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FAQs on Dwarf Ram Cichlid Selection

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Re: LED lighting for 55 gallon tank. Now German Rams stocking        3/8/16
Another question for ya.
As mentioned I have 12 zebra danios and 10 guppies and two dwarf Cajun crays. And now 20 assassin snails.
I have become enamored recently with the possibility of having some German dwarf blue rams in my tank.
<Waste of time.>
I am thinking 1 male and four females. I realize that the pH is a concern, but I contacted a breeder in California who says he keeps his in 7.8 pH with no problems.
<pH actually isn't the key thing so much as hardness and temperature. And nitrate. But if this breeder has them in your local water chemistry and they're fine, then sure, worth a flutter. But if isn't local, I'd ask him what the hardness and nitrate levels are before spending any money. With that said, it's the farmed stuff that's hopeless. Locally bred specimens tend to be better bets.>
My concern is with water temp. He is advising a temp of 82.I would think that is too high for my other fish right?
<Danios, yes much too warm. Guppies would be fine, though it's hard to imagine any overlap in water chemistry requirements! Rams want water that contains almost no dissolved minerals; Guppies want liquid rock. Crayfish,
again, very soft water isn't going to be helpful to them. They need the calcium for their shells, and suffer "pitting" in water with a pH below 7.>
Can I go lower than 82 safely with rams?
<Not and expect them to live for long.>
Also, my tank is only about 2 months old, is that an established enough tank for the apparently fickle ram?
Thanks as always.
<Most welcome. Neale.>

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>

Fish questions about German blue rams.    2/9/13
I will find out soon about my water hopefully this weekend. I got it tested at pet land they just did a basic ph test. but I'd rather do it at world of fish or Aqualand- more reputable. If I cannot get the water tested due to time/staff gas mile payments what kind of test kit should I get to test my tap.
I think I know what kind of dwarf cichlid i want to have in my 20 gallon set up when I get it set up. Germen blue rams I saw a you tube video of a guys ram collection with some discus. they were very nice well bred fish.
Rdlee1000 is his online you tube name. I think he is outside the us though.
And I don't know if he is selling any right now. the video is over 3 years old. Do you know of any good reputable germen ram breeders/collectors I could contact.
Thanks Alex.
<Where do you live? The best approach would be to join / contact your national cichlid association. Failing that, a local / city aquarium club.
Do remember that German Rams (like any other Mikrogeophagus ramirezi) need very soft, very acidic, and very warm water to do well. That's why they're great with Discus -- same needs. You're aiming for 0-5 degrees dH, pH 5.5-6.5, temperature 28-30 C/82-86 F. Basically incompatible with community tropical fish, with a few exceptions (like Discus and Cardinal Tetras).
Failure to understand this is why the vast majority of people who buy Rams end up watching them die within 12 months, often within 6 months. Two alternatives: Bolivian Rams and Cockatoo Cichlids, both of which are small colourful, adaptable, and basically easy to keep. Cheers, Neale.>

