German Blue Ram Beginner's Guide

Published on September 17, 2019
German Blue Ram Beginner's Guide

Mikrogeophagus ramirezi or german blue ram is a tiny and colorful freshwater cichlid popular in the aquarium hobby. It comes and sold under many names, such as blue ram, ramirezi's dwarf cichlid, butterfly cichlid, and dwarf butterfly cichlid.

This fish can live for three years or even longer when in a community aquarium. However, because of malpractices such as dyeing, and using hormones to liven up their colors, their lifespan continues to diminish. A lot of them can only survive for 1.5 years.

Scientific Information

  • Scientific Name: Mikrogeophagus ramirezi
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Family: Cichlidae
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Genus: Mikrogeophagus
  • Order: Cichliformes
  • Class: Actinopterygii
  • Species: M. ramirezi
  • Other names:  Apistogramma, Papiliochromis ramirezi


The miniature fish doesn’t hail from the Amazon River Basins in South America. It originates from the savannah grasslands or The Llanos in Central Orinoco in Lowland Venezuela and also in Colombia.

German Blue Ram Original Habitat

Species of mikrogeophagus ramirezi likes the slow-flowing waters filled with vegetation and some leaf litter.


mikrogeophagus ramirezi

The dwarf cichlid is a popular choice among aquarists for its unique appearance. It can fascinate the onlookers with its yellow-orange body color, black blotches and stripes, gold face and electric blue shine. The female ram has pink bellies.

This beautiful creature can grow up to a maximum of 2 inches. Although it has a mellow temperament, it is a fragile fish that only experienced hobbyists can handle.

German blue ram has variations - gold, balloon, electric blue, and more. You will love its colors, how it moves, and how couples interact.

With its stunning appearance, you might be up for a colorful domesticated strain of german blue rams.


The German blue ram is a peaceful fish, unlike other cichlids. It can form a shoal with other non-aggressive fish, and you won’t see it a bother to other tank mates.

Do not join your rams with other assertive fish to avoid stress. You will love the interaction of a male and a female when about to breed.

When the male is guarding the eggs,  this could mean trouble if some fish get in away. But, this won’t mean terror unlike with other cichlids during spawning season.

These fish feel safer when there’s enough cover. Therefore coconut caves and rockscape make an effective hideout. Provide them privacy through floating plants to minimize direct light.

How to house a german blue ram in a community tank?

The species of mikrogeophagus ramirezi like swimming in the slow-moving waters, like that of the Orinoco delta and Orinoco drainage.

Therefore, it is vital to the fish growth that their living conditions should mimic their natural biotope. You may also add some floater plants and dried leaves.

Dried leaf litter keeps habitat in good condition. It releases antifungal tannins which makes water dark like the ones found in the wild.

For a more jungle-looking tank, include some aquatic plants like Vallisneria, Amazon Sword plant or Eelgrass, few rocks and driftwoods in your miniature environment.

You can decorate your tank with caves where they can hide and lava rock with holes that they can swim through. These type of setting will make your new finned pets feel safer.


Because these fish are dwarf cichlids, we have a conservative estimate of only keeping a couple or two in a smaller tank. You should also consider the number of tank mates housed in your community.

  • Tank size:  Longer, 15 gallons (57L)
  • Temperature:  77-84°F or 25-29°C
  • pH Level: 5-7dH  Range: 5-12°
  • Substrate: sand and gravel
  • Care Level: Moderate
  • Vibrant colors may, however, be addicting. You may want several german blue rams to be swimming around with tank mates. To do that, allow more vertical swimming space with this parameter.
  • Tank Size: Tall tank, 29 gallons (110 L)
  • Temperature: 78-85°F or 25-29°C
  • pH Level: 4.0-7.0
  • Water Condition: Soft to Hard
  • Substrate: sand
  • Care Level: Difficult

Tank Mates

It’s no wonder why the german blue ram is the star of a community tank.

Despite its fierce look, this critter is just adorable to view, and you can join it with other cichlid species that need soft, acidic water.

Tetras can be ideal tank mates in the midsection, and when the ram swims on the bottom, Ancistrus and Corydoras will welcome it.

We do not recommend any shrimp species as they will make a delicious snack to devour.


