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German Blue Ram – Mikrogeophagus ramirezi

German Blue Ram - Mikrogeophagus ramirezi

Cichlids are a very ancient and extensive classification of fishes dating back millions of years before, for example, dinosaurs. Cichlids probably originated around 550 million years ago (give or take a month or two 😀) and there are somewhere in the region of 2,000 to 3,000 different species, of which around 1,700 have been classified (at the time of writing).

Cichlids can make excellent community fish but you should take care because not all Cichlids are good community fish and may devastate an established aquarium, treating their tankmates as food, so before choosing a Cichlid, please ensure that you know whether or not your choice will be appropriate to your needs.

Is German Blue Ram (Mikrogeophagus ramirezi) a good community fish? German Blue Ram (Mikrogeophagus ramirezi) should be considered to be an excellent community fish assuming that the community is one of non-aggressive, non-predatory species. German Blue Ram (Mikrogeophagus ramirezi) is suitable for all community aquariums although it can be territorial, particularly during breeding. 

Key Facts about German Blue Ram (Mikrogeophagus ramirezi)

CategoryKey Facts
Common name(s)German Blue Ram Cichlid – also known as:
Asian Ram
Butterfly Cichlid
Ramirez’s Dwarf Cichlid
Dwarf Butterfly Cichlid and
Scientific nameMikrogeophagus ramirezi
Originate fromOrinoco River basin, in the savannahs of Venezuela and Colombia in South America
Care requiredEasy to care for and very beautiful
TemperamentRelatively placid shoaling fish
Colour & FormRelatively tall and rounded body with very elegant finnage
LifespanUp to 3 years
Adult size2 inches – Male larger than female
DietOmnivorous – eats Daphnia, Bloodworm, Tubifex worms and pellet and flake food in the aquarium.
Aquarium size24 inches in length or greater
Compatible withMost other Tetras, Barbs, Danios, and other livebearers, dwarf cichlids, smaller Gouramis, catfish and loaches that live in fairly neutral or acidic, soft water
Avoid keeping withLarge and/or aggressive species in too small an aquarium
BreedingEasy if you put the fish in the right environment.
Water temp78 – 85 Fahrenheit
Water pH5.2 to 6.7
Water hardness (dGH or dH)6 to 14 dGH

Origins of German Blue Ram (Mikrogeophagus ramirezi)

German Blue Ram (Mikrogeophagus ramirezi) is endemic to the Orinoco River basin, in the savannahs of Venezuela and Colombia in South America. The word “mikro” is the Greek word for small, “geophagus” is Greek for earth-eating.

It is usually found in nature in slow-flowing streams, on the margins of larger rivers, in marshland, in ponds and also in lakes but seldom, if ever, in stagnant water.

Basic Characteristics of German Blue Ram (Mikrogeophagus ramirezi)

German Blue Ram (Mikrogeophagus ramirezi) will grow up to around 2 inches in length in the aquarium – the males will generally grow to be larger than the female. In young fish, it is difficult to distinguish between the sexes so if you are purchasing young fish then buy half-a-dozen and you should have a mix of the sexes. 

The adult male of the species tends to have a more vibrant color than the female and will grow to be larger than the female. The extended dorsal fin of the German Blue Ram (Mikrogeophagus ramirezi) has an elongated upper tip at the rear which is not present in the female. The adult female will also have a visible ovipositor (egg duct) just in front of the anal fin.

The lifespan of German Blue Ram (Mikrogeophagus ramirezi) is around three years but this can vary enormously depending on tank conditions and general health.

German Blue Ram (Mikrogeophagus ramirezi) prefers fairly soft, acidic water, often described as “blackwater” with plenty of dissolved tannins, with a pH of 5.2 to 6.7 and a temperature range between 78 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit and from 6 to 14 dGH.

German Blue Ram (Mikrogeophagus ramirezi) enjoys soft to medium, acidic water conditions so it will be comfortable with other species of similar size that prefer this type of water chemistry.

As the German Blue Ram (Mikrogeophagus ramirezi) has elongated finnage it is advised to avoid keeping them in company with any fin-nippers. German Blue Ram (Mikrogeophagus ramirezi), being Cichlids, will defend themselves and, especially in respect of smaller fin-nippers, they are likely to retaliate with prejudice.