Want 2 balloon dwarf German rams      4/3/11
Hey I am a new guy and I love your site! It's brilliant! I have a little over 25 gallon tank. Lots of live plants and lots of hiding places. I have 2 sunset gouramis,
<Sometimes a good species, Colisa labiosa, but sometimes a very difficult to maintain species, Colisa chuna or Colisa lalia.>
2 red skirt tetras,
<Gymnocorymbus ternetzi; nippy, and a schooling species.>
2 golden wonder kellies,
<Predatory; territorial.>
2 blue dwarf gouramis,
<These are difficult to maintain.>
2 angels, 2 Corys and 2 spotted leaf fish.
<Ctenopoma acutirostre? The Spotted Climbing Perch I assume you mean; a nice fish, but potentially predatory, and doesn't usually take flake or pellet foods. Needs wet-frozen or live invertebrates such as bloodworms, brine shrimp and earthworms. In any event, two will be territorial and need much more space than 25 US gallons.>
They all are really great with each other and the 2 tetras don't even hang with each other 'and they are supposed to be schooling.
<If you know they're schooling fish, why get two? Schools need to be 6+ specimens.>
Also I have an extra tank if the angels get to big. Now I wanted to know if I can have 2 dwarf balloon German rams'¦..
<Unless you have a good quality, locally bred specimens, avoid this species. As I and many others in the hobby have pointed out, Mikrogeophagus ramirezi is extremely difficult to maintain long-term, partly because the species is extremely demanding, and partly because the farmed stock is junk, juiced up with antibiotics and liable to die once those wear off. Unfortunately the species appeals to beginners because it's colourful, but few if any experts will give it space in collection, at least, not farmed ones. On top of that, you want to keep a deformed, inbred variety that's even weaker than the commoner sort!>
Side note'¦.I have 2 convict cichlids and they were breeding at the store'¦.now the male hates the female and I have tried separating them, changing tank arrangements and leaving female alone in tank for a very long time and then introducing the male after a long silence in the dark'¦..nothing works'¦..tired and I just want to get new fish now'¦..but is there a possibility that they will mate after some time again?
<There's no guarantee two cichlids will pair off, and moving them from one tank to another invariably breaks the pair bond. The use of egg-crate as a divider has been used to keep them together where they can see one another, but apart physically so they can't harm one another. Try that for a few weeks if you want. But really, why bother? Convicts are so easy to breed that shops are inundated with fry, yet the species is so aggressive and uncolourful that the fry are difficult to sell. They're a zero-value species in most cases. If you want to try your hand at breeding, try breeding something you can sell. Corydoras are ideal if you want an egg-laying species because they produce big eggs and large fry that are easy to rear, even on liquid fry foods.>
Thanks so much for your help and I have gotten a lot of answers for other things
<Glad to help.>
OH PS: both tanks are at temp of 80 and pH unfortunately at 7.8'¦ish (actually I think it's higher)
<Then Ram Cichlids aren't an option anyway, so your question is completely academic. Ram Cichlids need soft water, very soft water in fact, less than 5 degrees dH, and realistically, 1-2 degrees dH for optimal results. On top of that, this very soft water needs to be buffered down to a very low pH, ideally around 5.5, and certainly no more than 6. Very low pH reduces biological filtration to almost zero, so understocking their tank is crucial, and you may need to supplement biological filtration with something else, perhaps Zeolite or fast-growing floating plants to remove ammonia directly. Finally, they need extremely high temperatures, 28-30 C/82-86 F. Despite what retailers suggest -- but in keeping what you'll see in every book written by an expert -- Ram Cichlids ARE NOT community fish and ARE NOT for beginners. That you're talking about pH rather than hardness here suggests you aren't at the level of expertise where you should think about changing water chemistry (expert fishkeepers realise that you change hardness not pH, e.g., by using RO or rainwater; and that pH itself is rather unimportant). Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Want 2 balloon dwarf German rams 4/4/2011

