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FAQs on Dwarf Ram Cichlids

Related Articles: Rams, Dwarf South American Cichlids, Discus, Juraparoids, Neotropical Cichlids, African Cichlids, Asian Cichlids, Cichlid Fishes in General,

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

A nice male at the IZOO 04 show. 

Rams, Cryptocorynes, soft water and dosing        2/19/15
Dear WWM,
Thanks a lot for the fantastic service you render for this hobby.
<Thanks for the kind words.>
I have browsed the archived FAQs on related topics, but failed to find something that answers my query closely enough. If I have missed it, request you to kindly help me with the link.
My 24 gallon soft water tank with German Rams (mass produced variety), Cardinals, Rummynoses, Sterbai cories and a single Angel, has a temp of 29 degrees C, TDS 70, KH 3 and pH 7.4. I prepare the water for weekly changes (20%) by 'cutting' my tap water (TDS 300) with commercial RO. I do not have a GH kit. I started with duckweed, Anubias and Java fern and never dosed any fertilizers. Tank has bog wood and almond leaves.
I had to pull out several overgrown Cryptocoryne wendtii from my other (planted) tank as it was turning into an underwater jungle. I did not have the heart to throw them out, so planted them in one corner in the ram tank.
I put a CFL to shine on them and inserted root tabs into the pool sand substrate near their roots. Now the queries:
This soft water is mineral poor. If I dose it weekly with Flourish Comprehensive, Potassium (Sulphate) and Iron even in half does, would that throw my water 'softness' off?
Or will it be doable as long as my Ca and Mg hardness, the GH, is low enough?
The Rams are my priority. I am worried about their osmoregulation and if it might be affected by a higher TDS water.
<The amount of minerals in sensibly-dosed plant fertiliser will be trivial.>
Or do I keep away from water column dosing altogether and depend on new water (the tap part), root tabs, fish food and waste to supply the necessary fertilizing?
<C. wendtii is very adaptable, and mine thrive even without fertilisation. I've even got some floating about in a barely-heated 8-gallon aquarium stocked with Dwarf Mosquitofish illuminated by a very crummy 11W fluorescent lamp. Are the plants bothered? Nope. Like you, I had surplus plants and nowhere to put them, so dumped them into this tank as better than the compost heap. Like all Crypts, there's a risk they'll go into shock when moved, but healthy roots have an astonishing ability to come back to life, even if the leaves melt away.>
I have floaters, epiphytes and rooted plants and that's why I am in this quandary.
Thanks again for all you do. We are much obliged.
<And to you, likewise. Neale.>
Re: Rams, Cryptocorynes, soft water and dosing      2/19/15

Dear Neale,
Thanks a lot for the fast and clarifying reply. I shall wait, watch and try to react rationally, I try to be not a 'chaser for numbers' but rather a 'keep it simple around what works' type.
<By far the easiest approach with plants. I tend to buy a variety of plants, see which ones work for me, and keep buying/growing those. Now and again I'll try something new, but if it doesn't do well, I don't go out of my way to change things in the aquarium. After all, those plants that like your water conditions and substrate type are the ones that will do the best for the least money and the minimum of fuss. Best way to enjoy fishkeeping is doing it cheap 'n' easy! Want to spend insane amounts of money? May was well keep marines...!>
Regarding the tank you refer to, were some webpages on your personal aquariums available on the interweb in the past?
<Still are... on my personal website, which has moved since Apple dropped hosting "dot Mac" websites...
If you look at the Freshwater Reef Tank in the Projects section, you'll see a previous version of this 8-gallon aquarium. The tank itself is something like 20 years old, and in its time it's been a reef tank, a coldwater tank, a planted tropical tank, and now a subtropical tank for Heterandria formosa and about a million Cherry Shrimps!>
I have a vague recollection of coming across a site/blog that most probably talked about your interests in ammonites, sky watching and aquatic life.
<That would indeed be me... erstwhile science teacher, occasional astronomer, former palaeontologist and verbose fishkeeper! Cheers, Neale.>

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.>

keeping rams?   1/23/12
Dear WWM Crew,
<Hello Helen,>
I'd like to try my hand at keeping rams (Mikrogeophagus ramirezi).  I haven't kept any kind of cichlids before, so it would be something now, but I am aware that they can be tricky.
My setup would be roughly as follows and I'd appreciate any comments or advice you can give me.
The tank is around 220 litres.  It's about 36 inches long (left-right), 18 wide (back-front) and 21 deep (top-bottom), so it's a deeper tank than many, and not that long for its volume.  It's heavily planted with a substrate of smallish brownish gravel.  There is some driftwood in there, and the large tree root provides several "cave-like" hiding places.  Would I need other or different decor for rams?
<Sounds fine as it is.>
My tap water has KH 2 degrees and GH 3 degrees, with a PH around 6.7. 
Would this do or should I buffer the water to a lower pH?
<Yes, you will need to lower this. Discus Buffer is a good start, preferably with a 50/50 mix of your tap water with RO or rainwater. As low as your hardness is, it's still lower than these fish would prefer. You might get away without softening the water and simply using the Discus Buffer.>
I'm not expert at changing water parameters - normally I suit the fish to that kind of water, or chuck in a few eggshells to harden it up.  I've never tried to get a lower pH, so if it's not needed that would be good.
<Sorry to be the bearer of bad news.>
The nitrate level would be around 5-10ppm.  Maybe lower, as I'm planning on under stocking the tank.
Tankmates I am considering include a school of cardinal tetras and some Corydoras - is there a small Cory species that would tolerate the higher temperature that rams would prefer?  I guess I'd aim for a temperature of about 28, would that be OK?
<Yes. Corydoras aren't an option -- for the most part, Rams abuse these gentle catfish, and Corydoras dislike warm water anyway.>
I can source "German bred rams" from an online fish shop here in Australia.
<As in bred in Germany? Do check; sometimes "German Rams" is used to describe colour varieties, particularly the bluish ones.>
I haven't looked (yet) at shops in my city (Melbourne) for what kinds of rams they might have.  The "German bred" ones are more than twice the price of the "normal" ones, and apparently they are stocked mainly for breeders to buy.  They are about $25 each, this is about $26 US or about 17 GBP, and for me that's an expensive fish, so I'm wondering whether they would be worth the extra cost. What do you think?
<Anything that means you aren't getting junk farmed Rams from Southeast Asia is worth the money. Even at half that price, the cheap Rams are a waste of money.>
Would I have any chance of the rams breeding in the setup I describe?
Is there anything in my plans that you would change?
<See above.>
Thanks very much!
<Cheers, Neale.>

