Ram Cichlids: Characteristics, types, care and more…

Today we are talking about a  just stunning type of fish for our aquarium that comes from South America:  the ram cichlids or (Papiliochromis Ramirezi or Microgeophagus ramirezi), which are a really must have for any aquarium

These fish are pretty colorful although they may have some behavioral drawbacks with respect to the other fish in your aquarium. Do you want to know everything about them?

Main Facts About Ram Cichlids

Microgeophagus ramirezis belong to the order of the perciforms and the family of the cichlids. They have quite inferior swimming skills compared to other fish. They are quite territorial, but they aren’t violent.

Regarding their appearance ram cichlids are fairly stylized fish with an intense color which have a lot of characters among members of the same species.

They are extremely sensitive to chemical variations in water (such as pollution). This fact makes their maintenance somewhat tedious, since a very careful and frequent monitoring of the  water quality  in which they live, will be always necessary.

Their life expectancy is quite short: 2 to 3 years.

Let’s meet the main species of Ramirezi below to go deeper into the main characteristics of each one of them

(Mikrogeophagus ramirezi) Common Ram Chiclid

The common Ramirezis are those that we find in almost any specialized store. These are beautiful and colorful fish of small size and strong temperament.

Mikrogeophagus ramirezis have an oval-shaped body and pointed fins and tail. Mature males develop more pointed dorsal fins than females and also grow larger (about five centimeters long) in the aquarium, although they can reach a length of around seven centimeters in nature and live up to four years.

Their really striking body has a yellow area in the first third that begins in the nose, with the last two thirds ranging from whitish blue to king blue. Additionally it has a curved black line that runs vertically from the forehead through the eye, and then down to the chin, as well as a black dot in the middle of the body.

The fins are light yellow and some specimens have a black spot on the first rays of the dorsal fin. The female has similar coloration, but also has a pinkish orange belly.

The young specimens are golden in color with a yellow head and whiter on the body, as well as a red orange color on the forehead and fin tips. Like all cyclid fish, along with some saltwater fish such as sea bass and parrot, ram cichlids share a common characteristic of a well-developed pharyngeal set of teeth located in the throat, along with their regular teeth.

Their body is also gifted with spiny rays on the back parts of the anal, dorsal, pectoral and pelvic fins that scare away their predators.

A nostril on each side helps them detect odors in the water. They suck the water and expel it back after a short time, depending on how much time they need to smell it.

This delicate oval-shaped cichlid is adorned with long, pointed fins and a bright and agile color pattern.

Let’s meet them

Blue Ram Ciclhid -Electric Blue 

These beautiful fish can be found along the Orinoco River Basin in Venezuela in the Amana, Palenque, Guariquito and Guarico Rivers, and in Colombia in the Meta and Vichada Rivers.

The Blue Ram Ramirezi has a laterally compressed body with a rounded belly. This specimen stands out for its color and for adopting different color tones depending on its mood, a trait that makes them unique , because of the speed in which they make such a change.

ram cichlids : really striking creatures

Mikrogeophagus ramirezis have a grayish / bluish body with 2 black spots on its sides and blue reflections. In addition, it has has a vertical black stripe that crosses the eye. The fins are orange with some red reflection except for the dorsal’s first 3 rays that are black.

Male blue ram can reach between 8-10 cm in size, while the female will be around 6-7 cm.

Regarding their sexual differences there aren’t any very noticeable although it worth pointing out the following ones:

    • Females tend to be smaller.
    • The black rays of the dorsal in males are more developed, especially the second and third.
    • The stain on the male’s side is black and that of the female is dotted with some bluish scales. The females have a pinkish belly.

Blue Ram Ramirezi in Aquariums

A 50-liter aquarium for a couple is the best option. You should employ a thin substrate and abundant vegetation so that in case of male harassment the female can hide as stress can be fatal for them.  These little angels need flat surfaces to spawn.

Calm fish such as tetras , corydoras and loricarides are the best tank mates for Blue Ram Ramirezi.