HEY, thanks so much for your help Neale!
<You're welcome.>
I did at one point have 5 tetras...3 died due to Ick a while back when I was first starting...now I got a good school of 6. Really quick what issues will I have with the blue dwarfs? Im a little worried now. And now I officially hate those balloon German rams! Goes to show how much of a beginner I am!
<Perhaps. Do be open minded to good quality Ram cichlids being worthwhile, if you can find them, especially locally bred ones. And the closely related Bolivian Ram, Mikrogeophagus altispinosus, is an outstandingly good aquarium fish. Another excellent species is Apistogramma cacatuoides, a small, very colourful fish available in several varieties such as the "Super Red". Although it prefers soft water, it'll live and breed in moderately hard, around neutral water too.>
I most definitely will try that with the convicts, but I wanted to know is their any cichlids out there that can be in a 15 gallon tank and have at least 2?
<Apistogramma cacatuoides would be one option. But the classic choices for tanks this size are the Shell-Dwellers, such as Neolamprologus multifasciatus, a colony of which can be kept in a tank around 15 gallons, perhaps even with a few Ender Guppy dither fish!>
I tried looking up on some site and books but I found 2 (including the original German rams the other name I forgot)
Oh and all my tanks have hard water....ill try the rain water thing.....Hmmmm
<Do read:
At my moms work she has a tall 10 gallon tank, she wants to make it a salt water tank but after much advice we agreed it would not work. She now wants to put in 2 angels, 1 male Betta, and 1 Cory cat.....or 10 neon tetras, 2 angels (small) and 1 Cory.....either or she wants angels!!! I convinced her to try something else...and now its 4 red skirt tetras, 1 male Betta and 1 Cory...or now 2-3 balloon rams (which I will convince other wise) and 1 Cory'¦..
She also has a 55 gallon tank down at the work place that she has taken over to redo...but there is Hoover...our 8-9 inch Pleco! she doesn't want to get rid of it but what can u possible put in there?!
<Big Plecs work quite well with all sorts of fish. Have a look at a Rotkeil Severum Cichlid, a classic companion fish for a Plec. These fish can be big, but not too big, 20 cm/8 inches is the max, but have wonderful red colours easily comparable to a marine fish. They're quite hardy and adaptable, and apart from being vegetarian, don't present any real problems. If you have very hard water, then a single largish Malawi cichlid could work, perhaps a single Aulonocara; use Google, and then pick your colour! Red, yellow, and blue are all available.>
Not to mention we cant get into the building with the 10 gallon tank and 55 gallon during vacations.... days at a time we will not be able to take care of either of those tanks.....what would be the best solution to our problem? The water is hard, pH is high, temp is around 80F What would be hardy enough to stand that kind of conditions? I told her take the 10 gallon home and leave Hoover in with an Oscar or something....idk'¦.
Thanks again for your patience!
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Want 2 balloon dwarf German rams 4/4/2011
Thanks once again Neale!
Thanks for the names of those awesome rams! and I want to try those shell-dwellers!
<They are very cool.>
And Guppies?
<Endler's, rather than common Guppies; Endler's are smaller, and do better in 15 gallons.>
That's really cool! how many of both fish would you suggest I get for the 15.
<I'd start off with four or five Shellies, and a trio of Endler's. See how you go.>
And also about the rams....would they work well in the vertical 10 gallon my mom has?
<No; M. altispinosus is quite big, 8 cm/3 inches, so you want a good 20-25 gallons. A. cacatuoides might work though.>
what about in the Plecos? mom doesn't want large fish like the Oscar...she wants 2-4 inch each.....she wants many fish in the tank. but I will run by these new ones you have told me about. hope she is alright with these! I know I am!
<Most any sized fish will be happy with Plecs, even Endler's Guppies. Plecs will uproot shells and plants, so dwarf cichlids that need those might be a bit perturbed. Good choices are the more robust Acaras, such as Blue Acaras, which aren't too big, but have enough presence not to mind hulking great catfish. In hard water, Julidochromis species are a fun alternative, as are biggish Lamprologus, such as Neolamprologus tetracanthus and Lamprologus cylindricus.>
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Want 2 balloon dwarf German rams 4/4/2011
PS: mom told me she wants fish like gouramis, sharks, platies, loach, Killies.....maybe even a black knife....a lot of tetras angels, rams,.....the list goes on'¦..
<Among Gouramis, Pearl Gouramis, Moonlight Gouramis, Colisa labiosa and Colisa fasciata are all good, reliable species. Fairly peaceful, and enough presence to look good in big, planted tanks. Have fun selecting! Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Want 2 balloon dwarf German rams   4/6/11

Thank you for the info again!
<My pleasure.>
Ill try all of that! and I have a good understanding of what kind of fish work well in my tanks! Im guessing ill need lots of floating plants? what would be some good one that can tolerate low sunlight and really be a great help for the ammonia prob.?
<Floating Indian Fern is a good, safe bet.>
also for my convict cichlids, I don't have a single cave....would be wise to get one?
Im also having a weird clear gel substance on the sucker cup that hold the heater in place in the tank...im not sure what it is and its quite annoying!
<No idea. Snail eggs perhaps?>
HELP! also my ammonia is little high and I've had the tank for a good 3 weeks before putting in the cichlids...my tank has 6 live plants'¦3 mondos, one feathery looking one that lost all of its needles,
<Both of these plants are dead/dying; remove. Mondo Grass for example is a land plant, not an underwater one.>
and 2 thick batches of elodea'¦..
<Can be difficult to grow in tropical tanks; needs very bright light. Does take a while to die though, and you can always replace every few weeks I suppose.>
thanks again,
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Want 2 balloon dwarf German rams... more chatting... bb dest.    4/15/11

