Saturday, September 16, 2006
Blue Ram - Microgeophagus ramirezi
Common name: Blue Ram, German Blue Ram
Scientific name: Microgeophagus ramirezi
Geographic location: Venezuela, Columbia
Size: Up to 5cm (2 inches)
Conditions: 75-85F, pH 6.5-7.0
Skill Level: Advanced
Minimum Tank Size: 10-20 gallons
The Blue Ram is a dwarf cichlid from South America, although it is now captively bred in Europe and Asia. It is a mainly peaceful fish that thrives in well planted tanks with softer water. In the wild, it lives in warm pools that are heated by the sun, so it is tolerant of higher temperatures. These fish are very complex fish behaviorally, which makes them a pleasure to own and watch. Often, they are not afraid of a hand in the tank like other more skittish fish and will hold their own against much larger, more aggressive fish. Males and females look similar, except males have a longer black spike on their dorsal fin and have no blue markings in their black spot on their side. Blue Rams form faithful pairs and are quite easy to breed in the aquarium.
I have owned many of these fish, and they are incredibly beautiful and fun to watch, but require patience, persistence, and advanced fish-keeping skills. Where they are purchased makes a big difference. Only buy them from a reputable dealer, or even better, a hobbyist who has bred the fish themselves. Otherwise they are very prone to carrying parasites or just being weak due to over-breeding and will end up dying in a few weeks. Most come from farms in Asia where they treat them with hormones to make them look more colorful at a younger age. This may lead to all sorts of health problems. It's a good idea to quarantine them before you put them in with other fish and even a preventative parasite treatment, like Jungle Labs Parasite Clear, can eliminate infections and increase chances of survival. Having a full range of medications on hand is advised with this fish, as they tend to get sick easily, unless you get strong specimens.
Once you get past the difficult first few months, you can start thinking about breeding these fish. I've never been able to successfully breed and raise the fry, the hardest part is getting the eggs to hatch and then finding something small enough for them to eat. They do become quite aggressive once they have spawned, so keeping them in a tank of their own is a good idea. Pairing together a male and female is often difficult; just throwing two together doesn't always make a pair (much like real life!). Spawning can be induced by doing a water change with slightly cooler water (simulating a rainstorm). Eggs will be laid overnight often on a flat surface and should hatch within 7 days. Feeding the fry is difficult because most foods are too big to fit in their mouths, but they will eat infusoria (little bugs present in all aquariums, often too tiny to see) and also microworms. They grow very slowly, and unless you separate the male and female, they will be ready to spawn again in a few weeks and eat all of their young fry! If you can manage to get through these crucial stages, you will be greatly rewarded with healthy rams that can be traded, sold, or used for breeding.
Images used with permission of André Silvestre</font>
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