Mikrogeophagus ramirezi

Common Names: Ram cichlid, German ram, blue ram, butterfly cichlid, Ramirez's cichlid

Type Locality: Venezuela, Orinoco

Range: The IIanos of Colombia and Venezuela in the Orinoco drainage

Taxonomic Troubles: Originally described as Apistogramma ramirezi, later Papilochromis ramirezi, sometimes misspelled as Microgeophagus.

Size: 7 cm TL (2.75 inches), often smaller.

Preferred Water Chemistry: Very warm, 27° to 30°C (81° to 86°F), even warmer for breeding, does best in soft, acidic water, pH as low as 5.

Difficulty: Easy if the fish's special needs are met, but not for the average community tank. Many rams are kept too cold. They cannot tolerate much in the way of dissolved wastes and will succumb quickly in stale water.

Tank Setup: Ideal is a planted tank with small or peaceful tankmates, all of which can tolerate the higher temperatures needed.

Feeding: A micropredator. Live and frozen meaty foods are best.

Breeding: A free breeder in the proper setup. More than one pair can be kept in a sufficiently large tank. A substrate rather than cave spawner. Parents are normally devoted, but there are many reports of parents eating the spawn. Success requires the proper accomodations and location of the aquarium in a low-traffic area to minimize disturbances.

Fish Description

A gorgeous gold and metallic blue fish with black and red markings. Males are brighter, with longer dorsal and anal fin filaments; females usually smaller, with rose coloration on the belly. Domesticated morphs include xanthic gold varieties, electric blue, and longfin forms.


The ram is a dwarf cichlid in the full sense of the term. It has the metallic colors and breeding and broodcare behaviors that make cichlids so popular—without the large size, propensity for plant destruction, and belligerence so many cichlids possess. Almost all cichlids fail to exhibit many fascinating behaviors when kept as pairs in minimum-sized tanks, but few cichlid hobbyists are able to set up giant communities with multiple breeding pairs. With this cichlid-in-a-small-package, you can create biotope or community setups with more than one pair—even more than one species.

Although this fish has been a constant niche favorite in the hobby for the last 60 years, it has never gained general popularity, since it does not fare well in a typical setup. People's failure with this species is usually from water that is not warm enough or that contains concentrations of wastes. Frequent water changes are extremely important. This is a cichlid that does not dig up plants or harass tankmates. Its peaceful nature, love of warmth, and benthic habit make it an ideal companion for discus or altum angels. Like other South American dwarf cichlids, rams will be much more confident when dither fish like small tetras are kept with them. Plants also provide excellent cover for these shy fish. Hardness and pH are of the most concern for breeding rams, but they will be most colorful if their preferences are met.

This species is one of only a handful of dwarf cichlids that are commercially farmed, primarily in Asia. It has been around long enough and has been bred in sufficient numbers that several mutations have been established, and these aquarium strains are widely available.