Thanks for all the help!
Really quick question what are some really good online pet stores that I can buy fish from? For reference sake I live in California'¦
<Can't really help here, I'm in England! Perhaps best to ask on the Forum, here: bb.wetwebmedia.com 
For what it's worth, a good starting point is your own local fish club. Many cities have one; check out the back of TFH Magazine for a pretty comprehensive listing. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Want 2 balloon dwarf German rams
Alright! I have my convict cichlid...his mate got torn so I gave her away'¦.
<Convict Cichlids fighting is not uncommon.>
im guessing probably a bad idea to get another convict?
could I possible put a red crab in there?
<No. Red-Claw Crabs, Perisesarma bidens, are amphibious brackish water animals that need mostly land together with a bit of brackish to marine water to bathe in. They are not compatible with fish.>
I really love my convict now, he eats from my fingers!!! and he comes out of his cave whenever I walk by!
<Convicts do make good pets but lousy community fish, and are best kept on their own. In sufficiently large tanks, 55+ gallons, they may be combined with other aggressive Central American cichlids, preferably species bigger and more aggressive than they are, for example Parachromis managuensis. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Keeping Rams and Neon/cardinal tetras. 3/2/09 Sourcing Mikrogeophagus ramirezi Do you know of any local Ram breeders that sell decent/or excellent quality rams? I'm going to wait a few years before getting them, but I wanted to look for breeders. I live in St Paul MN. <Best bet is to contact your national cichlid fishkeeping club, e.g., American Cichlid Association, British Cichlid Association, Deutsche Cichliden Gesellschaft or whatever depending on your location. There's a good list of them here: http://cichlidresearch.com/clubs.html Local fishkeeping clubs can also be extremely useful, and by getting in touch with them, you can meet breeders in your area. Cheers, Neale.>

Blue Rams... hormone treated? Too often so. Sel.    11/3/07 Hey, I enjoy the website. Tons of info. It's great! I have a question about blue rams. I searched on your site and didn't find the info. How can I tell if a blue ram is hormone injected? Thanks Ed <Hello Ed. You really can't be sure. But in general, if the fish are being kept in generic water conditions in a retailer's tank and brightly coloured, assume they're "juiced" with hormones. Healthy Mikrogeophagus ramirezi only develop full colours in very warm, soft and acidic water when kept under quiet conditions and fed suitable foods. Thrown into a regular temperature, hard water, alkaline generic community tank they tend to look a bit pale (and eventually, die). Price is another indicator. Quality Mikrogeophagus ramirezi are expensive; here in the UK, I'd expect to pay around £20 ($40) for a pair of wild-caught fish, and maybe a bit less for something tank-bred by reputable breeders. But if the Mikrogeophagus ramirezi on sale cost the same as, say, fancy angelfish, assume the worst. Mikrogeophagus ramirezi are not the sort of fish that can be cranked out to a high standard *and* cheaply both at the same time. It's one or the other. Fish from the Far East are especially poor quality, while fish from Central Europe is generally considered the best. Ask your retailer where his come from, though be street-smart and don't lead him to the "correct" answer! Cheers, Neale>