Ram Cichlid Pairing  9/13/10
Hello! I bought 2 beautiful male and female Ram Cichlids yesterday. The male nips the female every now and then, but I guess this is normal Cichlid behaviour. Usually the male will sort of ambush the female and both will keep still for a few moments afterwards. How would I know if/when they pair off?
<Assuming conditions are right, Mikrogeophagus ramirezi, the Common Ram Cichlid, pairs readily. If conditions are wrong, the female especially won't be "in the mood" to breed. Let's recap the needs of this species. You need very soft, very acidic water. You're aiming for 1-5 degrees dH, pH 6-7. Hard water = dead Ram Cichlids. Water temperature needs to be very high, much warmer than almost any other fish will tolerate, 82-86 F/28-30 C. This is why you cannot keep Ram Cichlids in community tanks. Cooler water = dead Ram Cichlids. Lots of folks try to keep Ram Cichlids in community tanks, and lots of folks end up with dead Ram Cichlids. You need a gentle water current, ideally an air-powered sponge filter. The quality of Ram Cichlids in the trade is abysmally low, and they are extremely prone to Mycobacteria infections and Hexamita infections. You can't do much about Mycobacteria, but you can at least prevent debilitating Hexamita infections by providing the right water chemistry and temperature, plus nitrate levels below 20 mg/l. These fish should be sold with a warning level -- easily 9 out of every 10 sold dies within a few months because people buy them without researching their extremely specific needs. Personally, I'd always recommended the Bolivian Ram, Mikrogeophagus altispinosus, for the casual aquarist. One last thing. Common Rams are notoriously difficult to sex. Be open minded about the fish you think is a female -- it could easily be a male who happens to have short fins.
Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Ram Cichlid Pairing
I have Rummy Nose Tetra tankmates, because I ready even Discus keepers keep them with Discus because of their high temperature needs.
<Quite so. Also Cardinal Tetras work well in this warm water.>
The heater is set at 78F.
<Ignore the dial on the heater; they're hopelessly inaccurate. What's on the thermometer? Must be 82-86 F for Ram Cichlids.>
0 Ammonia, 0 Nitrite, 30 Nitrate. The pH is 6.4 while the water hardness is cruising around 10 degrees.
<The hardness is on the high side for Common Rams. You might get lucky though. E-mail me back in a year, and tell me if they're still alive. I'd bet money against it, but as I say, you might be lucky.>
Sorry if none of this makes sense, I have a horrible headache right now.
<Ooh, sorry to hear that. A nice cup of tea and a lie down should help.
Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Ram Cichlid Pairing
Oh that's what I mean, sorry, yes the thermometer gives me a display of 78F. Sorry for the confusion. Should I notch it up to 82F?
<No. As I said, the *thermometer* tells you the temperature of the aquarium. The dial on the *heater* is very, VERY approximate. Usually they're off a couple of degrees either way. If your thermometer says the
water is between 82 and 86 F, you're fine; if not, adjust as the heater by a degree on its dial, wait 24 hours, and then check again. Repeat as required.>
The local shop I got them from has a very good reputation for high quality fish (they aren't them typical street sellers who source fish from Asia) and all fish appear to look healthy.
The other rams in the shop's tank were busy sifting through the substrate (picking up small particles and spitting them out). Mine are doing the same. . . they are sand-sifters, right?
<Yes. The name, Mikrogeophagus, literally means "small earth eater", Mikro = small, geo = earth, phagus = eater.>
I forgot to mention it in the last message, but my female has the pink blotch on the belly, while my male is bigger and has more intense colouration and longer fins.
<Sounds promising.>
Oh! And they seem to enjoy my big lava rock and Echinodorus plants.
<They are open spawners and tend to lay their eggs on flat, smooth stones, ideally ones snuck in a corner behind some plants. A fun species, very attractive, but sadly much more demanding that retailers suggest. Spawning usually follows a few days of good feeding: live or wet-frozen bloodworms and brine shrimps and daphnia do the trick nicely. They might possibly spawn if fed flake or freeze-dried food, but I wouldn't hold your breath.
Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Ram Cichlid Pairing  9/13/10
Ok that's what I'm doing. The thermometer says 78F but the heater dial says 26C. I'm adjusting it accordingly now. Really though, they seemed happy and full of colour at 78F.
<The colour, unfortunately, is often "juiced" on farms. What the breeders do is use antibiotics and/or hormones to get Common Rams to colour up nicely and stay healthy long enough to be shipped out and sold. Over the weeks this "juicing" wears off, and that's why the mortality rate of Common Rams is highest a few weeks or a couple of months after purchase.>
Also thank you for that bit of Latin!
<Sometimes these Latin names are like those "Easter Eggs" in computer games. Once you understand them, they're a nice little extra. My two favourites are the Common Angelfish and the White Cloud Mountain Minnow.
For the first, the Latin name is Pterophyllum scalare, which means "leaf-like wings" and "like a flight of stairs", this second part of the name referring to the step-like edges to the dorsal and anal fins. The
minnow's name is Tanichthys albonubes, which means "Tan's fish" and "white cloud"; in this case the first part of the name refers to a Chinese boy scout, Tan, who discovered the fish, and the white cloud refers to the White Cloud Mountain in China where the fish was found. Pretty neat, huh?
Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Ram Cichlid Pairing   9/14/10

