Ram cichlids (Microgeophagus ramirezi) are one of the most popular cichids for the home aquarium. There is a golden variety, shown in the above photo, as well as a wild-type variety (most common).
Ram cichlids are also known as butterfly cichlids, German blue rams, or Ramirez's dwarf cichlids (named after the fish collector Manuel Ramirez).
Ram cichlids are from South America. They prefer soft, slightly acidic water, and a water temperature around 78°F (26°C).
One aspect of their behavior that makes ram cichlids so popular is that, unlike many other cichlid species, ram cichlids are peaceful fish that can be successfully kept in a community tank. You should provide them with lots of plants and rockwork for hiding places in their tank, as well as adequate swimming room.
They are also relatively small fish, reaching a maximum size of only about 2.5 inches (6 cm) in length.
Don't keep your rams with overly aggressive fish. Good tankmates are fish that have similar water requirements, such as tetras.
Ram cichlids are omnivores eating both plant-based and meat-based foods. They will eat most aquarium fare, but try to also supplement their diet with live and frozen fish foods.
Although ram cichlids are peaceful fish most of the time, they can become territorial during spawning and fry care.
In fact, one of the most interesting aspects of keeping cichlids is to watch them care for their fry. Similar to angelfish, which are also South American cichlids, ram cichlid fry are cared for by both parents. Below is a You Tube video of a wild ram cichlid with two-day-old fry.
Sexing ram cichlids usually isn't too difficult. Males often have slightly longer spines in the front part of their dorsal fin. As with most fish, females that are full of eggs have rounder abdomens than males do. Also, when the female is in spawning condition her underside becomes reddish or pinkish in color. In general, both male and female rams become more colorful at breeding time.
Below is another You Tube video of a pair of wild ram cichlids spawning in a community aquarium. If you look very closely you can see the pinkish hue of the female's underside in the video.
Although ram cichlids can tolerate more diverse water parameters, they are most likely to spawn in soft, slightly acidic water. A partial water change, plus raising the water temperature a degree or two may help to induce spawning behavior.
When they are ready to spawn, both parents will clean off a site for the female to lay her eggs. Usually the eggs are laid on a flat surface, such as a rock or wide plant leaf. Occasionally eggs will even be laid on the substrate.
After the eggs are laid, both parents guard them until they hatch.
It takes the eggs about three days to hatch. As mentioned previously both parents will care for the fry.
When the fry first hatch they will still have their yolk sac attached. When the fry are free-swimming feed them infusoria, commercial liquid fry food, or a small amount of mashed up hard-boiled egg yolk. Keep in mind that if overfed, egg yolk will seriously pollute the tank water.
After about a week to ten days, the ram fry should be large enough to eat newly hatched brine shrimp and powdered fry food.
After about 3-4 weeks (or before that if the ram parents lose interesting in caring for them) move the ram fry to a tank of their own.