German blue rams are beautiful fish that will give your tank a delightful pop of color. Due to their demanding water requirements though, they are not really suited for beginners, so if you’re a first time fish owner, you’ll probably want to consider another species. But for those of you with a bit of experience, you’ve made the right choice. You can guarantee that there will never be a dull moment with some German blue rams in your tank.
If you want to learn more about these wonderful fish and how to take care of them, then keep reading to find out more.
German Blue Ram Basics
The German blue ram species is a member of the Cichlid family. Scientifically it is called Mikrogeophagus ramierezi. Due to its dazzling blue color, it has also been given several other names, such as Butterfly Cichlids, or Electric Blue Ram. The German Blue Ram was discovered by importer and collector Manuel Ramirez, and it is he who the fish was originally named after. Despite the name, this species are not German, they are South American natives.
Cichlids are a well loved fish, but this species is amongst the most popular of its kind because of their striking colors and peaceful nature. You can purchase one German Blue Ram for $7-8, and they are available in the majority of pet shops.
Size: 2-3 inches
LifeSpan: 2-4 years
Temperament: The majority of Cichlids are a little on the aggressive side, but not the German Blue Ram, they make perfect tank mates because of how peaceful they are.
What Do German Blue Rams Look Like?
German Blue Rams are exceptionally pleasing to the eye. If you want to add some color to your tank then you can’t go wrong with this species. Half of the body is an eye-catching combination of yellow and green, the other half is electric blue with white stripes and black lined scale-like shapes across it. In the middle of the body, you’ll notice a black smudge dot, it looks somewhat like an ink stain.
The lines on German Blue Rams caught in the wild are a lot more visible than those bred in captivity. They’ve got red eyes, with a black line running through the middle. The fins are red or yellow, with very faint blue lines running through them, and the front dorsal fin is typically jet black in color.
Female German Blue Rams look slightly different than their male counterparts. They are smaller in size, with orange-pink stomachs and oval shaped bodies, and their tails and fins are not as sharp as males.
What You Need to Know Before Buying a German Blue Ram
So, after reading the first part of this article you are convinced that you want to buy some German Blue Rams. That’s great, but there are a few more things you need to know before making that decision. Keep reading to find out about…
Genetic Weakness: Most dealers import their rams from Far Eastern countries such as Singapore. A lot of these fish are healthy and strong, but some of them are also very weak. One of the consequences of excessive line-breeding is genetic weakness, and German Blue Rams have been line bred for decades in the hopes of improving their shape and color. As a result, some of them are more prone to diseases and infertility.
Furthermore, when young rams are shipped to another country, since they aren’t fully developed, they are injected with hormone treatments to boost their color. These hormone treatments are the main cause of infertility and other conditions. When it comes to purchasing German Blue Rams, it’s best to search for the farm-raised ones. They typically come from countries such as Holland, Czech Republic, and Germany, but you should also seek out local breeders in your area.
Wild Caught Specimens: Wild caught German Blue Rams are considered the most superior. However, they are also more demanding, they will require excellent water conditions, and the acclimation process is a tedious one. Additionally, if you are concerned about price, wild caught specimens are a lot more expensive.
Look For the Healthiest Specimens: Whether you get your German Blue Rams from a local dealer, or they have been shipped from abroad, for the best experience, it’s important that you choose the healthiest specimens. When you visit the dealer, make sure the Rams are eating well and displaying normal behavioral patterns. Avoid fish that are reclusive, appear to be hyperventilating, and have clamped fins. Here are some additional signs that will let you know that a German Blue Ram is not healthy:
- A skinny ram with a hollow stomach
- A ram that doesn’t compete for the best spawning
- Their color is dull
- Rams that are easily bullied
As much as you might feel sorry for sick German Blue Rams and want to take them home and nurse them to full recovery, unfortunately, once they’re sick, it’s rare that they recover. In other words, buying a sick ram is a waste of money because it’s very likely that they will die shortly after purchase. You are better off buying healthy rams, and taking the necessary steps to ensure that they are kept healthy.
Tank Conditions For German Blue Rams
German Blue Rams live in the Amazon River, they are most often found in the extended waterways of the Orinoco River Basin in Columbia and Venezuela. They live in shallow streams and pools with slow-flowing waters and plenty of vegetation and sandy beds. The vegetation creates a shady atmosphere for the German Blue Rams.