It is generally felt to be inadvisable to include guppies in the same aquarium.

German Blue Ram (Mikrogeophagus ramirezi) will generally dwell near the bottom of the water column and will enjoy a fine substrate, as it is something of a “sifter” when feeding in that it will take in a mouthful of the substrate and sift out any food, expelling the remaining substrate – the “geophagus” part of its name translates to “earth-eater”.

The physical appearance of German Blue Ram (Mikrogeophagus ramirezi)

German Blue Ram (Mikrogeophagus ramirezi) has a tall, softly rounded body in profile, It is not a slim species in the way that an angelfish is slim, rather it has quite a substantial mass, without being rounded, as a carp would be. The body has yellow color with a greenish tinge and blue speckles with some black marbled scales which is further distinguished by some vertical stripes in shades of grey. It is worth noting the hybridization has produced a rainbow of color variations of the species and this article is only dealing with the “original” form of the species.

A few more characteristics may be described as follows:

  • There is a vertical, black stripe starting below the eye (almost at the belly of the fish) and it continues up through the eye and to the top of the dorsal area in the form of a gently, backward curving crescent which gradually fades to grey as it rises up the body.
  • There is a grey patch just below the leading edge of the dorsal fin and this continues up to the tip of the first four rays of the dorsal fin, which is both tall and spiny.
  • Behind these black rays, the tips if the rays on the dorsal fin show a reddish/pink tip and this, in a fainter form, leads down the trailing edge of the dorsal fin.
  • The lower part of the rays of the dorsal fin are orange closer to the leading edge and gradually fade to the body color as they get closer to the trailing edge.
  • With the exception of the pectoral fins, the other fins all have the body color combined with the electric-blue flecks.
  • The pectoral fins are clear (hyaline).
  • The vertical stripe on the midsection of the body, between the ventral and anal fin is almost black.
  • All of the other vertical stripes on the body (apart from the stripe under the eye) are grey in color and are fairly indistinct (unless in the male at breeding times) and tend not to extend much below the spine.

Please note that different color variants will breed together, creating offspring with an increasingly diverse range of colors over several generations so it is impractical to cover all of the possible color variations in this article.

The German Blue Ram (Mikrogeophagus ramirezi) is a fairly small Cichlid. It has an extended dorsal fin. The fins of the male can tend to be longer than those of the female. It is advised not to include this species with known fin-nippers.

The living environment for German Blue Ram (Mikrogeophagus ramirezi)

German Blue Ram (Mikrogeophagus ramirezi) enjoys being in the shade so a well-planted tank is beneficial to it.

German Blue Ram (Mikrogeophagus ramirezi) will appreciate floating leaves and pretty well any broadleaf will assist the condition of the tank, as not only do such leaves provide shade but also, as they decompose, they provide infusoria for any fry in the tank. This also helps adults to determine that breeding conditions are good because they will appreciate the fact that there is a ready source of food for newly-hatched fry.

Note that German Blue Ram (Mikrogeophagus ramirezi) will not generally mate for life but they will make good parents for the brood that they are rearing.

It is recommended that German Blue Ram (Mikrogeophagus ramirezi) are kept as a small shoal. The male, in particular, can be territorial but setting up the tank so that sightlines are broken up will mitigate the risks of territorial behavior in general. 

When purchasing German Blue Ram (Mikrogeophagus ramirezi) it is generally recommended to buy around six fish. It may be impossible to sex the fish when purchasing them as immature specimens but, in due course, they will find their own mate and are, from that point, generally biparental for the purposes of rearing a specific brood.

Having a clear, broad area of a fine substrate will protect the elegant finnage of your German Blue Ram (Mikrogeophagus ramirezi).

Overall, German Blue Ram (Mikrogeophagus ramirezi) are the most attractive and most elegant addition to your aquarium.