Ok the thermometer says 80F now.
I knew about the White Cloud one, but not the Angelfish name. Some of them are quite creative . . .
<Yes they are. Have fun! Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Ram Cichlid Pairing
Hey Neale!
Today I am seeing what I think is the male trying to court the female. He has intense colouration and flaring of his fins. He is almost constantly "ambushing" the female and rubbing against her scales. The female is trying to keep to herself mostly right now.
Thank your for your wisdom.
<Hello again. Female cichlids need to be "conditioned" before they will breed. In fact most female fish need to be conditioned. Think of it as the equivalent of a good meal and a box of chocolates before you can get your own lady friend interested in the mood. In the wild fish aren't breeding every day of the year, but in synchrony with seasonal effects such as the appearance of aquatic insect larvae in spring. Try feeding your female the very best foods you can, ideally live bloodworms and daphnia, but failing that, wet-frozen substitutes. Nudge the temperature up a degree or two, up to a maximum of 30 C/86 F. After a week or so, you should find your female looks visibly fatter and her colours become heightened; she's now filled with eggs and looking for a partner. That's where your male Ram Cichlid comes into the equation. Ideally, you'd separate the female while conditioning her, a simple egg-crate screen working fine. Cheers, Neale.>

My blue rams are growing up   8/2/06 Good evening, everyone! I will try to keep my question short while still providing relevant information and background. No hurry on this reply, as I am not having an emergency. I have a 12 gallon Eclipse tank, which has been up and running for about three years. I have had Gouramis, neon tetras in it... redoing the tank about once a year, making sure not to over clean and starve the plentiful green algae. Since February, I have had a pair of Blue rams (not the German kind) which spawned immediately after first being introduced, but ate all of their eggs by early morning! <Very common... Microgeophagus rarely rear young successfully w/o aquarist intervention> (That's ok.) They share their tank with 3 Rummynose tetras as dithers and a Bristlenose catfish and Otocinclus as a clean-up crew. I have removed the hood of the Eclipse (the Eclipse is my smallest and my only "closed" system) and replaced the compact lighting fixture with two 18" hoods, off of my two old 10 gallon tanks. They are powering a fluorescent color enhancement bulb and a high spectrum plant light. The fish seem to like the lights better, their colors look brighter - but since the hoods are not a perfect fit, I seem to be getting a blob of brown and green algae growth in the overhanging corner, attaching itself to a fake plant. Is this harming the fish in any way? Degrading the water quality? <Maybe... I would "give it a swipe" with an "algae" sponge when doing water changes (each week)> My second question is, is this too small of a tank for two Rams to thrive in? <Mmm, no, should be fine> At my LFS they were in a 125 with a bunch of different fish, Angels, African butterflyfish, serpae and phantom tetras, etc. <Yikes... hard to catch out of> ... so I felt kind of bad reducing their living space to just 12 gallons, but their color is much better now than it was at the store, and they are hearty eaters, active with friendly dispositions. One more question: I have a 29 gallon community tank with tetras, rasboras, various bottom dwellers. Would they be happier in this larger tank? <Might be... if it's not "too busy"> I thought they were better suited to a species tank but as I cannot really afford/don't have the space to make the Rams a bigger tank all to themselves, I am basically between these two options, either keeping them where they are or moving them to the community tank. <Worth trying the move...> They are regularly fed frozen food (Mysis shrimp, Tubifex, blood/white worms etc.) and Spectrum pellets, a variety of Tetra foods and Spirulina flakes. Water parameters are much the same each week, with nitrates and ammonia always about 0 ppm. I add blackwater extract every other week and perform 20% water changes weekly, along with daily top-offs. Is there something I could be doing to give my Rams a better life? Should they move into the bigger, bustling tank or would they be happier in their own quiet corner? <Likely the former, where they are presently> Am I stunting their growth and diminishing their life span by keeping them in the 12 gallon? <Mmm, nope. Unlikely> A conscientious aquarist wants to know! She appreciates all of your help greatly and would appreciate a reply at your earliest convenience. Thanks a million! Nicole <Welcome in concomitant number! Bob Fenner> Rams and Plants. Dwarf cichlid... sys.   3/18/06 Hi, Nice site! I have a 2 and a half gallon tank (bow front). It is well planted with a heater and small whisper filter (a  newer air driven model) and 1.5"  of  gravel. So my question is: Can I keep 2 German Blue Rams in the 2.5? It  is has been cycling for 2 months now. What maintenance would I have to  carry out? Thanks, Anthony <This is really too small, unstable a "world" for Apistogrammas, Microgeophagus... but could be tried... with care in pre-making, storing all new water, extreme regularity in maintenance. Please read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/rams.htm and the FAQs file linked above. Bob Fenner> 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> Balloon fishes   2/1/06 Dear WetWebMedia, <Ivy> What is the difference between a regular Molly or Ram and their "Balloon" version? How did this difference come about? Is one less healthy than the other? Thank you. <The "Balloon" types are "sports", human-made/allowed mutations... same species. "Made" by naturally occurring variation and selection by breeders. Sometimes such mutants are more "aquarium-hardy" than wild-types, sometimes not. Bob Fenner>

Rams Breeding :-)   1/31/06 I have a 120 gal that has an  Xp3 filter (rated well over 120 gal.) a 4 bulb compact fluorescent Coralife  light, 4" fluorite eco-complete mix, 2 300 watt heaters, 100-150 plants, 2 LARGE  pieces of driftwood, ph 6.9, ammonia 0, Hardness: medium. I have 6 rams, 6  cardinal tetras, 4 lemon tetras, 4 clown plecs, 6 Cory cats, and 3 killies. I  believe my rams have spawned, because there are about 50-100 little white eggs  that look like pictures I have seen on google. One of them hovers over the broad  leaf they are on and when I went to move a plant, it went for my hand. I looked,  and to my surprise, I saw a bunch of eggs! What do I do? FOOD, REMOVE, KEEP  TOGETHER? I really don't have another tank, so I would like to keep them in the  120. Please tell me what I need to do to care for them. I have bred Cory's  before, but didn't notice till there were only five left, so please respond  promptly, so I can keep as many as possible. I'm not trying to count my eggs  before they hatch (lol lol lol), but will LFS's want these at all, or are I  better off keeping them? >>Anthony, baby rams are really tiny when they hatch, and very sensitive to a small parasite called Tetrahymena that may well be in your tank without affecting anything. From my experience you will need to raise the fry in a clean bare tank with live micro worms etc, but you could try to see if some will hatch and grow up in your tank. Add a night light with a very dim glow to make sure your Plecos do not eat the eggs/wigglers when it is dark. Good Luck, Oliver