Re: Blue Rams, sel.  11/3/07 Thank you for the quick response. Whenever I ask the staff at my LFS, they say when they order from the distributor, the distributor doesn't tell them where the fish came from. What should I do? Also, does 15 us dollars seem like a price that you would pay for quality rams? Also, is it advised to stay away from blue ram "varieties"? Such as long fin ram? Thanks you so much for your time, Ed <Hello Ed. I'd answer this question this way: Are you an experienced cichlid keeper? If the answer is yes, and you're ready to set up an aquarium with clean, slightly acidic, low carbonate hardness water at a well above average temperature (28C upwards), then by all means have a flutter with Mikrogeophagus ramirezi. Avoid the inbred forms: anything with long fins or "all-gold" colouration; these are notoriously difficult to maintain for any length of time. Look for fish that are as close as possible to the wild type, and pay particular attention to the shape of the fins and body; there's a lot of poor stock out there with tubby body builds and deformed fins. These are classic signs of inbreeding, and you don't want them. Let someone else waste their money on 'em. Find a retailer who keeps said Mikrogeophagus ramirezi in clean, soft water aquaria away from generic community tropicals. Don't waste your money on Mikrogeophagus ramirezi that have been treated like Danios or Blue Gouramis -- these will have been too cold to maintain their immune systems properly and will likely be incubating all sorts of fun bacterial and protozoan parasites for you to play with once they get home! Ideally, find a local breeder via your a fishkeeping club or similar: if you can get Mikrogeophagus ramirezi that only travel between their breeder's aquarium and your aquarium, so much the better. If you can't do any of these things, then honestly, skip Mikrogeophagus ramirezi completely. Opt for Mikrogeophagus altispinosus instead. This fish may not be quite so colourful as Mikrogeophagus ramirezi, but it is a better aquarium fish in oh-so many ways: wider range of water chemistry values, does well at regular temperatures, hasn't been inbred yet, is much less shy, and doesn't get nearly so plagued with things like Hole-in-the-Head and Hexamita (which may be one and the same things in terms of causative agents). It's actually about as easy to keep as something like a Kribensis really. It isn't a "showy" fish in a retailer's tank, but once settled in and properly fed on a mix of algae flake and crustaceans, it colours up very nicely and will live for many years given reasonably good conditions. Mikrogeophagus altispinosus is, simply put, a great aquarium fish; Mikrogeophagus ramirezi is, by contrast, usually a very poor investment and apt to disappoint the average fishkeeper who winds up with dead fish within a few months of purchase. Do also read around the entire dwarf cichlid subject: there are a whole host of excellent species out there, from Orange Chromides to Nannacara anomala to Laetacara curviceps -- all massively overlooked despite being colourful, easy to keep, and very well behaved even in community tanks. Cheers, Neale.> Thank you so much!!! You are the only one who gave me straight answer. thank you thank you thank you! Ed <Happy to help. Good luck with whichever fish you go with. Cheers, Neale>

Planted tank question... set up, Ram spp. sel.   -- 10/28/07 Hi there, I have tried researching in the forums for info and couldn't find specifics. This website is great by the way! I just got a 29 gallon tank that I would like to setup as a planted tank eventually. Due to financial costs I have to get the equipment a little at a time and purchase the plants at a later date. I wanted to know: 1) Can I put 2 inches of Eco Complete with 1 inch of aquarium gravel on top, on the bottom and then begin to cycle my tank without putting plants in it right away (for a few months)? I am wondering if any nutrients leak out of the EcoComplete causing things like algae growth and if its necessary to put plants into right away.. <Hmm... I think you'd need to plant right away or else algae certainly will take advantage of the good conditions in the tank. If you're limited on funds right now, some cheap fast growing species like Cabomba, Elodea, Hygrophila and Vallisneria could be pressed into service. These would keep the algae at bay, and could be replaced in due course. Alternatively, floating plants could be used and then thinned out once you start serious planting. It's hard to fault Indian Fern, Ceratopteris cornutus for this. It's cheap, hardy and practically indestructible.> 2) After my tank is cycled I would like to put in a pair of either German Blue rams or Bolivian rams, are they ok with just either no plants/fake plants in the interim? Will they die if they have no live plants around? <As far as commercially bred fish go, they couldn't care less. They are commercially spawned in practically empty tanks with little more than flower pots for shelter and some floating plants above for shade. What cichlids don't like is bright light. So they do need shade and hiding places. But beyond that, real or man-made makes no difference.> 3) I've read so much conflicting info on Germans or Bolivian rams...your personal opinion, which is better personality/hardiness wise? <Mikrogeophagus ramirezi (including the "German blue" variety) is hugely variable in quality. You get what you pay for. Cheap stock is often only brightly coloured because of heavy use of hormones and colour-enhancing food. Once you get them home, they gradually fade away to drabness. Internal bacterial infections seem to be rife among them to, and again, it's the use of antibiotics on the fish farms that keeps them alive, and once they hit the retailer's tanks, they gradually weaken. Wild Mikrogeophagus ramirezi are expensive and not widely available, but they are much more consistent if given precisely the right conditions: very warm (~28-30 C), soft (< 10 degrees dH), and acidic (pH 5-6) water. Mikrogeophagus altispinosus (the Bolivian ram) is altogether a hardier fish simply from the get-go, and while quality varies, these fish are never quite so poor as Mikrogeophagus ramirezi. They are also less demanding in terms of water chemistry, requiring average temperatures (25-28 C) and neutral to moderately hard water. Given that relatively few aquarium plants like the conditions favoured by Mikrogeophagus ramirezi, Mikrogeophagus altispinosa definitely makes a better all-round choice, though this will of course depend on your local water chemistry.> thanks so much and keep up the great work! cheers Terri <Hope this helps, Neale>

