the actual ingredient to treat the fish, found a common product name containing said ingredient, and found how to effectively treat using the medication.  Many, many thanks for this great resource - my fish and I are in your debt! <<A wonderful testimonial, Alex. While I can't take credit for saving your fish, I assure you that I'm proud to be associated with this fantastic group of folks. For all of us, I thank you kindly for your complimentary post and wish you continued good fortune in this great hobby of ours!>> Alex <<My best. Tom>>

Ram Cichlid Disease, A Note To All Would-Be Queriors - 05/19/2006 <Before we get to the response, please note that I have had to correct ALL the capitalization in this query.  Please format your questions correctly before sending them!  We're all volunteers here, and really don't have time to fix things like this.  We're offering a free service of sharing information, please respect our crew and don't send in questions in ALL CAPS, no capitalization/punctuation, or other such problems.> Hi I <I....  At the very least, respect yourself and capitalize your "I"s.> wonder if any one can help me I am quite new at keeping fish. I have a male and a female ram in a 30 gallon tank with 12 other small tropical fish. <Numbers don't help us understand a problem if we don't know *what* the fish are.  I can tell you that 14 fish in a 30 gallon tank sounds pretty jam-packed.> I have had them for 2 months and every week they have had a batch of eggs that last for about 48 hours and die, but that's not the problem though. <It is "a" problem.> I clean the tank once a week roughly about 1/3 to 1/2 the water, temp is always at 27c. Today I noticed white patches on the female, on and near her fin and round her black circles on her sides.  What is it?  Is it treatable?  Can the other fish/ram catch it? <Without more information (ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, pH readings, other tankmates, history/details of the system) and a very in-depth description or image of the problem, there's really no way we can know what it is, if or how to treat it, if it is something that can spread to the other fish....  There's just not enough information for us to go off, here.> Please help!!!! Amy <Please start reading, on WWM and elsewhere, maybe starting here:   http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/cichliddisfaqs.htm .  Wishing you well,  -Sabrina>

Angels, Rams, and Maybe Ich - 05/10/2006 Good Morning~ <Good afternoon.> I recently purchased 4 small angelfish and also a Microgeophagus ramirezi  (because it was the only one in the tank/store-and very cute) to put in a long 20gal.   <Uhh, this is a quarantine system, I hope?  A single angelfish will outgrow a 20 gallon tank, let alone four of them....  They're rather territorial, too.> Did tests this morning: ph: 7.2-0-0-10. Did a water change. Temp is 80.  I noticed a small whitish spot on top of the head (the ram) <Possibly ich?  I do hope this is a quarantine tank.> I noticed that some of the other posts say these fish stay mostly near the bottom, but this little guy is more mid-tank-especially after the water change.   <Probably not a problem, but I would advise that you watch him closely.> Should I do a smaller water change with RO water... 1 gal with 1 gal tap?... <Perhaps.> or add salt... or medicate... <Only if you're confident of disease.> or just wait and see.   Any suggestions/ideas on what to do about this would be greatly appreciated. <I'd go with the "wait and see" for the moment, and be watching him very closely for now.> Thanks Again,  Judy <All the best to you,  -Sabrina>

FW Ram and Plant Questions  - 5/2/2006 1. My rams have been doing very well lately but I just have 1 concern. On the bottom of their bodies, they are fine but about half way to their tail and their body's curve inward. Is their stomach not full? Are they hungry or starving? They always eat but my other fish are really quick and I don't want to put more food in because if my other fish are full... the rest will go to waste and pollute my tank. What should I do? < Over feed them some live brine shrimp or Tubifex worms and see if they fill out. You may need to change the food to sinking pellets to make sure they get enough to eat.> 2. I have one Brazilian Sword and it has 4 open leaves and one that is in the process of opening. Will it grow more stalks with more leaves or is this how little it will be forever? < The Brazilian sword plant is actually not a fully aquatic plant. The leaves should be out of the water. You plant will slowly waste away after awhile. Try switching to a fully aquatic plant like an Amazon sword.> 3. If there is a slight tear and around that tear, brown spots on one of my swords' leaves, should I cut the entire leaf off because then my plant will look really skimpy? Also, I if I cut anything off, I should cut it as close as possible to the roots as with any plant right? Thanks < The Brazilian sword is already rotting away. Swap it out for an Amazon sword.-Chuck> Gold veil angel rams I recently purchased 5 gold veil angel rams from my LFS.. they normally get them twice a year and are gone as soon people realize the store has them in stock so I decided to go on ahead and buy them even though they seem to have what looks like as an internal parasite or tumors or something of the sort.  besides.. at this point I'm curious just to know what exactly is wrong with them and how to properly treat them or if it's even at all possible to treat them. the "tumors" as we'll call them are about 2-3mm in diameter, oval shaped and brown or gray in color.  you can see them through the body of the fish as they are somewhat translucent.  they don't show any signs of struggling.. they are responsive to stimuli, they eat regularly and are all housed currently in a 5 gallon quarantine tank with no substrate and a sponge filter as you would find in a fry tank.   they are currently being treated with a 1/4 teaspoon of paragon every other day with a 2-3 gallon water change every fourth or sixth day.  I've had them for about a week and they don't seem to be getting any better, but they aren't getting any worse either.  I was wondering if this really could be a parasite or infection and if I'm treating them with the proper medication.  I have also given them a salt bath using freshwater salt but could only do this for around a minute or so before they were beginning to float on their sides.. I thought I was sure to have killed a couple doing this but I quickly moved them back to the 5 gallon tank and to my surprise they all lived and returned back to their normal state.  if you have any suggestions I'd really appreciate it.. even some background information on the fish would be great as I know they are relatively new to the stores, or at least here on Oahu.. in fact.. this is the only LFS on the island that ever gets them.. hence why I thought I may risk buying these ones.  I have called the LFS since to check about the rest of the fish to find that they too aren't getting any better either. < Many of these parasites that infest the body of the host are difficult to treat because the tissues of the fish prevent the medication from getting to the parasite. The other problem is when the parasite dies then this dead thing starts to decay and rot inside the fish. Sometimes these things are parasites that have numerous hosts. They start out in a snail and then invade a fish. The fish gets eaten by a bird and excretes the eggs of the parasite that then hatches and lives in a snail for a while and starts the cycle all over again. I would quickly try and breed the rams and start a parasite free generation.-Chuck> thanks again Jonathan