Re: Rams Breeding   2/1/06 Hi, thanks for the info, but roughly how often do they breed? Monthly, bimonthly? Thanks, Anthony < When they are in good shape and conditions are right about once every two weeks.-Chuck> Ram system   1/19/06   Hi again, I am starting (planning) a Ram  tank and getting all of my stuff together.  The tank is a 90  gallon.  I plan on having 12-14 Rams in it, along with some live  plants.  I do not plan on using CO2 unless I run into problems, so  the plants will be easier ones like Crypts/Swords.  I have a CPR  wet/dry filter (CR1000).  I know the Rams are sensitive to  Nitrates and am concerned that the wet/dry may be a nitrate  factory?  Should I take some filter media out? >> I would not worry about the nitrates as much. A regular and frequent water change of around 25% a week will ensure that you do not have problems. Good Luck, Oliver

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>

Re: Setting Up Plants In a Ram Tank Thank you very much for the reply and recommendations, it is greatly appreciated.   I have three more questions.  I have probably been reading too  much or fallen prey to manufacturer's selling techniques, but, is it necessary  to treat RO with an additive like Kent's R/O Right? < Plain R/O water has no buffering capacity and the pH can go all over the place. Fish don't like this unstable water so you need to use a buffer.> Also, I have broadened my options for substrate to the Eco Complete, Seachem's Fluorite, and/or Laterite.  What would you recommend for plant AND ram health? < I have had very good success with Fluorite. Laterite is too easily disturbed and makes a mess , but plants love it.> Will any of these substrates affect the hardness in the tank water to  a level that the Rams will not appreciate? < No.-Chuck> Thanks again, Scott Adding Chemicals to R/O Water For German Rams  1/16/06 I plan on using Buffer to do the 6.8 pH that you  recommended, but the R/O Right adds some salts and other "essential  stuff" that the water supposedly needs to be healthy--even for a soft  water tank.  I hadn't heard about the needing to do that, so that  is why I was confused.  So would you add it? Thanks again, Scott < I would recommend that you follow the directions on the package and see how the rams are doing. German rams are a domestic strain of rams that are much hardier than their wild cousins.-Chuck> Setting Up a Ram Tank  - 01/12/2006 Hi Bob, before I get started, I would just like to  say that your site is the best source of aquatic advice and information  that I've found.  Unbelievable how much information you guys put  out, and also how consistent you are!  Thanks for the site. < Bob and the rest of the WWM crew thank you for you kind words.> Now to the fun stuff!  I am getting ready to move into my first  permanent residence since living with my parents, and I am going to  shut down my reef tank with the move and make a change most of my  friends with aquariums don't understand. I'm going to start a  German Ram tank.  They have been my favorite fish since the moment I saw them years ago.  I will be using a 90 gallon tank, 48"L x  18"D x 24"H.  I will be using RO water with Seachem neutral  regulator combined with their Discus buffer to get my pH set.  I  know people recommend anywhere from 5-7 pH, but what single number would you want? < 6.8.> Also, I want to get pairs of rams, so how many pairs should I get with the tank dimensions that I have? < Six to eight pairs.> I have heard some people claim you should use a 2 to 1 ratio of female  to male rams also, then others claim just one female per male.  What do you recommend? < Six males to six to eight females.> I plan on using live plants that aren't too delicate so they don't fall  apart.  I have ordered "Eco Complete Plant substrate" to use with  them.  I have a sump that will use CPR's bio bale for biological  filtration.   I have ordered a 216watt T5 light fixture, not  wanting to hang any Metal Halides in our new house.  Is that enough light for Swords or any other plants that you'd recommend with the tank being 24" deep? < If the swords don't work then try some Cryptocorynes.> I'm also figuring on throwing in some Cardinal and Glowlight Tetras.  And the biggest 2  questions. What have I not thought about that I need for the tank, and what have I forgotten to tell you? Thanks again for the website! Scott < Rams are my favorite all time fish. They like warm water of at least 82F+. German rams are much hardier than the wild ones from Venezuela. Don't let the nitrates get up over 10 ppm. Quarantine all your fish before putting them in the big tank.-Chuck>

Egg Eating Rams Moving to New tank  12/1/05 Hi there and thanks in advance for any help you can provide. I have a 25 gallon freshwater with 1 Pleco, 3 gold rams, 1 Curviceps cichlid  <<Chuck, or anyone else, if you get a chance, would you provide me with the genus and species of this animal?  Marina>> <<<Flag cichlid.  Used to be Aequidens Curviceps, is now Laetacara Curviceps .>>> and 2 African butterfly cichlids, 2 plants, a large rock/cave, piece of wood on slate and a small bridge. 2 of the rams have had eggs 4 times thus far and each time the eggs are eaten/disappeared usually when I wake up in the morning and after usually 2 days. The butterfly cichlids I purchased about 4 weeks ago have just laid their second batch of eggs. The first batch had the same fate as the ram eggs. Any idea's of what I can do to try to help them keep the eggs? Should I try an egg light (read that on your site)? < After spawning the fish are exhausted and have expended a lot of energy to spawn and have worked up an appetite. Try to keep them well fed with lots of baby brine shrimp or micro worms. Egg eating is a problem for these species and they can get into a habit of eating eggs that is hard to break. the eggs could be removed and hatched artificially.> I am also purchasing a 55 gallon that I would like to move most of the occupants too, but still keep one of the mated pairs in the old 25 gallon. What is the best way to get the new tank safely cycled and not damage the old tank or kill any of my fish when they get moved? < Take some of the old gravel and place it in the new tank. The bacteria in the old tank are needed to get the bacteria in the new tank going. Add new fish slowly over a week or so. Quarantine any new fish from the store for at least a couple of weeks before adding them to an established tank.> Is it possible to run the new filter for the 55 gallon on the 25 gallon without doing any harm to the fish and using the old 25 gallon filter with the new tank to help the process? Should I move some of the substrate and/or plants, ornaments? < Swapping filters for awhile will not harm anything.> Thank you for any help you can provide, I really appreciate it. Your site is a great resource, thanks for all the time and work you all put into it. Troy < Thanks for your kind words.-Chuck> 