Water Conditions: German Blue Rams will have a negative reaction to unsuitable water conditions, so you will need to be consistent in ensuring that the quality is maintained. They live in acidic, soft water, with a pH level between 5 and 6. The temperature needs to be in a range of 80 to 86 degrees F. Water compounds such as ammonia and nitrates should be overused.
You can ensure this by changing the water regularly, at least once a week is enough. If you live in an area where you don’t get soft water from the tap, you will need to use reverse osmosis water.
Tank Size: These are small fish, and they don’t need a lot of space. For a breeding or species only tank, ten gallons is big enough. For a community or biotope tank, consider using a minimum tank size of 29 gallons.
A Llanos Biotope: If you want to set up a llanos biotope, natural sand works well as a fine substrate, and you can also lay some water-distressed stones at the bottom. Scatter some pieces of driftwood about the size of small sticks around the tank. If you want to go all out in creating a realistic looking tank, then try adding a few handfuls of tree leaves such as beech or oak. Tree leaves replicate the debris that collects at the bottom of a river.
You will need to keep a close eye on any organic matter added to your tank though, because after a while they will start decaying. On a positive note, they will help keep the water acidic and soft. Keep the lighting relatively low.
Establishing a Community: As mentioned, the German Blue Ram are very peaceful, making them the perfect species for a community setup. However, the community set up must be designed in a similar way to the tank. Use a fine substrate, add some flat, round, rocks that are similar to the ones you’d find in a stream, these are great for aquascaping. Arrange them so there are caves and crevices for the fish to hide.
Again, use real driftwood, as not only does it look good, but it helps keep the water soft. Use plants that thrive in soft, warm water such as Nymphea, Cabomba, and Echinodorus. Choose the other fish species carefully, avoid aggressive, lively fish such as large Barbs, and other Cichlids. Species that are compatible with German Blue Rams include: Angelfish, Discus, small Barbs, small Danios, glowlights, cardinals, and Neon Tetras.
Although rams are territorial, when they do get aggressive, it’s generally towards other rams. Aggression levels will increase when the fish are spawning and breeding frys. If you are planning on housing more than one ram per tank, make sure there are a lot of hiding places.
What to Feed German Blue Rams
The German Blue Ram is an omnivore, and eats a combination of plants and meat. In their natural environment they eat invertebrates, small insects, or they feed on the plants found in the water. When German Blue Rams are first introduced into a new tank, they are known to act out of character, and one of the most common behavior traits is to stop eating. But once they get used to their new surroundings, they’ll start acting normal. You can entice them to eat by dropping some mosquito larvae into the tank.
Once German Blue Rams have settled in, you can start feeding them a few pinches of food per day, between 2 and 5 is usually enough. They will also eat artemia, earthworms, bloodworms and brine shrimp. Maintain a balanced diet by including plants, vegetables, flakes and pellets. It’s also important to mention that you shouldn’t put the food in the tank all at once, add a little of it a couple of times a day, as this will keep the water in good condition.
Breeding German Blue Rams
When it’s breeding time, the red patch on the female’s stomach will increase in size and become a lot brighter in color. The male or female will dig out a pit, or they’ll clean a flat stone. The couple will start twirling around each other, or nudging each other. The male fish will either slide against the female body, or start swimming very quickly.
The female will arrange small sticky eggs in the pits that have been dug, or on the flat stones during spawning. Most batches contain 150-300 eggs, but some can contain more than 500 eggs, or even down to 20 eggs. The male and female rams will take it in turns to look after the eggs, and guard the territory. To prevent bacteria and fungi from attacking the eggs, one of the parents will ensure the eggs get plenty of fresh water. Unfertile eggs are also eaten by the parents so that pathogens don’t start growing on them.
If the water is kept within the recommended temperature range, the eggs will hatch within 40 hours. It takes around 35 hours for the eggs to hatch fully, and the offspring will start free-swimming within five days. The parents will care for the free-swimming offspring by keeping them in a dense school. During foraging, their mother or father will lead them.
Hobbyists love breeding German Blue Rams because it doesn’t take much effort, and with a small group you’ll find that you don’t need to do anything other than let nature take its course. But, if you want to take breeding seriously, here are some tips:
- Water: To encourage your rams to breed, turn the water temperature up to 82 degrees F, the pH range should be between 5.5-6.5.
- Light: Erratic lighting can confuse German Blue Rams and disrupt breeding patterns. A timer will get them used to having the light on for a certain number of hours each day.
- Hiding Places: Rams can get aggressive while breeding, you can avoid this by making sure they’ve got plenty of natural borders and hiding places in the tank.
