A Care Guide to The Bolivian Ram: Tank Setup, Mates, & Breeding

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Learn all about Bolivian Rams, a mesmerizing and easy to keep freshwater fish that will soon become the centerpiece of your aquarium! This guide provides extensive knowledge on these captivating creatures – from where they originated to what their appearance is like, how to set up an ideal tank for them, as well as providing info on feeding habits, social behavior in captivity. Tips regarding breeding characteristics and health are also discussed. It’s time to start exploring this underwater world of Bolivian Rams!

Key Takeaways

  • Bolivian Rams are a peaceful, hardy species native to the Amazon River Basin.
  • Caring for Bolivian Rams requires suitable tank setup and maintaining optimal water parameters.
  • Appropriate tank mates should be chosen to ensure a stress-free social environment and prevent common health issues.

Species Overview

Scientific NameMikrogeophagus altispinosus
Common NamesBolivian Ram, Bolivian Butterfly, Ruby Crown Cichlid
OriginBolivia, Brazil
Care DifficultyIntermediate
Life Expectancy4 – 6 years
Tank LevelMiddle to bottom
Minimum Tank Size30 gallons (113 liters) for a pair
Temperature Range75-82°F (24-28°C)
Water Hardness3-10 dKH
pH Range6.0 – 7.5
Filtration/Water FlowModerate
Water TypeFreshwater
Difficulty to BreedModerate
CompatibilityPeaceful when not breeding
OK, for Planted Tanks?Yes

Overview And Origins

Mikrogeophagus altispinosus, commonly known as Bolivian Rams, are an incredibly popular choice among freshwater aquarium enthusiasts due to its stunning colors and peaceful behavior. This South American species is native to the Amazon River Basin in Bolivia where it can be found swimming around slow-moving shallows with plenty of plant life and overhanging trees providing shade for them on river beds that may consist of sand or mud. The hardy fish reach between 5 – 8 cm (2 inches, 3.1 inches) depending on gender. Males usually measure 6cm/2.4inches whereas females stand at about 5-5.5 cm / 2”).

Due to their docile nature, they are perfect tankmates for a community tropical fish tank containing other equally calm species from different regions which will all coexist peacefully together, granted they have space to swim and a natural-looking habitat to call home.


The Bolivian Rams are eye-catching with their pale yellow body and orange head and chest, coupled with vertical gray stripes. A large black spot on the fish’s extended oval shaped frame is marked by vertical faded black lines. They have pointed fin rays edged in a vibrant red hue which makes them visually outstanding for any aquarium environment.

Bolivan Ram Cichlid

These colorful aquatic animals come in a range of hues such as silver, blue, yellow or even red. Male Rams can be identified easily due to their more elongated dorsal fins when compared to females, creating an interesting sexual dimorphism between genders of this species.

Caring For Your Bolivian Ram

Creating the ideal conditions for your Bolivian Rams involves setting up a suitable tank, staying on top of water parameters, and implementing the necessary equipment and decor to recreate their natural habitat.

In this guide we will cover what is essential for proper care: from selecting the right size aquarium, monitoring optimal levels in the water environment to using supplies that replicate their native ecosystem. Taking these steps in this guide will give your Bolivian rams the best start possible when introducing them to their new home.

Tank Size and Setup

A Bolivian Ram tank of at least 30 gallons is suggested to mimic their natural surroundings which typically include a sandy or muddy riverbed with various plants and shaded sections. This set-up should incorporate a fine sand base, rock formations, decorations such as driftwood and caves alongside live plants like:

It’s important that the setup has wide open areas in the center so they can comfortably swim around while also providing enough hiding spots. This replicates their original habitat letting them feel secure.

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Water Parameters

It is vital for the wellbeing of your Bolivian Rams to have ideal water conditions. These fish are happiest in shallow and slow waters with a hardness rating between 6-14 dGH, preferably at 10dGH.

