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Bolivian Rams

Bolivian rams are not difficult to care for in aquariums.

By David A. Lass |

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About the Author:

David has been keeping aquariums since he was a kid growing up in Ohio in the late 50s. He started a tropical fish store in 1970 and grew it to a chain of four stores and a wholesale import/distribution company.

He currently imports fish from South America and the Far East, and wholesales to stores in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island. David is a member of the Boston Aquarium Society and the Aquatic Gardeners Association.

Q. I'm 12 years old and have a 10-gallon aquarium that I would like to set up to house some Bolivian rams. Is it better to have one male and one female, or one male and three or four females? Do Bolivian rams like a lot of aeration? I have a 3-inch air stone and two 1-inch air stones in the uplift tubes of the undergravel filter. Do I need more filtration? Also, is there enough room for a pair of Bolivian rams with a school of cardinal tetras?
Jonathon Hughes

A. Bolivian rams (Mikrogeophagus altispinosus) are great fish, and they are much easier to take care of and get to breed than the regular ram (Mikrogeophagus ramirezi). They also get a bit larger.

Bolivian rams typically breed in pairs, as opposed to harems, and the best way to get a good pair is to start with six or eight young ones, and raise them up together. When they are old enough, they will pair off, and you can remove either the pairs as they form or the remaining fish, which will be pinned up in the corners of the aquarium by the pairs.

They do not like a lot of aeration, nor is an undergravel filter a good idea, because like most cichlid fish, Bolivian rams  like to dig a lot. Filter the aquarium with a simple sponge filter, and put in 1 or 2 inches of plain gravel without the undergravel filter.

Add a couple of clay flowerpots on their sides or turned upside down with a hole cut out of the side large enough for the fish to get in and out. They will select whatever they prefer for the breeding site, and you will see them either cleaning off the inside of the flowerpot or disappearing into the upturned pot completely.

Your Bolivian rams will get along fine with cardinal tetras, and in fact the cardinal tetras might make good dither fish for the rams. Dither fish are typically fast-moving but harmless fish kept with cichlids to make the cichlid fish feel more confident about coming out into the open. However, in a 10-gallon aquarium, I don't think that the cardinals or any other dither fish are either needed or are a good idea. The aquarium is pretty small, and when the Bolivian rams breed they are very likely to want to eliminate any other fish in it. They will claim the entire aquarium for their breeding territory.

Feed the baby fish on live baby brine shrimp as soon as they are free swimming, then move them along to crushed flakes and frozen foods. You should move them out of the 10 gallon when they are about a month or 6 weeks old, as they will need a larger aquarium to reach full size. If you are limited to the 10 gallon, make sure you try to raise no more than 20 babies in that size aquarium.

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