South American Cichlids • Bolivian Ram questions

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Bolivian Ram questions

Postby CraniumRex » Fri Mar 23, 2018 10:59 pm

I'm sorry for the long post but I am new to dwarf cichlids and interested in hearing from experienced keepers of Bolivian Rams.

I currently have 4 juvenile Bolivian rams in my 29 gallon quarantine tank. They've been there since March 3rd. It's planted (mix of fake and real) with a sand substrate, some driftwood and hiding places. I hope to move them to my cycled 55 gallon soon(ish). The 55 is stocked with kuhli loaches x 10 and Harlequin Rasboras x 11. It is moderately planted and has driftwood and river stone. I originally had lace rock but it was messing up my pH and pushing it over 8.0 so out it went. Filtration is 2 x Aquaclear 50 plus sponge filter rated for 60 gallons. Ammonia 0 Nitrite 0 Nitrate < 20, pH around 7.6

Here are my questions/concerns:

1. Wow, these guys chase each other and even lip lock at mealtime. I have rearranged the decor and added what I hope are adequate territory markers several times in the last few weeks and try to keep the food scattered in distinct areas but they persist - nothing serious, just chasing and no damage but is this normal? There are times when they chum around together but the chasing is troubling. It lasts maybe 5-15 seconds, then it's done for a few minutes, then starts again, with one - the smallest - as the most aggressive. It's like he wants the whole tank to himself!

2. They are just young, maybe 1.5" to 2" long now. I can't sex them reliably though I have pored over a lot of photos and watched them for ages trying but can't see anything in the vent area. They all have a head bump shape, and 3 have the longer third ray and it is black. The fourth one's is more gray (and the shyest of the lot). No tail filaments, pectoral fins look rounded to me, and anal fin on most isn't squared off nor particularly long. For argument's sake, let's say I have 3 M and 1 F -- as they mature, am I headed for disaster? I drove 1 1/2 hours to get them as my LFS doesn't stock them. The place I got them has 2 more for the moment just not sure if I have room for more in the 55 or if I can't sex them then just adding to the problem. I have read here on the forum they do best in groups but if I have the wrong mix of genders will it be too stressful for them? I'm already considering a contingency of changing my 29G into a display tank for one or more of them (here we go with tank #7, sheesh). Suggestions?

3. They all have amazing colour. At the place I picked them up they were almost white in the bag, but after I got them in the QT tank, they coloured up and their pectoral and anal fins are very dark pink. Is this typical in juveniles? Most of the fish I have seen on YouTube are much paler (though some are on light substrate, mine is black sand). Is it possible they have been hormone-fed and enhanced? If so, how long would it take for that coloration to fade? I am feeding NorthFin sinking pellets that have no colour to them at all, plus some other live foods, and their colours have not dulled a bit in nearly 3 weeks. If they were hormone fed would that explain the aggression, or is that just a cichlid thing with conspecifics?

4. Can someone please tell me the best temperature to keep them at? I have read so many conflicting answers. 72 all the way up to 80 degrees! I don't have any interest in breeding them.

Thanks for reading this terribly long post. Any advice, observations, or suggestions would be very much appreciated!
Joined: Fri Mar 23, 2018 10:05 pm
Location: Ontario Canada

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Re: Bolivian Ram questions

Postby Iggy Newcastle » Sat Mar 24, 2018 4:53 pm

Welcome to C-F

Sounds like typical Cichlid behavior regarding chasing. You could try to add more line of sight breaks. Let them mature a bit more and maybe you'll be able to visually sex. I'd move them all to the 55 when that time comes. If you're uncomfortable with any further aggression there you could always remove a fish.

Maybe try posting some photos of your fish. They carry color at a relatively small size. Can't say anything regarding hormones. YT vids may not have good lighting, camera, quality, etc. I'll look for a video I remember from back in the day with these fish spawning, and link here if I can find it. Mid 70s should be fine. I wouldn't exceed 80 degrees.

You may not be interested in breeding, but that would be the most interesting and rewarding thing when keeping substrate spawning cichlids. I'd start with a minimum of 6 unsexed juveniles if going for a strong pair. In a 55, you should be able to have 2 pairs, provided your setup provides lots of cover/line of sight breaks.
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Re: Bolivian Ram questions

Postby CraniumRex » Sat Mar 24, 2018 10:57 pm

Thanks so much for your reply. I feel better knowing this may not be a recipe for stressed and unhappy fish.

Here are a couple of photos just with my cell phone taken the day after I got them.

Their colour has gotten deeper if anything and the front half is going a lovely yellow/gold. Good to know they colour up early. I feel more confident that it’s natural.

Interesting perspective on the breeding and I’ve read articles and watched a few videos of their behaviour and of course you’re right. My fear is what to do with the fry. I’m already up to 8 tanks - yikes.

That said I went to the LFS to get shrimp and poke around and dang if they didn’t have Bolivian rams, and old enough to sex, too! I think based on what you have said I will get two females and pray I have 3 m 1 female already.

I’m excited to watch them grow.

Thank you again for replying - big help.
Joined: Fri Mar 23, 2018 10:05 pm
Location: Ontario Canada

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