The temperature should remain within 73.4 – 78°F while keeping their pH levels around 6–7.5. Keeping the water flow as close as possible to what they would find naturally helps a lot. They prefer a low flow filter and plants that provide light shade. To ensure these beautiful creatures stay healthy it is important to constantly monitor the parameters with test kits and a thermometer and keep them under control. If you live in a colder environment, it would make sense to purchase a heater as their preferred water temperature is in the mid level of tropical fish.

Essential Equipment

The well-being of Bolivian Rams can be maintained by installing the right equipment in their habitat. External canister filters like a OASE Biomaster or a hang-on filter can provide an environment that has plenty of biologicial filtration to keep the tank stable. Both these filters can have their flow adjusted to stimulate slow flowing waters, which these fish thrive in best. Low nitrate levels and dim lighting should also be considered to give them more sheltered areas.

By having all this essential gear installed for your rams, you are ensuring they have everything they need to lead healthy lives. The use of live plants is highly beneficial to these peaceful freshwater fish. Aquarium driftwood also provides some color variation while also being a stabilizing factor in keeping the pH lower and the hardness on the softer side.!

Feeding Your Fish

A nutritious diet that is varied will keep your Bolivian Rams in good shape and bring out their best colors. They are omnivores, so they can eat both live or frozen food items like bloodworms, brine shrimp, daphniae, tubifex and prepared foods like flakes and pellets. To get the most benefit for them, it’s ideal to give them a combination of easy to feed food like a high quality pellet or flake food, plus some fresh-frozen options from time to time.

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You should dish out small amounts several times daily. Pellets work best since this type of food won’t drift away before reaching the bottom, where these fish hang out most often. Pellet food can also be fed into an automatic feeder easier, which is great for ensuring they are fed the correct amounts and often.

When offered a range of healthy meals on a regular basis, you’ll find that all aspects improve: physical condition along with looks, better behavior, and even breeding will occur when your fish is in optimal condition!

Social Behavior And Compatibility

Bolivian Rams are known to be an excellent addition to any community aquarium due to their placid nature. They do best when kept in a group of 6-8 and often roam about the open spaces or scavenge the tank for food.

Top Tank Mates

When creating a community tank, the addition of Bolivian Rams must be approached carefully. These fish are peaceful and can exist harmoniously with various tankmates like Cherry Barbs, Platyfish, Molly Fish etc – it is important to consider each species’ requirements when adding them in order to create an environment suitable for all involved.

These fish live harmoniously with other peaceful, similar size fish, so selecting compatible Bolivian Ram tank mates is important for creating a low stress environment. Such suitable companions include:

Keeping appropriate water parameters that are appropriate for all the fish you are planning to house as well as providing plenty of swimming space along will help diffuse any possible aggression or stress from overcrowding. Do your best to ensure that everyone cohabits happily together!

Make sure you do your research carefully when selecting Bolivan Ram tank mates. Correct selection of other peaceful species will create a wonderful community tank where all fish can thrive!

If done correctly, then including other fish varieties within the same aquarium as your Bolivians should not cause any issues meaning you can enjoy watching how they interact peacefully amongst one another giving endless hours of entertainment and peace!

Bad Tank Mates

Jack Dempsey Fish

The Bolivian Rams, although peaceful in nature, need to be kept away from aggressive tank mates and territorial fish species. Here are a few examples:

  • Large aggressive Cichlids
  • Arowanas
  • Any fish that can fit your ram in its mouth

These aquatic animals should not share the tank as they can cause considerable distress, harm, or even kill/eat your rams.

To create an optimal environment for them, you must make sure their tankmates are calm and non-threatening. Too much stress is a recipe for disease outbreaks and livestock losses. It is the #1 killer catalyst in aquariums.


For aquarists passionate about fish, breeding Bolivian Rams can be a satisfying and rewarding experience. I’m suppling a video from Lowell’s Fish Lab that describes breeding Bolivians at homes. I’ll go over more detail below.