Water Parameters:

– Ph: 6-7

– Gh: 0-5

– Temperature: 23-28 ° C

Their diet can be made-up by scales, red larva and daphnia, (frozen, live and/or lyophilized) . This is a calm fish, except during reproductive season when they tend to become more aggressive with other fish.

In terms of  reproduction, it’s   similar to that of any dwarf cichlid with spawning habits in open spaces. Electric Blue raise in pairs and both take care of the eggs and the future fry, although the male is more attentive with the offsprings.  The laying takes place on a flat surface, rock or even a horizontal leaf type Anubia.

The female deposits around 150 yellowish gray eggs, three days after spawning hatch and the fry feed on their yolk sac for another 3 days, at which time they begin swimming.

You have to keep and eye of the water by replacing it continuously, removing also all the wastes.  Keep in mind that these pets shouldn’t be overfed, and it’s better to feed them several times in small quantities.

Observations: They are very sensitive to nitrogen compounds, so changes must be made regularly.They like aquariums planted with free zones for swimming.

Here we go!

Golden Balloon Ram Ciclhid

These beautiful creatures have a laterally compressed body, as well as a rounded back and belly. The dorsal fin is higher at the beginning and at the end, ending in a kind of plume, with the first three rays of black color.

Body Color:

The body of this beautiful species is yellow; with some vertical black or brown stripes.  Small bluish spots all over the body are also common in this species as well as a black vertical stripe that crosses the eye.


Males reach up to 7.5 cms and females around 5.5 cm. There is a slightly larger variety than the commercial one, known as M. ramirezi «jumbo» or «XL» and which reaches 10 cm in length.

Sexual differences:

Little defined, but visible. Generally  the females are smaller than the males  with a pink belly. The first three rays of the dorsal fin (especially the second and third) are more developed in males than in females, although this can sometimes lead to mistakes, since some females can also have these radii somewhat more developed than others .

The black spot on the middle of the male’s body is practically black,  with some blue scales on the edges.

Habitat and Distribution

Golden Balloon Ramirezi Fish thrive in savannahs in different types of waters, although preferably in flooded areas and with little current such as those of the Orino river in Venezuela and the meta River in Colombia

Golden Balloon Ramirezi in Aquariums

They are quite suitable for  community aquariums even of not very large size. An aquarium of about 40 liters will be enough for a couple. Some people keep them in trios (a male with two females), as it is done with many species of the genus Apistogramma.

However, the M. ramirezis are monogamous cichlids with a two-parent family, so it is more advisable to keep them in pairs and if the space is not enough big,  place only one couple.

If we want to have more than one male, we would need at least an aquarium of about 90 liters, since males are very territorial, and they need enough space. Males delimit large territories and are much more aggressive than females.

We must put at least one hiding place for each female in each territory. The hiding places must be distributed throughout the aquarium so that they themselves are «distributed» according to the established hierarchy.

Once a couple has been made-up , they will defend their territory together. As tank-mates we can use other South American dwarf cichlids if the aquarium is large enough, and mainly, tetras of quiet character

Feeding Golden Balloon Ramirezis

It is essential that we provide them with a varied and rich diet although they will also accept scales very well. It is also advisable to give them granules and brine shrimp.


They are among the most peaceful dwarf cichlids . Golden Balloon Ramirezis are calm fish, which do not show aggressiveness towards other species. They tend to stay in their refuge, giving only sporadic walks through the aquarium’s lower-middle area, rarely rising to the surface.

One outstanding trait of these cichlids is that they are among the least long-lived of the family. They seldom live much longer than two years, and it must be keep in mind that those in adult-sized stores may already be close to a year or more.

Let’s meet them


Blue Veil Tail Ram Ciclhid

This is a dwarf cichlid, with a laterally compressed body and a rounded belly.In the wild they reach a size of up to 10 cm but in captivity, they seldom reach sizes bigger than 6 cm.


Rivers, streams and small lagoons with dark and calm waters, and abundant vegetation and roots.

Feeding Blue Veil Tail Ramirezi

These are omnivore specimens, that accept either live food ( mosquito larvae), as frozen, (flakes or lyophilized.) A varied diet and as with almost all fish, less dried and more alive or frozen, will make them get healthy, strong and look colorful.


