German Blue Ram Care: Tank Mates, Breeding & More

The German Blue Ram is a beautiful Dwarf Cichlid.

What they lack in size they make up for in color. This radiant fish comes in a kaleidoscope of colors and several different morphs.

They are community friendly and easy to care for too. The more diverse your community is, the more this fish will stand out.

The German Blue Ram is perfect for just about any freshwater aquarium.

Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about this spectacular fish…

German Blue Ram Close Up

German Blue Ram 101

The German Blue Ram (Mikrogeophagus ramirezi) is also known as the Ram Cichlid, Ramirez’s Cichlid, and the Butterfly Cichlid.

They come from South America and are native to the Orinoco River basin in Venezuela and Colombia.

Because they are not as aggressive or territorial as other Cichlids, they are one of the few Cichlids that can live safely with Nano fish. Even just a pair of these colorful fish makes a community stand out in a big way.

German Blue Rams are best known for their stunning appearance.

Because of their appearance and popularity they are often found at most retailers. If a shop has Cichlids in stock, then it is likely to have this one.

The typical price is $10-$12, which is much cheaper than other South American Cichlids.

Key Facts:

  • Experience Required: Freshwater fishkeeping
  • Nicknames: Ram Cichlid, Ramirez’s Cichlid, Butterfly Cichlid
  • Color Forms: German Blue, Electric Blue, Gold
  • Size: 2-3 inches.
  • Tank Size: Minimum 20+ gallon.
  • Tank Temperature: 80°F to 85°F.

Tank Mates

Group of German Blue Ram

In the wild these fish are found living alongside Corys and other small Catfish, Tetras, and Cichlids such as the Uaru and Severum.

When it comes to other Cichlids, only other Dwarf Cichlids are safe. This includes the Bolivian Ram and just about any species of Apistogramma.

Other good tank mates for German Blue Rams include:

  • Discus
  • Cardinal Tetra
  • Red Phantom Tetra
  • X-Ray Tetra
  • Honey Gourami
  • Dwarf Gourami
  • Pearl Gourami
  • Cory Catfish
  • Kuhli Loach
  • Mystery Snails
  • Amano Shrimp

You can also keep them with other German Rams in a group.

It is best to start off by keeping a male and female bonded pair.

When you are ready to add a few more Rams to your tank make sure that there are at least 2 females for every male in the group.

You do not want to pair them with anything large or aggressive. All tank mates must also be able to tolerate water temperatures over 80°F.

All large or aggressive Cichlids should be avoided. These include Green Terrors, Jack Dempseys, Convicts, and Oscars. Also keep away other aggressive fish that may attempt to pick a fight with your Rams. Arowanas, Red Tail Sharks and Bichirs are not good ideas.

Swordtails, Platys, Goldfish, and Zebra Danios should be left out too.

Care Guide

German Blue Ram Swimming

The German Blue Ram is an excellent beginner Cichlid species.

Although these fish are easier to care for than other Cichlids, they do have some very specific requirements for water temperature, acidity, and cleanliness.

  • Most importantly, they require a very high water temperature (80°F) and a heater that is able to maintain it consistently.
  • They will also need their water changed 10 to 15% every week.
  • When cleaning your Ram’s tank you must also clean your decorations and vacuum and rinse the substrate. Leaving too much detritus around will introduce waste products and foul your water quality.

This fish is susceptible to a very deadly disease known as fish tuberculosis. Fish TB is not the same as human TB, but occurs as the result of a mycobacterial infection. The high water temperature allows for the bacteria to breed quickly and there are several different strains. The disease spreads very quickly from fish to fish.

The disease will cause ulcers and lesions across the fish’s body.

Mycobacterial infections are extremely difficult to treat. To prevent a mycobacterial infection you should always quarantine new fish for at least 2 weeks before adding them to your community.

How Long Do German Blue Rams Live?

German Blue Rams can live for up to 4 years in a well-kept aquarium.

Diet

Their most common prey in the wild includes polychaete worms, small snails, and insect larvae.

In the aquarium you must feed them a mix of live prey and high quality Cichlid flakes.

Flake foods should be quick sinking so that your Rams can pick them out of the substrate. You can supplement with bottom feeder pellets if you like.

The best live prey includes bloodworms, grindal worms, tubifex, brine shrimp, and feeder snails. It is important for them to get some greens too. Mix in some crushed spirulina or algae wafers with the rest of their food. As a treat you can give them boiled and blanched peas, cucumbers, spinach, and broccoli.

What Food Can They Eat?
Here is a list of all of the best foods to feed your German Rams:

  • Cichlid flakes
  • Bloodworms
  • Tubifex
  • Grindal worms
  • Insect larvae
  • Brine shrimp
  • Feeder snails
  • Algae wafers
  • Spirulina
  • Broccoli
  • Peas
  • Cucumbers
  • Spinach

These fish have a rather interesting way of eating. They take in big mouthfuls of substrate and sift through it with their teeth, searching for small live prey.