The Blue Ram - Queen of the Desert   12/17/06 Dear WWM Crew, I think I have trans - gender  Rams... <Happens> So, I've heard that Rams in pet shops, come in,  commonly all males, or all male-ish, due to breeders infusing the Rams with  Hormones, to produce the more colorful males. Which really bites. <Mmm, mostly do "juice" the males... and send mainly these... as females by and large "don't sell"> I have just bought a 'pair' of Rams, in MD.  The  third ray of  'the male' was elongated and the 'female' had no third ray  elongation and was smaller. <Could be just immature...> After only a day or so they have come out of their  shell and are happily chasing each other around and strobing their colors as  they flirt about. <Okay> The thing is, the bigger male has developed the rosy  abdomen that I hear belongs to the female and has lowered the ovipositor or  something like that. They both have blue speckles over the spot on their side.  The 'male' is about an 1.25 inches. <Oh! Is a bit large to be a male here...> Do you think these fish are essentially infertile and  most probably effected artificially by hormones? <Mmm, might be infertile... have almost assuredly been hormone treated...> I questioned the dealer/owner,  at the time of purchase about such effected Rams, as I made the purchase, the  rosy abdomen was not noticeable at the time, and he assured me these Rams were  not those 'phony' Rams. <... Well... there are such as this about... on the West Coast often labeled as "German" this or that Rams... But...> I paid $15 for the pair.  I plan on getting more  for my basic Ram/Orinoco Biotype set-up, at least two more pairs so perhaps  these two will be  lessons learned and interesting conversation pieces. <Good... good attitude> I  have a school of six Pristella Tetras and am also planning on getting a school  of about ten Cardinals, a few Corys and a Royal Pleco, so far, for my 55  gallon. <Mmm, the Plec may be a bit too much here ultimately size-wise> Any advice or help would be greatly  appreciated. <I'd look to other Loricariid species> Thank you for all the help you've given me, your  services are a boon.. Ishan <Thank you for sharing. Bob Fenner>