Blue Veil Tail Ramirezis have several black specks (more or less visible, according to their mood), one of which crosses the eye. Normally, the spine’s first three rays are black. The ventral fins may be transparent, but usually have an orange color, with the front edge with a black stripe.


This is a Very peaceful and sociable species that seldom engage in fights with other ones, except during the breeding period when they may even become aggressive with other fish that approach the laying area.

Life Expectancy

Blue Veil Tail Ramirezis live 3 years when most..

Sexual Differences: Sexual Dimorphism

The males are larger than the females, and more vivid in color. The males’ third and fourth dorsal fin, are longer than in the females while the females have a pink belly and the males don’t.

Let’s learn how to take care of all of them

Gold Red Head Ram Cichlid

Like the blue variety, this one stands out for losing almost all of its colored pigmentation, and in turn, they display a fairly homogeneous golden tone throughout their entire body.

It is also important to keep in mind  that there may be mixtures of subtypes. That is, an electric blue ram cichlid  and can also be a ballon one. The colors and shapes can be interchangeable. What we have shown above are the most common types that you can find, but not the only ones.

Let’s meet them

How to take care of my Ram Cichlids?

The Ramirezi are tropical fish, therefore, the water temperature should not fall below 24ºC and should not rise to 30ºC. They are absolutely comfortable between 27 and 28ºC.

Your perfect aquarium should have abundant vegetation, but without dense cover plants, that is, they prefer sand or pebbles to any surface where undulations are not easy. Their favorite one is the silica sand, since these are the way the male has to offer the female shelter for their young.

These fish, tend to require a PH rather acid (between 5 and 6, can reach even 4), especially if you want to try breeding. If not, we can take it up to 7. That’s right, try never to exceed 7 and if you can have it lower then much better.!

The Rami, like many other cichlids, are especially weak to nitrates, so keep them to the minimum!. If you take good care of these minnows, they can last up to 2 years, which is their life expectancy in optimal conditions

What is the best aquarium for Ram Cichlids fish?

We should start with a 60 liters one  regardless of whom they live with, since even though they are tiny fish ram cichilds need  space. The perfect vegetation, would be typical of Amazonian aquariums, with echinodorus amazonicus, silica sand or soft substrates, floating plants that generate lights and shadows in the aquarium, trunks, branches and hiding places …

As good cichlids, the Ramirezi have a territorial, possessive and slightly aggressive character, especially during breeding season. Therefore we should differentiate aquarium types if you are going to breed or not.

If you’re not going to breed, they can share space with virtually any peaceful fish that is not especially restless:  otocinclus, ancystrus etc to neons, gupys, mollys …

If you are going to breed, then yes!, the most advisable is to keep them alone, that way no one bother them. Just make sure they can make their nests on the ground and that they have a flat surface also to lay their eggs.

Let’s watch them

Ram Cichlids and other fish

These striking cichlids tend to wander in the aquarium’s middle and lower areas,  so you can combine them with surface fish such as neon tetra, even with some gurami . But before, it is very important to determine the aquarium’s size.

The bigger your aquarium and the more hiding places you have, the more chances you have of combining them. In a good aquarium of more than 150 liters you can have living scalars, discs, and other ram cichlids …. so aren’t they really amazing?

Keep in mind that unlike betta or African cichlids, these fish live in rivers where they often find more fish, so they can coexist, if you give them the option to do it correctly. If not, they will be possessive and aggressive with their territory. in the kitchen of your house!

What Do Ram Cichlids Eat?

In their natural habitat these fish eat in a particular way, since they put the bottom sand in their mouth and from there they extract the food and expel the rest. It is difficult crate such conditions in your aquarium, without making of it a real mess.

Therefore, pellets that sink are quite recommended, (normally of vegetable), compensated with a high-protein diet such as artemia, daphnia or grindal worm. These fish can also eat cooked pea without skin and cooked carrot, but be careful to give it and clean what is left over since it is food that tends to make the aquarium very dirty.

Let’s watch



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