The Ram cichlid - Mikrogeophagus ramirezi

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The Ram cichlid - Mikrogeophagus ramirezi

Postby goldbug on Fri Jan 08, 2016 1:13 pm

The Ram cichlid is known under several different common names including the German blue ram [1], Electric blue ram, Butterfly cichlid but they are all the same fish species so if you wish to purchase any specimens it is always best to call these by their Latin name which is Mikrogeophagus ramirezi. Their original name was Apistogramma ramirezi and sometimes they are still referred to under this name and looking through past years since they were first imported they have had several Latin names including Pseudogeophagus ramirezi as they were re-classified through the years as often happens with many species of fish.

Ramirezi refers to the first importer i.e. Manuel Ramirez [2] and this has stayed despite the different genera that this fish has been classified into.

They are described as an excellent cichlid for novice fish keepers to keep who wish to expand their experience of keeping species from the family cichlidae due to their peaceful disposition compared to their close cousins, the Bolivian ram (Mikrogeophagus altispinosus) and in my personal view they display a far better colouration especially when wild specimens are purchased and added to the aquarium.

Their common name of Butterfly cichlid relates to the variation in their colouration as they display a yellow background around the head area which gradually changes to a pale blue the further along the body finishing with yellow edging on the finnage. They may also display yellow markings directly on the forehead and a dark vertical bar which runs right through the eye. Females may also display a pink tinge to their belly area especially close to spawning time.

Wild specimens will always display a much more distinct colouration [3] compared to tank bred specimens but these are getting harder to obtain and the cheaper price of the latter has resulted in a much more active market for tank breds.

The adult size of these fish is approximately 2 inches which is slightly smaller than the Bolivian ram with females being of a slightly smaller size compared to the males.

The Ram cichlid can be found in the wild in the waterways of the Orinoco river basin extending from Venezuela to Colombia where they prefer the shallower waters with some vegetation, indeed plant matter forms part of their natural diet as they sift the substrate looking for vegetable debris and any small organisms that may live there.

Caring for your Ram cichlid
One of the most important points to stress when adding your Ram cichlid is that they need mature water in your aquarium to cope, all too often these fish are added to immature tanks and as a result they lead very short lives as they cannot cope with swings in water parameters, the aquarium must be fully cycled and your filters working to their top efficiency to keep the Ram cichlid happy.

The actual setup of the aquarium is not too difficult as long as the basic advice is followed. The ideal temperature range should be set between 26-30 deg C (78-85 deg F), a mid range of 27-28 deg C (80-81 deg F) provides a happy medium and is often more suitable for fellow tank mates that require the same water parameters. Ram cichlid inhabit acidic waterways in their natural habitat, aim for a pH range between 5.5-7.0, if your mains water is too alkaline then it may be wise to invest in an reverse osmosis unit rather than trying to lower the pH values by other artificial means. In my experience our mains water has a pH of 7.6 but by using a reverse osmosis unit and controlling the levels by re-mineralising will give you a constant supply of acidic water once an initial trial and error course has been followed.

If you are keeping one pair of these fish then the minimum aquarium size should be at least 20 imperial gallons (90 ltrs) [4], if more than one pair is to be kept then a larger aquarium will be required, each pair will need to establish their own territory. Hiding places should be added especially when more than one pair is to be kept, open tanks leave the opportunity for dominant males to harass other males to the point of death. Hiding places can be provided by the addition of bog wood, piping or even terracotta pots placed on their sides. Live plants can also be used as hiding places by these fish and will also have a good aesthetic effect to your aquarium but because of the higher temperatures required in the aquarium, make sure that you only plant suitable species.

They will tolerate most tank mates and keep themselves to themselves but make sure that the tankmates can also be happy with the higher temperatures and acidic water, in the past I have kept the Ram cichlid with Discus fish without any problems but make sure that you do not keep these with aggressive species as they can be intimidated and hide away despite having the reputation to be able to look after themselves.

Make sure that the filtration system is rated for the water volume, cichlids are high waste producers, and perform regular water changes- at least 10% weekly with water that has the same parameters as regards softness and pH levels.

When first introduced to the aquarium they may take a couple of days to settle and may be fussy about their diet initially but in time they will relax and get to know their new surroundings making them a great addition to your tank.

Please note : tank bred specimens tend to be slightly hardier than wild specimens, always check where your Ram cichlids are located from, wild specimens may be more fussy with their food and water quality in the aquarium.