The diet of German Blue Ram (Mikrogeophagus ramirezi)

German Blue Ram (Mikrogeophagus ramirezi) is primarily omnivorous and has a preference for live food, feeding on a range of invertebrates in nature. In the aquarium a diet of live or frozen Artemia, Bloodworm and Daphnia is recommended and German Blue Ram (Mikrogeophagus ramirezi)  will readily eat pelleted food and flake food. That said, they prefer to stay close to the bottom of the water column and sift through the substrate for their food. For this reason, a fine substrate is recommended.

Sexual differences in German Blue Ram (Mikrogeophagus ramirezi)

It is reasonably easy to distinguish the sex of the adult German Blue Ram (Mikrogeophagus ramirezi) because the adult male is often larger and has a deeper color, especially at breeding times. The rear of the male’s dorsal fin is more extended than that of the female. The female is also fuller-bodied when viewed from above, especially when carrying eggs (gravid). The female has a visible ovipositor (egg duct) just in front of the anal fin.

Aquarium size for German Blue Ram (Mikrogeophagus ramirezi) 

It is generally advised that the minimum tank size for German Blue Ram (Mikrogeophagus ramirezi)  should be one of at least 24 inches in length or more due to the fact that a shoal of around six per species should be maintained and the adult fish will only be around two inches long. This will enable your small shoal to move around freely. A smaller tank will be too restrictive (unless it is a breeding tank) and the fish will suffer as a result whilst a larger tank is always to be recommended.

In a community tank, including some floating Java Moss will give smaller fish and any fry a safe haven from larger or more vigorous species and it certainly helps to break up the sightlines in the aquarium.

There is a predominance of so-called “Nano tanks” available but, being old-fashioned, I prefer my fishes to live in an environment which, at least, attempts to mimic nature, rather than living in what I would liken to a piscine prison cell. The tank should be well-planted but with clear areas where the fish can swim freely. The water should have a certain amount of movement, as German Blue Ram (Mikrogeophagus ramirezi) enjoy a flow of water.

German Blue Ram (Mikrogeophagus ramirezi) – Videos

How to care for German Blue Ram (Mikrogeophagus ramirezi) Cichlids

How to breed German Blue Ram (Mikrogeophagus ramirezi) Cichlids

Raising the fry of German Blue Ram (Mikrogeophagus ramirezi) Cichlids

Are you keeping tropical fish as a hobbyist or as a breeder?

This is a question too often ignored in my humble opinion. If you are a breeder (either commercially or as a hobbyist who gives away young fish to other hobbyists) then you will need the resources to move fish into breeding tanks in order to maximize the yield of fry that will grow up either for sale or to give them away.

If you are keeping fish for the joy of observing them in something resembling a natural habitat then you may feel that it is appropriate to allow nature to take its course and, as and when different species breed, then many of the eggs (and surviving fry) will be eaten either by their parents or by other fish in your aquarium. This is the natural order of things because this is what will happen in nature. The fittest may well survive to reach adulthood.

Ultimately, the choice is yours to make.

How do German Blue Ram (Mikrogeophagus ramirezi) breed?

In total, the female German Blue Ram (Mikrogeophagus ramirezi) could lay up to 150 to 200 eggs during a single spawning but can lay as many as 500 eggs. 

At around 84 degrees Fahrenheit, the eggs will hatch in around two days and the fry will become free-swimming after around a further three days.

It is generally true that German Blue Ram (Mikrogeophagus ramirezi) make good parents and will not prey on their own young. In general, the male will protect the territory whilst the female will tend to care for the eggs and fry but these roles are interchangeable.

The female German Blue Ram (Mikrogeophagus ramirezi) will generally lay her eggs in a line along a slate, rock or sometimes a broad leaf and even on the glass of the aquarium. The male will then swim over that line of eggs and fertilize them. This process will then be repeated until the female has laid all of her eggs and the male has fertilized then and the result will be several rows of fertilized eggs.

Once the spawning is completed and until the fry become free-swimming, provided that the parents remain with the brood, they will move the eggs in their mouths several times, depositing them in the substrate or under cover. Inexperienced parents may inadvertently consume the eggs but, with practice, they will perfect this technique.

The German Blue Ram (Mikrogeophagus ramirezi) takes responsibility for post-spawning care and may become extremely aggressive if it feels that the brood is threatened. For this reason, if possible, a breeding tank is recommended.