Gold Ram Spawning 11/1/05 Dear Bob, <Actually, Sabrina here, in his stead.> My pair of Gold Rams has spawned 4 times.  <Excellent!> The three previous times they have eaten the eggs after lights out.  <Bummer....> So this time I decided to place the eggs in a net breeder in the tank. I would have preferred to have left the eggs for the parents to care for but they seem more motivated to eat than parent. My question is how do I determine the fertile eggs from the infertile? They are all white in color, but the majority of them are translucent. The eggs that I think are infertile are the eggs that are more of a solid white or cloudy white.  This is correct.... Usually the viable eggs will be more clear-ish, or maybe orange-ish.> From everything that I have read I am supposed to remove the infertile eggs because they will cause the eggs around them to grow fungus. Is this also correct? <That's the best idea, yes. You are correct.> Thanks for the help, -Mike Mural <Wishing you well, -Sabrina> 

Re: Gold Ram Spawning 11/2/05 Thanks for the quick reply, <You bet.> The eggs that have turned white are the empties. I have little fry wriggling all over the leaf I removed with the eggs.  <Ahh! A delight!> I thought it took 60 hours for them to hatch. I also have discus in the tank and the temperature is 85°F, could this cause them to hatch more rapidly?  <Yes, certainly.> It is a well established (4 years) heavily planted tank. I want the fry to make it but was not prepared for them to breed so quickly after eating the last batch of eggs. So my problem is what to feed them. The fry are much smaller than the Kribensis fry I have raised in the past. So I added some Java Moss from the tank to the breeder net. I tried to hatch some brine shrimp but they have not hatched yet. So my main question is what to feed them since I am in a bit of a squeeze? <In this heavily planted tank, there are tons of opportunities for tiny and microscopic life.... Any piles of decaying plant matter, rotting leaves, or other detritus in the tank? I would add some of this to the breeder net.... with caution, as it could "foul" the water in their little world rapidly. Otherwise, you might try liquid fry food available at fish stores, or even dried, powdered egg yolk.> Thanks again, -Mike <Wishing you well, -Sabrina>

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 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> Revisiting the Ram - 07/12/2005 Hello! <Hi, again!  Sabrina here....> I have a 10 gallon tank with 5 guppies, 1 Cory and one ram. I have had this ram for only one day, and it's not eating. <One day....  If by this you mean you got it earlier today, I would not be concerned about it not eating.  If you got it yesterday, it might be a different story.  Be sure to offer a variety of tasty foods, and keep in mind if the ram is large enough, or the guppies small enough, if you don't get food in him soon, he may be looking at those guppies and licking his lips pretty soon.  Rams are timid, but cichlids nonetheless.> I think it is still a little bit in shock, but I just want to be sure. Also, I want the Ram to have the best colors and I would like to know what would be the best food to give it... I have flakes  and dried bloodworms, but what else? <I would try high-quality frozen foods, or failing all else, I would try live foods....  never tubificid worms (Tubifex, blackworms), but live bloodworms, mosquito larvae, or brine shrimp are an option, if he refuses to eat over the next few days.  Once you get *something* in him, it'll be easier to get him to eat other foods.  Also, as timid and shy as rams are, be certain that there is plenty of cover and lots of good hiding spots for him, so he'll feel safer in coming out to eat.  If he's scared, he may just refuse to eat and may even starve.> Thanks a ton!  Christine <You bet.  Good luck with your fishes,  -Sabrina>

Stocking a 10g Freshwater Tank - 07/12/2005 Hello, <Hi!> I have a ten gallon tank with one Ram, five  guppies and one Cory. Whenever I look at the tank it seems really empty, and I  was wondering if I could get one or two more Rams or maybe a Krib... <I would not.  In such a tiny space, should you end up with two male rams (ore even a male ram and a male krib), they will likely harm each other for territory, and should you end up with a male and a female ram, and they choose to breed, they can and likely will make very short work of your other fish.  I would really advise against making this addition.> On a forum  I heard about a person having four Rams in one tank, of course that would be too  many, but two or three.... <Do keep in mind that these ARE cichlids, however timid, and DO have cichlid tendencies when breeding or staking out territories....  A m/f pair in a 10g tank with no other fish would likely breed and could do quite well, but any other fish - other rams included - could be damaged or killed.  A ten gallon tank just doesn't offer the space they'd need to establish multiple territories.  It might work out for a few months, but ultimately, harm will probably come of it.> Thanks for your time! <You bet.  Sorry to put a damper on it - BUT - another consideration for yah....  Corys are very serious schoolers, and tend to be much more active and "cheerful" when in groups of at least three....  I would recommend adding a couple of the same species of Cory to perk up your pal and make your tank more active and "full" seeming.  I will caution you, however, that this may be somewhat taxing on the stocking of your tank; test very often for ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate for the first few weeks after adding the Corys (if you choose to add them).  Keep ammonia and nitrite at zero, and nitrate less than 20ppm.> Christine <Wishing you and your fishes well,  -Sabrina>

More about Christine's Ten Gallon and Ram/s 7/12/05 Hey Crew! <Christine> My name is Christine, and I have recently bought one Ram and a couple of fancy guppies. <Mmm, the Ram may chew on the guppies tails...> I've put them in a 10 gal. and then found  out more about Rams on your site. From what I could gain, Rams would prefer more  company with their own kind... Should I get another Ram? I also have a Cory in  the 10 gal. Also, the average pH in the tank is 7.0, is this ok for the Ram? <Should be fine> And  would a temperature of 78 degrees work, or is it too low? <Would be better a bit higher, but the guppies prefer the water to be where it is... or cooler> Your web site is great! Christine <I would go ahead with the addition of the new Ram, and make a plan for moving the guppies. Bob Fenner>