Your mikrogeophagus ramirezi may be a slow eater so add patience in feeding them or other tank mates might out-compete it in grabbing the food. Make sure your rams get enough.

It is better to house them with much smaller fishes which can get full fast. You may feed the other tank mates with floating flakes while sinking pellets for your german blue ram.

Before its tank mates find the pellets on the bottom, they are already full with the flakes you fed on the surface of the water.

Rams can eat plants and meat (live or frozen) being omnivorous. But, train them for a few days to eat prepared foods. It will take time in their new environment before they can identify these as a source of food.

They will soon nibble a snack of flakes, sinking pellets and wafers. Hikari Sinking Tropical Wafers for Bottom Feeders is a right choice.

Shrimp is a festive meal for them, and who won’t be? Even humans love the taste of shrimps which are not cheap. You may consider having a brine shrimp hatchery before you buy this fish.

Rams can devour blackworms (tubifex in Europe), bloodworms, daphnia, Neocaridina davidi (Taiwanese freshwater shrimp) and other bottom-dwelling organisms. You can see your rams digging and sifting in the substrate hunting for food like these.

What are the abuses faced by the german blue ram?

Reports have it that there are some malpractices taking place in breeding and selling this species of fish. As these fishes gain popularity in the aquaria hobby and ornamental strains, they keep losing their genetic diversity like what’s happening too with the neon tetra.

For these rams to exhibit more vibrant colors, they inject hormones or dye the fish as an alternative. The practice is a harsh fact resulting from years and years of poor breeding. If vibrant coloration is inherent of this fish, why is there a need for these measures?

Simple. People want to sell the juveniles at once, so they make use of dyes. The problem is that rams, when younger, are not attractive. They only attain colors when they become mature and are ready for sex.

Mature rams appear lighter when stressed or when they are still adjusting to their new environment. To avoid this, they want them to ram to be shiny, so they inject hormones to their bodies.

The use of chemicals results with male rams being infertile. This situation also displays the ugly face of commercialism.

These human-made abuses might endanger the species of mikrogeophagus ramirezi. If this is the case, and if this practice still goes on, human violations may be a causality of its near extinction.

Asian-bred german blue rams are with hormonal loads to produce many eggs. It also makes them look perfect from shipping.

Despite this, the outcome was the opposite. Instead of stimulating the fish to produce more eggs, they became infertile due to the effects of the chemical. Although hormonal injection won’t kill the fish, it affects their sexing mood even in the spawning season.


German blue rams are coupling fish. A separate tank should only house three pairs if you’re up to breeding them.

Once they got mature, notice that they are forming monogamous pairs even before the spawning season. It’s like getting married and should bond for life.

When it’s about time to sex,  a pair must separate from the rest, putting the couple in a breeding tank. The couple's colors become intense when they are ready to breed.

The female’s abdomen turns somewhat pink to red. Her area at the bottom of her dorsal fin will become blue, so with some portion of her scales.

The male ram gets territorial even before the spawning. This behavior might cause aggression if any male fish comes nearer.

Sexing is easy for a german blue ram couple because the male has extended fin rays on its dorsal fin.

They can lay eggs (around 100-130) after digging a hole in the substrate, or the stones, sometimes on the glass of the tank.

After fertilization, the eggs will hatch in 48-72 hours, but not all will develop. It’s crucial not to keep the water hard for fear of fungal attack.

A breeding tank with a substrate spawner comes indispensable for it will settle the eggs safely that a male ram should be guarding.

The ram couple will fan water in the eggs until the fry can swim, after five days or so. Until then, the eggs feed on the egg sacred.

Having no parental instinct, sometimes it occurs that they will eat the fry. Being ignorant during the first spawning the couple might eat the on the next mating season.

When the surviving fry is ready to swim and hunt for food, a parent will float along in a tight shoal. There are available food products for the tiny fishes that you can buy online or in your local fish store.

You can feed the young with micro worms, mosquito larvae, or infusoria. In a few days more, they can savor the brine shrimps and can live on their own.


The young Asian-bred of this species you see for sale now are delicate and may not be suitable for breeding. Beware of what you choose in the dealer’s aquariums. Some specimens are infertile like some you see in the pictures. Purchasing a german blue ram from local private breeders is the best option.

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