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Microgeophagus ramirezi
by Don 'Z-Man' Zilliox

The "German Blue Ram" has become one of the more popular dwarf cichlids found at your local fish stores today. It stays small, is very peaceful, and both male and female are very colorful and are not that difficult to induce to breed in the home aquarium. The beautiful blue and yellow colors also make them stand out in any South American community tank.

Microgeophagus ramirezi male As for breeding that is a different story. I find the best way to obtain a breeding pair is to acquire a half dozen or so specimens about a half-inch in total length so they can work it out for themselves. At this size they are all placed together in a 10 or 15-gallon bare bottom tank with a bubble-up filter and a large handful of Java moss scattered around. Instead of the normal type 3" and 4" clay flowerpots I introduce those 1" high 4" across "cactus garden" type ones still with an entry slot on the side for somewhere to hide. The water temperature should be at least 78 but not more than 82 degrees F. with a hardness of about 80 ppm Total Dissolved Solids. Rams are very easy to feed as they accept an assortment of live baby brine shrimp, frozen brine shrimp and flake foods.

Be on the lookout for any fish cowering way up in the corner of the tank as it is in danger of being killed and it should be removed to another tank. For the next few days look for more to be found in the same situation as a pair bond is being formed somewhere in the tank. When well over 1", the males will show an extension of the first three rays on the dorsal fin and will be larger than all other fish in the tank. A sure fire way of sexing your Rams is to check the black blotch in the fish's side. If there are blue spangled dots in and around it, that's a female. Those with no dots present are males. Watch for this one and a smaller one staying together around the top of the flowerpot and Microgeophagus ramirezi femaletry to remove all the others before these are the only two live ones in the tank. If these are a pair, and they are ready to spawn, and the female will deposit her eggs on the top right out in the open. At this time there should be no other fishes at all in the breeding tank as both parents do not seem to pay any particular attention to the eggs yet still stay fairly close and only go to fan them occasionally. Within about 5 days, when wigglers are noticed, the male pays much more attention to them than the female and when they become free swimming in another 5 days. I have seen each parent take a group for themselves and guard them at separate locations. This has not occurred every time and usually the male ends up with them all sooner or later anyway. At this time I carefully remove the female. I also carefully replace the bubble-up filter with a large already seeded sponge filter.

Now comes the big argument among aquarists! I have no other small food at most times except newly hatched brine shrimp, so that's what my fry are fed and I have had little or no problems with them eating it. Both "South American Dwarf Cichlids" by Mayland & Bork and "American Cichlids I - Dwarf Cichlids" by Linke & Staeck mention that the mouths of the young fry are too small to ingest brine shrimp and suggest something smaller such as microworms. I don't know if tank raised specimens are different than those from the wild but I just haven't had a large loss of fry. I wonder if it could be that the male is chewing on the brine shrimp then feeding it to the young or if they are able to take it as it is. I have used microworms but once for a different species and now only make up Lima bean paramecium when necessary, such as for Ctenopoma ansorgii where I lost the first five spawns because the food wasn't small enough. I recently gave a half dozen Rams to the fellow who helped me with this web site and he also fed the fry brine shrimp with no problems.

Microgeophagus ramirezi femaleAs soon as the male is not able to keep the young ones together and they swim all over the tank, he is put back with the female in hopes of another spawn. As the fry continue to grow, a few Cory cats are introduced to eat the uneaten food. As for water changes, I never change more than a gallon about every few days, as the fry may be lost if there is a large change in the water conditions.

One problem I have found is that new aquarists like them so much that they want to breed them as it was and probably still is with the popular Angelfish. Those new to the hobby take these fish home and really don't know what water conditions they need because at the local fish store they are most likely housed in regular tap water and the store clerk says they have no problems with them. This is probably true but breeding is something all together different. If you have Reverse Osmosis water or are lucky enough to have very soft water naturally from your tap, as some of my friends do, give the "German Blue Ram" a try.

 

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