Working with Ram Cichlids 6/31/05 Hello, I'm going to get two ten gallon aquariums, and I want to put rams (Papilochromis ramirezi) <The correct name is Microgeophagus ramirezi.> in one of them. Your website recommends 27-30 degrees C, 5-6 ph, and 5-12 dh. I have an "Aquarium Owner's Guide" that recommends 22-26 degrees, 6-7 ph, and 3-8 dh. Do you know if this is because of a different subspecies than the one mentioned on your website, or if the information is wrong? < In the wild these fish can come from open savannah type pools that receive no shade from trees. The tropical heat can send these water temperatures all the way up to 35 C. The pH of this water can be extremely acidic and be down as low as 4.5 -5.5 with a hardness below 1 dGH. At these levels not too many other fish would survive and rams don't need these extremes to do well in an aquarium. I would use the recommendations from the WWM website if you are going to be keeping rams in a community tank situation and the recommendations from your aquarium guide if you want to set them up for breeding.> Also, since rams require such a high temperature, what kind of small fish do you recommend to keep it company? < At such high temperatures the water tends to not carry as much oxygen as it would at lower temperature so you need to increase the aeration. Little Amazon tetras that don't get too big should be fine.> Finally, the tap water where I live is very basic (8.6 ph) and very hard (26.9 dh).  What is the most effective way lo lower the ph and dh? thank you. < There are many different ways to do this but I will give you the simplest answer. Go to a water store and buy 8 gallons of distilled water. Mix it with 2 gallons of your tap water. Every week you should to a 20% water change and replace the water with 80% distilled water and 20% tap water. At this ratio of distilled to tap the water can usually be acidified using peat moss if you really want to get the pH down.-Chuck>

Ram systems I'm going to get two ten gallon aquariums, and I want to put rams (Papilochromis ramirezi) in one of them. Your website recommends 27-30 degrees C, 5-6 ph, and 5-12 dh. I have an "Aquarium Owner's Guide" that recommends 22-26 degrees, 6-7 ph, and 3-8 dh. Do you know if this is because of a different subspecies than the one mentioned on your website, or if the information is wrong? Also, since rams require such a high temperature, what kind of small fish do you recommend to keep it company? Finally, the tap water where I live is very basic (8.6 ph) and very hard (26.9 dh).  What is the most effective way lo lower the ph and dh? >> Go with ph 6-6.5, 3-10DH and temp from 26-29C. You can keep them with any small fish from the Amazon like cardinals, Rummynose, and Corydoras. Best way with water like that hard and alkaline is to get water from another source, since you need only 10 gallons you can get it from a friend with better water, no reason to play with chemicals to lower the values, good Luck, Oliver.   Ram question, peat in a bag I've been wanting to get into cichlids because I like their color but lack experience.  I was wanting to put my tank to the test as far as tankmates goes; I've got long-finned danios, angels, balloon-belly mollies, an Opaline Gourami and a peacock eel.  I saw that danios were in the "tankmates" section to get the rams out but I wasn't sure about the others.  Water maintenance is no problem; I work at a pet store where we do free water testing so that shouldn't be hard to do at all. <Should get along if the system is large enough> I also had a question about peat, though.  I've seen that angels like peat as well in their water but I didn't know how to make a bag.  I don't want to order online but I want to make my fish happier.  Is there a way to prepare a peat bag (or even a way to install it into the substrate/filter)?  Or do you have it posted somewhere and I just haven't found it? <Mmm, you can/could buy, use a Dacron bag made/sold in the trade for containing such chemical filtrants... but pantyhose, stockings can work here as well... and yes to "just" placing the boiled peat and bag in the tank, under the substrate, though placing it in an area of water flow is better for more rapid effect. Bob Fenner> Thank you for your time, Sarah

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>

Non-utilization of Spellchecker/Grammar - Ram Setup hey. am cycling a 30 gallon tank. right now all I have in it are some rock with some forming a cave. I want to keep about 3 ram cichlids and other fish such as Corys, tetras, and other small cichlids. now I just need to know. what can I do to make sure that my little rams lead very happy little lives. I have a 20 watt light, I've set the temperature to 28 degrees Celsius. what plants can u suggest I add? my pH is at 7 and always has been. I have successfully kept angelfish, Neons and mollies in the past. do rams have similar requirements?? also I only have ever fed my fish flake food. what live or frozen foods can u suggest I feed rams. would there be anything around the house to feed them? I cant wait until I've finished cycling!  <<your setup seems fine. Check with your LFS what plants they have that will thrive at the higher temperatures that the rams like. you should add some frozen foods to their diet. Blood worm is very good, but make sure you are not allergic (many people are), also frozen brine shrimp and white mosquito larvae (glassworm) will be a good addition to their diet. Try to get two pairs, your tank is big enough. Have fun, Oliver! >>

What Goes With Rams? Hey. I'm getting a tank of about 20-30 gallons size. and I definitely want to keep at least 2 ram cichlids and about 4 Corydoras catfish. Any other suggestions of fish? Maybe other cichlids, or a shoal of tetras? < Any school of tetras, rasboras or danios would be fine as long as they don't get any bigger than two inches. Other dwarf cichlids like Nannacara anomala, Laetacara Curviceps or Apistogramma species would also work well.> For the rams and catfish what sort of live plants can you suggest? < Stay away from most stem plants unless you plan on adding CO2. Amazon swords and many Cryptocoryne species would work well.> I also want to put rocks in my new tank. If I buy them out of water from a shop, do I need to soak them in water and for how long? < Rocks that are suitable for the aquarium need to be rinsed well to remove any dust particles that may have accumulated on them. Then they can be placed in the aquarium right away.-Chuck> Thank you. James

SEXING RAMS How can I determine sex? I have one but want to get a mate. < Rams are different from many other dwarf cichlids in that they are not sexually dimorphic like the Apistos and Nannacaras. I discovered this little technique years ago that seems very reliable.  First of all males are slightly larger than the females. The forehead is a little broader on the males too. Females that are mature may have a rosy pink area on their belly. Males fins are slightly longer than the females.  Take a very close look at the black spot located on the side of the fish with a flashlight. On most males they have numerous blue scales on the side of the fish except over the black spot. Females on the other hand have larger more pronounced scales in and around this black spot. Sometimes they are slightly different colors too.  Check out any good dwarf cichlid book at the LFS that shows a breeding pair of rams and you to will soon see the difference. Sometimes all the fish in the tank are the same sex. If you rams were imported from Asia then they may have artificially enhanced longer fins too. This is one of my favorite all time fish. Good luck.-Chuck> 