SICK RAMS Hi Chuck (or whoever reading this today)  Thanks for the response. Unfortunately, those antibiotics are hard, if not impossible, to get hold of here in the UK, but at least I had an idea what's wrong with my fish and so I got an appropriate treatment (Octozin by Waterlife) and now my fish are better -- the female is eating like a pig again. Hopefully they will go back into breeding mode again. Thanks again for your help, Golan. < I am glad I was able to provide some help. Not all antibiotics are available all over the world or are all called the same thing.-Chuck>

Rams problems Hi there! I have had a pair of Blue rams (Microgeophagus ramirezi) for a few months now and lately something is wrong with both of them.  I hope you can help. I'll start with the male.  After buying it I've noticed that one of his eyes wasn't alright.  At first I just noticed that it was smaller than the other one and flatter too.  Then I noticed that it doesn't have a pupil either. The supporting evidence that this eye was "faulty" is that he only chases the female if she's on the side of the good eye.  The eye had the same colouration of the other one, and even moved with the other one, but he is definitely blind in that eye.  Now the eye is getting swollen and also loses its colouration.  It looks as if it's about to pop out of its socket.  I'm not sure whether it's pop-eye, or whether it's just because it's bad and I don't want to medicate without knowing for sure, as they don't like any chemicals (they even react badly to 1/4 dose of Melafix).  What do you think? As for the female, she has not eaten for the past few days.  She would either look at the food and then swim away or she would take something into her mouth, chew, and then spit.  She does come up for food when I approach the tank.  I have tried any possible food I could get my hands on: from live food (blood worms and brine shrimps) to flakes, to cichlid pellets, to granular food... nada. Both fish colours are intense, their fins are erected, the interact with each other, and until about a week ago they were displaying breeding behaviour (cleaning of a spot together, chasing the Corys away from that spot) for few days, but then it stopped.  They did that twice in the past, but got more serious every time, so I figured out they were still practicing. The male's symptoms started when they were still preparing to breed, while the female stopped eating about the time that they stopped preparing. Background information: Ammonia, nitrites: 0ppm Nitrates: 5 - 10ppm pH: 6.4 KH: 2.5 dKH GH: 4.5 dGH temp: 26.5 - 27c 96 litres tank tank mate: 7 Corys I use R/O water (with R/O right) for water changes, and I change 10% of the water every other day because I add co2 and I don't want to have a big change in pH.  I feed mostly with live food.  The water parameters have been consistent and the only problem lately was when my heater stopped working at night and the water temp went down to 24.5c and I immediately got a new heater and raised the temp again slowly.  This, however, happened after they started showing the symptoms, so I don't think it has anything to do with it. I'm sorry that this has been a long one, but I've tried giving as much information as possible. Many thanks in advance, Golan. < These internal bacterial infections are often caused by stress. Some fish break down when the water gets too hot. Your rams really don't like it when the water gets too cold as when you heater went out. Treat them with Metronidazole. If none is available then try Nitrofuranace at double the dosage. When they start to eat again then they are on there way to recovering. The Nitrofuranace will color the water green and is not as effective as the Metronidazole.-Chuck>