Breeding is attainable if the necessary conditions for successful reproduction are met. Here are a few conditions to keep in mind.

  • Having a species-only tank with just these fish
  • Suitable substrate and rocks like flat stones or plants of small leaves
  • Specific hardness and proper pH

Let’s look closer at the breeding process. We’ll go over how to produce spawns as well as taking care of newly hatched fry from birth until they become adults.

Spawning Process

When it comes to reproduction, female Bolivian Rams look for flat stones or cavities as their spawning place. The number of eggs is usually between 100 and 300, which are then fertilized by the male. Both parents take on a protective role, even transferring fry in their mouths from one part of the tank to another so they can be better concealed. To ensure successful hatching of these eggs as well as healthy growth. Temperature levels needs to stay within 80.6-82°F and pH should be kept around 7-7/5.

Raising Fry

After the eggs are hatched, Bolivian Ram larvae will rely on their egg sacs as sustenance for approximately a week. Once they have developed enough to move around in water (7 days old), the parents guide them into groups and search for food sources. At this point, it is beneficial to feed these fry infusoria then move up to brine shrimp.

It’s recommended that keeping Bolivian Rams at least two, three months within the breeding tank before placing them in community aquariums. This provides them with optimal growth and health benefits, which they carry over when transferred to their permanent home.

Common Health Issues and Prevention (Common Freshwater Tank Ailments)

By monitoring the water quality and parameters, as well as providing a suitable environment with appropriate tankmates for your Bolivian Rams, you can significantly lessen their risk of disease. Ich is one such health issue that these freshwater fish are particularly vulnerable to due to inadequate or inappropriate environments that allow for this parasite to take hold.

Increasing the temperature of the water or applying copper-based medications may be necessary treatments. We cover diseases in more detail in our fish diseases blog post.

To prevent any sickness from arising in your bolivian rams it’s important to ensure high standards of overall aquatic wellbeing so they remain healthy and happy.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Bolivian Ram cichlids aggressive?

The Bolivian Ram cichlid, although naturally shy and timid around other fish in a community aquarium setting, can show some territorial behavior when protecting its young. They are not overly aggressive toward their tankmates. It is safe to say that Bolivian ram cichlids typically do not cause problems for most fish that cohabitant with them.

How big do Bolivian Ram cichlids get?

When it comes to Bolivian Rams, they normally reach 8-10cm in size and should be kept in an aquarium that is 15 gallons or bigger. This species of fish has the potential to grow up to 3-4 inches long, so going to some bigger will be best for if you want to house other fish with them.

Do Bolivian Rams need to be kept in pairs?

It is recommended to keep Bolivian Rams in pairs, as they are a social species. Having two of them together makes the tank more active and vibrant, something that these fish truly appreciate! It helps ensure that their environment is comfortable and pleasing so they can feel secure.

Having companionship for this type of fish will increase its happiness level. Since they are easy to differentiate between male and female, you can also buy a pair, and maybe one day they could breed.

Will Bolivian Rams eat small fish?

Bolivian Rams have a tendency to eat small fish, so it is best to be wary of any which are too small in size and can fit in their mouths. Small fish like Chili Rasboras would be an example of fish not to house with them.

Are Bolivian Rams easy to keep?

Bolivian rams can be an amazing fish for any aquarium and are quite hardy as long as the tank conditions are kept up. They possess sociable behavior, making them suitable to live in community tanks with other species. Caring for these cichlids doesn’t require too much knowledge; only a basic understanding of their needs should suffice.

Closing Thoughts

Creating a thriving home aquarium for Bolivian Rams requires dedicated effort to provide the right tank setup, keep ideal water parameters and choose compatible tank mates. With care and an eye towards offering their well-rounded diet, these beautiful peaceful fish can add much to any community aquascape – providing captivating entertainment with your own underwater oasis.

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