Instead of offering one or two big meals every day you should feed your Rams 5 small pinches of food each day. This method prevents both overeating and undereating, and minimizes food conflict.

To measure out a good meal size for your Rams, take a pair of tweezers and pinch up a small amount of live prey or fish flakes. Whatever you can fit on your tweezers is enough. Sprinkle the food into the substrate and watch your fish take in a mouthful.

As they eat the sand will be pushed out through their gill slits.

Behavior

German Blue Rams are much more peaceful than other Cichlids.

Just like other small fish they spend a lot of time hiding in caves around the tank. They spend most of their time near the bottom, but will explore the middle levels too.

They do not pick fights for fun and will leave other fish alone so long as they are left alone themselves. They do not appreciate intruders, and would much rather flee than fight.

The only exception to this is with their own kind.

Males are quite territorial with one another and will engage in competition for mates.

These fish do not swim in groups, but in pairs.

A male will pair off with a female that he sees as a potential mate and he will spend all of his time by her side. Unlike most other fish, the German Ram is monogamous and stays with just one mate for their entire life.

Pros

  • Good starter Cichlid
  • Lives peacefully in pairs
  • Can live with freshwater Nano fish
  • Does not harm plants or decorations
Cons

  • Cannot live with most other Cichlids
  • Does not tolerate changes in water parameters
  • Needs a high water temperature

Tank Set Up and Parameters

These fish come from the Orinoco River basin.

The water there is very warm and stays above 80°F all year round.

German Blue Rams are found in slow moving channels and drainage basins where the water is slightly acidic and full of dissolved oxygen. These areas are often densely packed with underwater plants as well as semi-aquatic plants above the surface.

Tannins from plant material and driftwood turn the water column reddish brown. This is called blackwater, and the pH is lower in these areas than in the other parts of the channel.

To create these conditions in an aquarium you will need at least a 20 gallon tank for a single Ram. Add 10 gallons for each additional Ram in the tank.

As for water parameters:

  • Temperature: 80-85°F
  • pH: 6.0-7.5
  • Water Hardness: 6-12 dGH

It is a common misconception that these fish can survive in lower temperatures. Keeping them in a temperature below 80°F will make them much more susceptible to illness.

For substrate you can use either fine grained gravel or sand.

If you want to create a blackwater environment, you can add leaf litter, twigs, and driftwood to your substrate. These will add extra tannins to your water column.

These fish tend to stay out of the light, so a moderate intensity between 2.5 and 3 watts per gallon will be enough. You can use just about any kind of filter you like, so long as it generates a mild current. The best kinds are hang on back filters and small internal filters.

If you want to add extra oxygen to the water you can use a bubble filter or place a few air stones around the tank.

When decorating your aquarium you want to choose decorations that would be found in your fish’s natural habitat. Focus on using large rocks, logs, driftwood, and bogwood.

German Blue Rams love caves so you can create a makeshift cave by placing an overturned flower pot in your tank.

Finally, you should provide plenty of underwater plants.

Java Ferns, Amazon Sword Plants, Water Wisteria, and Pygmy Chains are all good options.

Tank Parameter Requirement
Minimum Tank Size 20 Gallons
Tank Type Freshwater planted
Temperature 80-85°F
pH 6.0-7.5
Hardness 6-12 dGH
Flow Light
Substrate Gravel or Sand

Appearance

German Blue Ram Appearance

German Blue Rams are about 2.5 inches long.

The front of their body is wide and slightly ovular in shape, with a sloping forehead and a pointed snout. Their body thins out towards the abdomen and ends with a flared tail.

They have a long dorsal fin which runs all the way down the dorsal side of their body, standing up tall towards the front. Their caudal fin is wide and shaped like a fan or a paddle.

You will notice a small, colorless pair of pectoral fins near the gills. Following those are the two pelvic fins and the wide anal fin. This makes for a total of 7 fins. The Longfin morph has a trailing dorsal, caudal, and anal fin. The caudal fin is split rather than fused.

German Blue is a reference to this fish’s color, rather than its home country.

They are a deep metallic blue from the abdomen to the caudal fin.

Their head and upper body is golden yellow with a black stripe through their eyes and two large black spots near their dorsal fin. Icy blue dots appear over the dorsal, caudal, and anal fins.

They have a bright red snout and pelvic fins and matching red eyes.

These colors are not used to attract mates, but serve as a form of aposematism. They warn potential predators that these fish are dangerous to eat.

If a predator is not warded off by the colors then they can flare their dorsal fin to reveal several sharp spines.

Both males and females are the same colors, so determining the gender can be a little difficult. However, if you look closely you will see that the male has a pointier dorsal and caudal fin.