Judging LFS, Fancy Rams 9/16/05 I usually deal with saltwater aquariums and reef aquariums, but a particular fish caught my attention one day while walking through my LFS.  This is generally a store that I hate as most the workers can't answer questions and the animals always seems to be dying (fish) and the mammals always suffering from dirty cage neglect. <It is usually best to avoid purchasing from such places, as they will only continue to replace the animals that you've bought....> Okay.. venting over.. so I came across a fish which they referred to as a gold veil angel ram.  Basically a long-finned gold ram with an angel fish shaped body.  The colorations and disposition of the fish caused me to immediately fall in love with the fish and I proceeded to plan my future purchase.  Originally I bought a few for my grandmothers aquarium that I take care of.. the 3 I placed I've had for over 3-4 months and they're doing great.  I also moved my aquarium at my parents house inside for my sister (as I don't live at my parents house) and got it up and running with plants and driftwood and fish.. the plants are really taking off.. but I have to focus on the pH as it's a little too basic for Microgeophagus. <Okay> Here's the problem.. I bought 5 of them from my LFS today and they came with a problem.   They have this little tumor like cysts in their bodies some of them 1 or 2 .. but no more than 3.. they are about half the size of a grain of rice.. probably even smaller, they react like normal and don't show any signs of being sick.. now.. here's the reason I bought them.. This fish I haven't been able to find online and this is the only fish store on Oahu that gets them in stock.   <Perhaps another/better store would order them for you?> And worse.. they only get them 1-2 times a year and normally by the time they get them in stock they're sold out.  So yeah.. I took the chance.. So.. back to the tumor like things.. they appear to be brownish in color.. they aren't translucent.. but you can see them clearly through the fishes body.. at the moment I have the 5 in a 5 gallon hospital tank being treated with paragon.  I wish I could get a picture for you guys but I don't have a digital camera.  I can try an borrow one and get one too you by next week.. but if anything I'm more curious as to if this is something fatal, curable, or whatever other possibilities there are.   <Chuck's archived response to you can be found here:   http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/ramfaqs.htm .  Though I agree with Chuck's suggestion that they are digenetic Trematodes (that's, external parasites, similar to worms, that require different animal hosts at different stages in development - the snail/bird/fish parasite he suggests is one), I would also propose that these things could in fact be tumors or granulomas, possibly even from mycobacteriosis....  In any of these cases, treatment is of no help, and in the case of mycobacteriosis, treatment is very, very unlikely to effect a cure and may even be harmful.> Otherwise.. I'd also like it if someone could give some background information on them as I know they're probably a product of inbreeding.  Either way. Any info would be greatly appreciated. <Indeed, they are not natural in color or shape.  I can't find much on this "new" body shape; though, I've seen "balloon" rams (similar to balloon mollies) as well.> Thanks  -Jonathan <Wishing you well,  -Sabrina>

Ram Now Has Popeye  2/18/06 Thanks for your quick response last week. I QT'd the fish and followed your advice with the Furanace. Unfortunately on day 3 of the treatment I noticed that the expiration date on the medication was 2 YEARS ago... the ram hadn't really eaten in 4 days and I didn't think he would survive another 4 days with new meds so I put him back in the main tank where he was eating and happy to be with his mate. His nares got better, I kept up with water changes and thought all was well. (My ammonia, nitrites are 0, less than 10 nitrates, water is RO with RO Right mixed to keep a lower pH and softness...) Yesterday he developed Popeye. I QT'd him again, added StressCoat and Epsom salts to his tank.  (His QT tank water is all at 0 as above).  I see no symptoms of anything wrong, just one eye bulging out.  The other eye may be swollen a bit, but not much I can tell. Is there anything I can do to help this poor fish? I just can't figure out what is wrong with him... is there an all purpose antibiotic I should try on him? Thanks again, Cathy G Oh, the expired meds all came out of a fresh shipment of meds to the store - somebody needs to get a better supplier me thinks... < The Popeye is an internal bacterial infection behind the eye socket. Treat with Metronidazole as per the directions on the package.-Chuck>

Ram Cichlid With Bloody Nose   2/10/06 I have a Halloween Ram - commonly known as a blue ram. He has been living just fine with his pretty wife, (I performed the ceremony myself), they eat and spawn regularly.  Nothing has changed in this planted tank except that a week before this happened I rearranged a couple of plants and driftwood.  I do frequent water changes, everything is 0 except nitrates - these are less than 10. The water is soft,  pH is 6.8, temp is 82. My ram has developed  glow-in-the-dark red nostrils. 2 days ago he went into hiding and stopped eating. Now however, he is out and about, eating and exploring as usual. You can see him coming from a mile away - maybe I should have called him a Reindeer Ram as in Rudolph.  He has always flashed a bit here and there, I have never seen anything external on his body or in the water and I am always looking for potential trouble! I was thinking of using Clout - in case there is something in the water.  But perhaps I should use an antibiotic instead?  Maybe both, first the Clout?  What is your opinion? Do the nares actually have openings in the fishes body or are they just a membrane under the surface of the skin?  Any opening would probably be susceptible to an infection, yes? Thanks for all your time on this site. It is a wonderful resource that I scavenge daily! Cathy < The nostrils are actually functional. When then eat a food item that fills their mouth they can continue to breath. The red indicates a probable infection. You have a pretty clean set up and it may go away on its own in a few days. To be sure you should isolate the fish in a hospital tank and treat with an antibiotic like Nitrofuranace. If you treated the main tank then the antibiotic may affect the bacteria needed for nitrification and you might need to cycle the tank all over again.-Chuck>

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