Mysterious Rams! Dear Crew, Greetings from Blighty! In my lovely freshwater tank (240l, ph 6.5-7, nitrates 0, v. low alk) we have finally added 3 Rams, on the advice of the LFS we bought what we thought were 1 male and 2 females....however...it has since turned out to be 2 lads and 1 lass, as the boys have been fighting, so, back to the LFS we went with boy1 (sadly missing a couple of scales) to return with what we were promised was a girl <Mmm, am surprised to find so much damage with this species in such a sized system...> ...but having put her/him into our tank, she coloured up lovely and turned out to be...(can you guess!) another boy, intent on chasing boy2, so that he is also missing a couple of scales. So we will be taking him back to the LFS as soon as humanly possible. Is there a fool proof way of telling the difference? <More "fool proof" when Microgeophagus spp. are larger... the size, color, morphological (particularly the first few spines of the dorsal fins being longer)... are discernible sexual characteristics> and is there anything we can do to help boy2's wounds heal more quickly? Concerned and amazed by my feisty fish. Nicola <There are chemicals that can/could be used (administered to treatment water as dips/baths, introduced in foods, even injected in cases where the specimens are severely debilitated or valuable), but I would do nothing other than keep the specimen/s in ideal, stable conditions... soft, acidic water, not-too brightly lit... well-fed, and they should recover nicely.> Nicola Blay, BSc, MSc International Zoo Veterinary Group Keighley Business Centre South Street, Keighley West Yorkshire, BD21 1AG UK <Oh! BTW, these fishes are sometimes treated with androgens, producing what appear to be males (with elevated agonistic behavior), but may well be genetically females... This is a long-standing practice with a few species/groups of fishes coming out of the orient (though the fishes originate elsewhere)... to "boost sales", provide "pairs" to human customers... I mention this to encourage you to seek your Rams from more than one source (perhaps a local breeder). Bob Fenner, phenotypically a male and a real one as well>

Re: Edit: Ram question Edit: I also forgot to ask if I would need to get more than one; I wanted a ram as an ornamental fish but had no intentions on breeding.  Do they prefer more of their kind?  Which sex would you recommend for a non-breeding tank? <Is better to have more than one... is a social species... A male and female are best, but two or more males or females can/will do. Bob Fenner>

Ram Cichlids, Water - 08/18/2005 Hello! GREAT site. <Glad you enjoy it!> My question to you is if my local water ph is high (sometimes reads to the maximum of my regular ph test kit which is 7.6 - 7.8, I don't have a higher reading test kit, so I can only guess if it's more) <Do please get a test kit for higher ranges, and find out what, exactly, your pH is.> can I still keep dwarf rams? <Likely, if you can find a local breeder who raises them in similar conditions.> I have a 55 gal. with tetras, an angelfish, and two Corys who all seem to be doing well. I have yet to lose a fish in the two years since setting up the tank except for the second angel that the first one terrorized. I know these are all from similar waters as the dwarf rams, so what do you think? <Likely no compatibility issues here.  Sounds good.> Have you ever seen them do well in a high ph environment? <Yes.... even breeding.  But again, you should strive to find rams that are already used to such a pH from a breeder in your area.  Try asking around at fish stores, and join any local fish clubs within reasonable distance.> I do have lots of driftwood in there, but no real plants, only fake ones. Also, I never tested the hardness of the water. Will that be a factor? <Possibly; it is certainly worth knowing when you seek out someone with similar conditions from whom to purchase your fish.> THANKS!  -Marty <Wishing you well,  -Sabrina> Sorting Out Ram Cichlids    1/19/06 Hello there, I have been reading, and thinking, and reading some more. Thank you for such a comprehensive site! I would like to set up a South American freshwater tank.  I would like to get a few rams (Microgeophagus ramirezi).  I have read that the German rams are healthier (or hardier might be a better word,) than the Asian bred ones. I live in Alaska and do not have a LFS.  I need to order online.  So, I am looking at the few suppliers that will ship up here, namely Dr. Fosters and Smith.  They have 'German rams' but they are listed as bred and shipped from Thailand.  Is this a sub-species?  When I read it earlier in an article I took it to mean that the Germans were breeding a hardier line.  I probably misunderstood, could you clear this up for me? Thank you so much for your valuable time, Cindy Haralson < First you have the wild rams from Venezuela/Colombia area. A very beautiful but somewhat delicate species. The Germans began to breed the rams and developed a domesticated strain that is hardier than its wild counterpart. In Asia the farms were breeding rams, golden rams and now German rams. German rams have a few more darker spots around the head and back. Check aquabid.com for German rams too. I know a local breeder at Mainlycichlids.com that can sell mated pairs. He is in Calif and could easily airfreight a box of fish up the coast.-Chuck>

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