Sexing Blue ram cichlids Hello, <Hi there> I would like to know if there is any way to tell the difference in sexes of blue ram cichlids, AKA Microgeophagus ramirezi. And if so, how? <This is posted on our site... which you would have seen, had you had the courtesy to follow instructions: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/rams.htm> Thank you, Spenser Nice P.S. I have tried sending you an email asking this same question before and received no reply. I would really like to figure this out, and so would the head fish guy at my local pet co who is also an avid reader of your site. Again, thank you and please send me a reply. <Please read. Bob Fenner>

Re: Blue ram cichlids, WWM, misrepresenting oneself... life Dear Bob, <Spenser> Just so you know I read off your site about an hour every night, and I dimply had not come to that section yet and was unable to find it using the Google search. <... my young friend... putting the terms in the Google search tool on site: "Blue ram cichlids" yields this: http://www.google.com/custom?q=blue+ram+cichlids&sitesearch=wetwebmedia.com> I know that you guys do this as a favor to people, and I appreciate it very much, as do many other people. However you do not have to be so rude in your reply saying that I would have seen something had I had the courtesy to follow instructions, especially when I had never been given any instructions in the first place. Thank you, Spenser Nice <Please, stop... when you click on "asking a query", this screen comes up: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/WWMAdminSubWebIndex/question_page.htm Stop wasting y/our time. Bob F> 

SEXING RAMS I have recently purchased 2 Blue Ram Cichlids (Microgeophagus Ramirezi) and I am looking at purchasing more depending on how they interact with the rest of my fish. I would like to know if there is any way to tell the sex of them and if so how. I would like to have an equal mix of male and female. Thank you, Spenser Nice < Sexing rams can be difficult. Most dwarf cichlids are sexually dimorphic with the males usually being larger and more colorful, but rams don't follow this pattern. Male rams are usually larger than the females. Some female rams have pink bellies, but not all the time. On the side of wild rams there is a black spot. Look closely at this site with a flashlight from the side. Females usually have numerous highlighted colored scales over this spot. Males usually don't have any colored scales on this spot and it remains black. Many times rams are imported from Asia and they are usually all the same sex. They can be all males or all females. There are a strain of domesticated rams referred to as German Rams that have darker markings over the front and back of the fish.-Chuck>

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> Blue/Gold Rams     Dear Mr. Fenner, <Adam>     My name is Adam and I had some questions about rams.  First off I have a 125 gal. tank @ 78 F with a few large iridescent sharks, African butterfly fish, hi-fin bullsharks, redtail and rainbow sharks, silver dollars, black ghost knife, and a few common Plecos.  I just today did a water test to find that I have a ph of 8.4, very hard water and 200+ ppm of nitrate. <Yikes... the hardness not a concern for your minnow shark species... but the Dollars, Plecos and Rams prefer much softer. I'd be checking your nitrate test kit... 200 ppm is about ten times past toxic.> I just need to know what the best way is/are to fix all the problems I have with the water spec.s as applied to the preferences of blue and gold rams. <Better to keep them in a tank without the more "outgoing" species above... and to start with cleaner source water... likely from a reverse osmosis device, though you could use an in-line treatment tool... and then to treat this water either with peat, a chemical prep., or with a system with live plants... before using>   What kind of live plants are good for rams and their ideal water conditions? <Others found in the same habitat, that enjoy soft, acidic, warm water... the specifics of the more readily available aquarium plants are listed on www.WetWebMedia.com> Will Amazon sword work?   <Yes> How do peat granules in the filter work and are there any side effects to the water? <The humic acids, other organics that are the peat counteract, neutralize carbonates... do effect the water... making it softer, more acidic, often yellow to light-brown in color> If I use a co2 fertilization system will that also effect my water quality, and is this a good idea? <Will, and yes... will lower pH, hardness, boost plant growth>   Is there a difference in hardiness between blue and gold rams?   <Sometimes yes... either can be hardier or not... depending on source (the "German" Blue Rams are very tough for instance, but the ones out of the orient often die easily)> And lastly, can the fish I listed above handle all the water conditions needed to keep healthy rams?  If not, just say so, I would love to have rams in my tank but if I can't so be it. <Better to NOT mix all the fishes you list above together... at least two different tanks would be best... with one being for more outgoing, hard and alkaline, cooler water... the other for easier going, soft, acidic, warmer water. Bob Fenner> Thank you so much for your time, Adam Staude