Types

There are 4 different varieties of this fish:

  • German Blue: This is the typical color form and they have a blue and gold body with bright red pelvic fins.
  • Electric Blue: These fish are a solid cyber blue color and have a patch of red or orange just before their dorsal fin.
  • Gold: Golden Rams are solid gold. They grow to be slightly larger than other Ram varieties.
  • Longfin: The Longfin or Angel morph has trailing dorsal, anal, and caudal fins and a split caudal fin. This morph can occur on any of the 3 color varieties but is most common on the German Blue variety.

Bolivian Ram vs German Blue Ram

Bolivian Ram vs German Blue Ram
Bolivian Ram Cichlid on the right. German Blue Ram on the left.

The Bolivian Ram is another popular Ram Cichlid.

Although it looks similar to the German Blue Ram, the Bolivian Ram is a different species: Mikrogeophagus altispinosus.

Bolivian Rams are orange, gold, and silver in color. Their fins are colorless and bordered by red or orange. Their black spots are located on the center of their body, rather than near their dorsal fin.

They do not have red eyes, and are typically smaller too.

Both species are peaceful and Nano tank friendly and can safely live in the same aquarium together.

Electric Blue Ram vs German Blue Ram

The Electric Blue Ram and the German Blue Ram are the same species.

Electric Blue is an alternate color form.

They are neon blue and there is a patch of red or orange from the tip of the snout to the beginning of the dorsal fin. This very new variety was first created in 2009 and they have the same bright red eyes as a typical German Blue Ram.

History and First Sighting

The German Blue Ram was first discovered in 1948 by ichthyologist G.S. Meyers.

They were named for the aquarium collector Manuel Ramirez.

At first they were mistakenly classified as an Apistogramma. After this was corrected, it was given its own genus: Papiliochromis.

In 1957 a new genus was suggested: Mikrogeophagus. This became official when Herbert Axelrod described the fish under this genus in 1971.

These fish were introduced to the aquarium hobby almost immediately upon their discovery. They quickly became a worldwide sensation. Captive breeding programs began in Europe, Asia, and the United States. Even today, most specimens are imported from Asia.

The Gold and Longfin varieties began to appear in the 1970s. The most recent color morph, Electric Blue, was introduced in 2009.

Today, the German Blue Ram is considered one of the best Dwarf Cichlids around.

Breeding German Blue Rams

Breeding German Blue Ram

It is difficult to determine the gender of German Blue Rams.

You should look closely at your Ram’s dorsal and caudal fins. The males’ fins are pointed at the tips, while the females’ fins are smoothed down. Females are also up to half an inch smaller than males.

However, breeding them is very easy.

To initiate breeding condition you must gradually raise the water temperature up to 85°F over the course of 4 days. Raise the temperature by 3°F each day. The pH of your breeding tank should be around 6.0 and there should be either large rocks or leafy plants at the bottom of the tank.

These plants act as a spawning surface.

Your breeding pair should be fed up to 5 meals of live prey and frozen meat every day. Bloodworms and brine shrimp are the best foods for Rams that are getting ready to breed.

When the pair’s colors turn brighter they are ready to mate.

The male will chase the female around the tank and lead her to a good nesting location. The female can lay up to 500 eggs but not all of these will survive. Some of them may be eaten by the parents. The parents must be allowed to tend to and defend the nest.

It will take about 3 days for the eggs to hatch, after which the female can be removed. The male will feed the larvae for the next 5 days until they are free swimming.

Free swimming fry can be fed infusoria and microworms for the first week or two. After this they can start eating larval brine shrimp.

The offspring will mature in about 6 months and can be added to the main tank once they reach over an inch in size.

Species Summary Table

German Blue Ram
Other Common Names: Ram Cichlid, Ramirez’s Cichlid, Butterfly Cichlid
Scientific Name: Mikrogeophagus ramirezi
Family Name: Cichlidae
Distribution: Colombia and Venezuela
Size: 2-3 inches
Color: German Blue, Gold, Electric Blue
Care Level: Easy
Temperament: Peaceful
Lifespan: 3-4 years
Minimum Tank Size: 20 gallons
Tank Mate Compatibility: Peaceful tropical community fish

Summary

If you are looking for a good community Cichlid then this species is one of the best.

German Blue Rams are born for community setups!

They thrive alongside other Nano fish and help add color to any tank. You will fall in love with their spectacular colors and in addition to their beautiful natural form, there are 2 other color morphs to choose from.

If you can get them to breed then you will be able to observe what good parents they can be. Watching them raise their young is a fascinating experience for any fish keeper.

All of these wonderful qualities make them an excellent addition to a freshwater aquarium.

Do you prefer the German Blue Ram to other Dwarf Cichlids?

Let us know in the comments section below…

David Thomas Author Bio Picture
David Thomas leads the team at Everything Fishkeeping as the Editor-in-Chief. David has been keeping fish since he was a child. In his first tank he kept goldfish and since then he has kept over 30 different species. Now he has 4 separate tanks and his favorite is a 100 gallon freshwater tank with a school of Rasboras, Tetras and Loaches.