Feeding the Ram cichlid
In the wild the Ram cichlid loves to sift through the substrate looking for small organisms and they will also include some plant matter in their diet. When first added to the aquarium, your Ram cichlid may not accept the foods that you initially offer, they will settle down after a couple of days so be patient and don’t spoil the water quality by adding food that is not eaten. Any uneaten food should be syphoned out after the meals or it will decay. For the first few meals tempt the fish with some live or frozen foods and gradually introduce commercial flakes or small pellets. Make sure these foods are of a high quality, this will guarantee that they contain the vitamins and minerals that the fish require. It is far better to offer small meals twice a day rather than one large meal as it will allow time for the Ram cichlid time the digest the food properly before the next food is offered. For the live or frozen foods use white worms, artemia or even chopped earthworms, if you wish to offer blood worms make sure that these are offered sparingly as too much of a good thing can lead to digestive problems in the future.

Breeding the Ram cichlid
Ram cichlids are not too difficult to breed as long as they are offered the correct conditions for this project. Sexing the Ram cichlid is not too difficult either, basically the male should have an elongated dorsal fin and the female will display a pinkish tinge around the belly area. However as more generations of Ram cichlids are tank bred some females have also developed a slight elongation on the dorsal fin so be aware of this. The best way to guarantee a pair is to purchase a small group of juveniles, 6 specimens should definitely give you one pair, maybe even two.

The main problem that I have encountered with breeding Ram cichlid is that all too often they are not very good parents but in time they should learn to care for their young properly, this is definitely the case with tank bred specimens as many of their natural instincts may be lessened over the generations.

Once you have obtained a pair it is best to condition them on live or frozen foods for a couple of weeks to strengthen them, the spawning process can take a lot out of the fish.
In the meantime set up a breeding tank, keep it simple as this means it will take less maintenance and less distraction for the parent fish.

Use an air driven sponge filter in the breeding tank and try to use aged water from the main aquarium. For spawning purposes set the temperature to the higher end of the scale i.e. 29-30 deg C (84 deg F-86 deg F), use gravel for the substrate and for potential spawning sites add flat rocks or terracotta pots laid on their side.

When spawning is imminent, the parent fish will begin to clean their chosen spawning site, this happens more often than not on the flat rocks. Once the parent fish are happy with the site the female will make several passes laying her eggs on the site being closely followed by the male who will fertilise the eggs straight away.

Several passes will be made and the average batch per spawn is usually about 200 eggs. They will be amber in colour, any white eggs are either unfertilised or could have a fungus, the parent fish should remove these from the site leaving healthy eggs in place. This is where the problems can start with inexperienced parent fish, everything may look like all is well and then for no reason they will eat the eggs or just ignore them. Bear with the fish as after a few batches they will learn to become good parents, you may be lucky and get fry first time!!

With a successful batch both parents will tend the eggs, fanning over them for air flow and making sure that they are safe. After 4-5 days the eggs will hatch and the fry will look like they are stuck to the spawning site just wriggling around. During this stage they do not require feeding as they will consume their yolk sac for the initial feeds. You may find that one morning the fish and fry have disappeared, this is normal as they may move them around the tank and on closer inspection you should find the brood in a more secure hiding place. The fry will become free swimming after a few days and the parent fish will still be protective over them.

For the initial foods I have always had good success with newly hatched brine shrimp. I would add these to the tank with the aid of a turkey baster close to the fry, this allows the fry to feed without exerting too much energy looking for their food. Feed small meals several times per day and perform daily water changes (just a small percentage to keep the quality high) but take care when syphoning out the old water in case you suck up some of the fry. Syphoning into a small bowl will allow you to check the water before disposing of it.

After a few weeks the fry should be able to cope with larger foods and the parent fish can be removed allowing the fry to grow on safely. It may take the juveniles a few weeks to develop any form of colouration similar to their parents, they will look drab to start with but this is perfectly normal and the colouration will develop in time!

Citations (all available on available on 8th January 2016)
[1] http://animal-world.com/encyclo/fresh/c ... ichlid.php
[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ram_cichlid
[3] http://www.aquaticcommunity.com/cichlid ... lueram.php
[4] https://www.aqua-fish.net/fish/ram-cichlid
goldbug
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Re: The Ram cichlid - Mikrogeophagus ramirezi

Postby Fullsmitx on Wed Dec 06, 2017 2:18 am

It would be nice if we could bring these great messages to the public.
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