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

Keeping blue rams Hi guys, hope all in well in your neck of the woods. I am really interested in keeping the dwarf blue ram cichlids. I have been doing lots of research as they are unlike anything else I keep. The tank I have available is an empty standard 29g (30"(L) x 12"(W) x 24"(H) I believe). I want to set it up right from the get go so I don't have to start over. My tap water has a high pH of around 8.2. What's the best way to keep this in the 5-6 range - that's what they need, correct? I am getting conflicting information regarding using RO water, peat moss, black water extract, etc...please help in this regard. What is the best substrate for them? Regular aquarium gravel (large vs. small pebbles?) slate rock, sand...? How many can I comfortably keep in this size tank? I was thinking 4 would be sufficient, but I am worried about two pairing off and harassing the others. Is it best to have a planted tank (IE, live plants)? I was hoping I could keep live plants and driftwood in there to help the pH out. I realize they are somewhat sensitive, but this would be a species only tank so I am more than willing to go above and beyond to do the necessary things to keep them happy and healthy. What kind of water change schedule do to recommend? I have been reading that some people do small changes (10% or so) once a week to maintain water quality, and others say the more they mess with it, the worse off they are. So they keep it lightly stocked, heavily planted, and leave it for a month or two at a time. I am used to doing water changes on my other tanks every 2 weeks or so, so months on end w/out water changes would seem like neglect! What's your take on this? Any other tidbits you can throw in would be great too. Thanks a bunch! < You are talking about one of my favorite fishes of all time. In the wild these little guys come from the open savannah areas of Venezuela and Colombia. You really have to look hard to find wild rams these days. Most of the time they are being bred in Asia. There is a variety also called the German Ram that is a little more robust and carries a little more dark spotting then regular rams. These are easier to take care of too. Overall the water should be warm around 80 to 82 degrees. Water should be very clean. I would use an outside power filter with a bio wheel like a penguin 170 and a reliable heater that won't stick. Sand would be better than gravel. Good food is essential to get them to show off their colors. A good florescent light bulb would really get them glowing. If you just want to keep them alive then I would start off by mixing 1/2 of your tap water with 1/2 distilled water and checking the pH and alkalinity. Try and get the pH to at least 7 to prevent problems. You may need to use a buffer from either Kent or SeaChem to get the ph down to 6. If you want to breed them then you really need to soften the water and get the pH in the 6 range. When you use an RO unit that takes out all the minerals in the water then you have to use less chemicals to bring the pH down to 6 and then stabilize it so it won't continue to drop. For the little bit you are going to need I would get it at a local water store that has already done it for you. If you want to breed the rams then you need to know how to sex them. In general the males are larger and have a black spot on the flanks. If you look at that spot in the sun or with a flashlight you will notice that the black spot is void of the metallic blue scales that cover the rest of the sides of the fish . Females are smaller and may have a reddish hue to the belly area. If you look at the black spot on a females side then you will notice that there are a few highlighted blue to purplish scales on that black spot. When they pair up they usually lay their eggs out in the open on a rock or on the glass and chase all the other fish away. The eggs will hatch in three days and the fry will become free swimming in another three days. Now the problem comes in. Baby rams are too small for newly hatched brine shrimp so they must be feed the tiniest of foods for the first week. After that they should be removed or the parents may eat them. Regulate your water changes by checking the nitrates. Rams like very clean water and there should be zero ammonia and nitrites. The nitrates should not get above 15 ppm. Driftwood would be great but some plants will not like the higher temps but you should try some of the more hardy plants anyway.-Chuck>

Rams and Water Chemistry I have begun cycling a tank for rams, I wish to breed a pair in a species tank(10 gal.). <Sounds like fun!> I understand their need for a certain water chemistry, but I would like to know "non-chemical" methods for maintaining or correcting chemistry. <There are a few, and it will depend, of course, on your current water chemistry - what pH, GH, KH comes out of your tap.  Since you're asking about rams, I feel safe in assuming you wish to lower the pH and alkalinity.  My own preferred method is to use peat moss in the filter, and bogwood in the tank.  The tannic acids released from these will keep the water soft and acidic, and do a very good job of it, too.  I use this for my plant tank, which I keep at a pH of 6.2.  Out of the tap, my water sometimes has a pH of 9.4 - with peat and bogwood alone, I bring it down to 7.0, and then the CO2 I add for the plants gets me to a happy and stable 6.2.  The only "drawback" to peat and/or bogwood is that it will stain the water a rich tea color.  Frankly, I like and want this, as it looks more natural in a planted aquarium.> Also, what is R/O water? I have seen this in several ram forums, and am not sure what it stands for. <And here you have hit on another method of getting the pH and alkalinity that you want.  RO water is "Reverse Osmosis" water, a method of water purification that leaves you with "just water", removing all the crud that is in tapwater, from chlorines and chloramines to toxic metals.  With this method, you will have to add back the minerals that are stripped away which the fish need.  There are products available for this; I know SeaChem and Kent make some.  Then you'll be set with "just water" plus what the fish need in their water.  From there, you may have to add a buffer to raise the pH and KH to your desired level, if the RO water is still too low.  Don't use pH raising (or lowering) concoctions, as these are very short-lived; without the proper buffering capacity of the water, the pH will fall (or rise) back to where it is/was stable.  If you need to alter pH/KH after using RO, use one of the many buffering products available.  Please check out our FAQs for more on RO and RO/DI water:  http://www.wetwebmedia.com/rofaqs.htm  and be sure to follow the blue links at the top for more.> Any advice you could give would be greatly appreciated!  Thanks again!  April Gurganus <You bet.  Hope all goes well with your rams!  -Sabrina>

Rams inquiry Hello. I'm writing this for my father who had a question re: rams. He has a hard time keeping them alive...the tank is 82 degrees, pH 7, frequent water changes, other fish include cardinal tetra, discus, and angels. Is the problem the pH? Thanks Shahrzad Patterson <A lot of folks have trouble with cultured rams (Microgeophagus)... disparate sources often cite pH "shock" and simply too hard, alkaline water as a principal contributing factor. The pH of the water they are naturally from is listed at 5-6.0... some ten to a hundred times lower (the pH scale is base ten logarithmic), and warmer (27-30 C.) and likely softer (dH of 5-10) than your friends... this would be an area I would adjust in an effort to maintain this fish... though you may well find that your (intermittent, short-term) supplier is maintaining them in much more alkaline conditions. Otherwise, I assure you, as an old-timer in the pet-fish trade, that shipments of this fish vary GREATLY in terms of hardiness time to time. So, waiting, observing new arrivals for a week or so may also make a/the difference in their survivability. Bob Fenner>

Like A Rock... actually a Ram Hey Bob, Had a big success that I had to share....at least it's big to me. For the past couple of months I have had one female Ram in my planted tank. I've been patient waiting for some decent males to show up at the LFS. I finally brought a couple home a week and a half ago. <One of my fave fish species> This evening I was doing my usual spot check and noticed that the female had laid about 250 - 300 eggs on a hollowed out portion of a piece of bogwood right at the front tank panel. The male and female are taking turns fanning the eggs and are violently chasing off all comers. The next several hours will be interesting. <Neat> I raised the tank temp two days ago from 72 to 74. Have been adding Ketapang and Blackwater every week. Didn't think Rams bred so easily. <Didn't used to years back... but now much more facile... due to conditioning/selection of a few successive captive generations. Bob Fenner> Dave

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>

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