It takes around two days for the eggs to hatch, depending on the water conditions and temperature and around a further three days or so for the yolk sacs to be depleted and the fry to become free-swimming.

In a well-planted aquarium with floating Java Moss, the Cichlid will often spawn in the community tank and at least some of the fittest fry will survive to adulthood by hiding in the Java Moss.

In a breeding tank, it is always a good idea to include a few aquatic shrimp, as they will consume any unfertilized or dead eggs but won’t tend to predate on viable eggs.

Breeding tank for German Blue Ram (Mikrogeophagus ramirezi)

You should prepare a tank of around ten gallons in size with mature, soft, flowing water. The water should have a low level of light and broad-leaved plants together with some well-cleaned slate inserted at an angle upon which the female will lay her adhesive eggs. It is recommended that the substrate consists of a fine substrate (sand) without sharp edges. The German Blue Ram (Mikrogeophagus ramirezi) may also lay eggs on broad leaves or in rows in the substrate or on the glass.

Arrange your tank heating so that you can slowly remove up to half of the tank water and then replace it with collected rainwater (slightly cooler than the aquarium water – but not so much that White Spot could result) and repeat this daily until the Cichlids spawn. This water and temperature change will encourage spawning, as it mimics nature. The rainwater is most important though some argue that tap water is fine.

Cichlids prefer to spawn where the water is flowing so a decent pump is required to synthesize that flow.

Feed up your Cichlids on bloodworm, which will sink to the bottom and burrow into the substrate. Your Cichlid will love rooting out the bloodworm and it can help to trigger spawning.

You may also wish to introduce baby brine shrimp, mosquito larvae or tubifex worms as an inducement to reproduction and live food will be very much appreciated. This will also tend to divert the attention of the German Blue Ram (Mikrogeophagus ramirezi) from preying on their own eggs and fry though cannibalism is not characteristic of German Blue Ram (Mikrogeophagus ramirezi).

Reduce the water movement by turning down the pump once the eggs are laid – only regular aeration is now required. Keep the lights off (or very low) and the tank dark (of fairly dark)  because eggs and fry can be particularly sensitive to the light.

The eggs will hatch typically in two days depending on tank temperature and conditions and the fry will become free-swimming after around three days after hatching. 

Keep the tank more-or-less unlit for the first week or so then gradually increase the lighting. Bear in mind that the eggs and fry of a fish as small as the Cichlid will be tiny indeed so you may need to use a magnifier “app” on your smartphone or a macro lens to see anything at all. A collection of eggs is generally easy to spot, as they look like a collection of tiny, brown pearls.

The newly hatched fry will feed firstly on their yolk sac and remain static but, once free-swimming, can be fed infusoria and will also thrive on egg yolk during the first two to four weeks. 

Once the fry are free-swimming and their yolk sacs are depleted, then add baby brine shrimp and/or white worms. Once the fry are sufficient in size not to be treated as a snack then they can be introduced into the community tank where they will join the existing shoal. Before moving the adolescent fish into the community tank ensure that you have balanced the water temperatures to mitigate the risk of White Spot or other diseases being triggered.

Unless you are breeding commercially, you may wish to consider moving the fry into the community tank sooner rather than later. It may seem harsh but the adult fish in the tank will deal with any fry that are unlikely to survive to adulthood in the wild and you are synthesizing, to the best of your ability, a wild environment. The fittest fry will probably survive whilst the rest will be dealt with by the community.

Should your German Blue Ram (Mikrogeophagus ramirezi) have a special diet for breeding?

Adult Cichlids don’t need any particular inducement to breed. That said, it has been suggested that adding tubifex, bloodworm, or mosquito larva may encourage them, presumably because the addition of a new food may “fool” the fish into thinking that it is breeding time. From my own experience, I would always recommend keeping all of your fish in the best possible condition at all times, as this is good for the wellbeing of your fish.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Mike Wheeler

I started keeping freshwater tropical fish in 1972 and it has been something of a passion ever since. In this website, my aim is to build up an everyman's guide to help the everyday aquarist get the best from this inspiring and entertaining hobby.

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