- Spawnings: There is a chance that the first few spawnings will fail. There are several things that can go wrong, and rams will sometimes need to spawn a few times before there is a successful spawn. For example, before becoming good parents, they might eat a few batches. However, once they start breeding, you can generally expect a new batch every month.
- Signs of Stress: If a couple is still eating their offspring after several spawnings, it’s a sign of stress. In which case, you will need to figure out what’s stressing them out, and eliminate the causes before you can expect a successful spawn.
Feeding Instructions For Blue Ram Fry
Feeding Blue Ram fry is not an easy task, they tend to pick at tiny creatures and algae, so they will survive without special foods. However, their survival rate will be low this way. If you want the fry to survive for as long as possible, you will need to feed them specific foods.
Powdered egg yolk is a great choice, you will find it in most stores. Combine the powdered egg yolk with some water, and use an eye dropper or a turkey baster to drop the mixture into the tank. It won’t give them all their nutrients, but it will give them what they need to grow, at which point, you can start feeding them other foods.
Live vinegar eels are especially good for fry, it will help you raise them until adulthood. Although Blue Ram fry are very small, the vinegar eels are tiny enough to fit in their mouths. The only problem with vinegar eels is that you’ll need to raise them yourself. It’s not difficult, but it will take a while, so if you’re pressed for time, this is not ideal.
Once the fry start growing, a good meal to feed them is baby brine shrimp. Regardless of the species, baby brine shrimp is the best food for fry, so you’ll need to be familiar with the process of raising them.
Growing German Blue Ram Fry
Most breeders take the fry out of the main tank when the are around three weeks old. You don’t need to do this, but it can protect them from being eaten by their parents, which as you’ve read, can happen sometimes. If you are going to move them, place the fry in a ten gallon grow out tank. You will need to make sure the water conditions are the same in terms of temperature and pH levels as the main tank. If there is a difference in the water conditions, it can kill the fry. The best way to achieve this is to transfer some of the water from the old aquarium into the new one.
Once the fry have been put in a different tank, start giving them other foods such as finely crushed pellets or flakes. The fry will start eating bigger portions of food, and they’ll grow very quickly. As they grow, they’re either moved into a larger tank, or sold to a local fish store. If you want to make some extra money, selling is a good idea because healthy German Blue Rams are always in high demand, and most pet stores won’t hesitate to buy from you.
Complications With German Blue Rams
As mentioned, German Blue Rams are easy to care for, but a common complaint amongst hobbyists is that they’re known to die within a few days of purchase without any warning signs. They don’t display any symptoms of sickness, they’re just found dead in the tank. Rams are also known to suffer from internal and external infestations from parasites. They are often attacked by the parasite Hexamita, which affects the gastrointestinal tract.
Parasites are treated with medication during the quarantine period. You also need to be aware of the fact that extended shipping times can have a negative effect on fish health. You can often get around this by waiting a few weeks to see how they do in the dealer’s tank before buying them.
Here are answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about German Blue Rams:
How many German blue rams should be kept together?
This depends on the tank size, a 10/20 gallon tank can house a pair of rams, as long as there are no other fish. You will need a 40 gallon tank to house two sets of rams.
What fish can live with German blue rams?
German Blue Rams can live with the majority of community fish as long as they can tolerate the same high water temperatures as them. These fish include, Dwarf Cichlids, Angelfish, Discus, Plecos, Sterbei cory catfish, and Tetras.
Are German blue rams bottom feeders?
Yes, they feed on organisms that live on the bottom of the river or stream. In a tank, they are often seen going through the substrate.
Can German blue rams live with shrimp?
As long as the shrimp have somewhere to hide, then they can live together.
Can German blue rams live in hard water?
They are better suited to soft water, but they will survive in a variety of water conditions.
German Blue Rams are a much loved member of the Cichlid family. They possess the same beauty, character, and intelligence as their kinfolk, but without the territorial behavior and aggression. Neither does it dig, so your plants, rocks, and other tank decorations will be perfectly safe. With a bit of planning and educating yourself about these wonderful fish, you are sure to have a fantastic experience raising German Blue Rams.
Hi, my name is Adam and I’m an aquarium enthusiast! I didn’t discover the joys of being an ‘aquarium fanatic’ (as some of my friends call me!) until I was in my 20’s. When I first started out I found it difficult to find all the information I needed so I started this website to compile all the useful information I can think of. Enjoy!