Microgeophagus ramirezi

Common name
Blue ram

Synonymies
Apistogramma ramirezi, Papliochromis ramirezi

Description
Beautiful and interesting dwarf cichlid which is usually held in a pair.

My experiences
When I first started my aquarium I had a pair of these fishes together with a male Siamese fighter (Betta splendens), but this didn't work out to well. For some reason the Siamese fighter intimidated the male blue ram and because of this the male blue ram became sensitive to diseases. When I didn't had a Siamese fighter in my aquarium anymore I decide to try out a new pair of blue rams.

For about a while I have had  two pairs of blue rams in my aquarium. The main reasons for this number where that I was curious if they would really form two pairs and if they would tolerate each others presence in the aquarium. Pretty fast after I placed the second pair in my aquarium I noticed that both sexes disliked the fishes of the same gender. Especially the fierceness between the females surprised me. But the "fights" the fishes have are mostly to intimidate the other fishes and they don't wound each other. Pretty soon both males took in a small territory in which they only allowed the woman of their dreams. Although it was clear that one of the males was the stronger of the two, the first three months the weaker male manage to keep his territory. After the first three months the weaker male was clearly more oppressed by the stronger one, by which the weaker male mostly retreated to a dark corner of the aquarium or within the plants. Also when I was feeding my fishes the weak male was afraid to come out of his hiding place. After a bit more than 6 months the weaker male died which was probably caused by a combination of too less food and to much stress. Because of the behavior of the male blue rams I think it's better to keep only one pair of these fishes in a tank. In a larger tank than my tank it's less likely that the males have these problems with each other, but I think it would still be possible that one of the males could be oppressed.

Although the females clearly aren't taken with each other they give less problems than the males. Up till about four months after I placed the females in my aquarium they still regularly had "fights" with each other to decided which one would be the strongest. When the females had these fights they swum around each other for a while or "stood" opposite to each other. After a while they attacked each other with their mounds (without harming each other). The fight between the female fishes were very interesting to see. After about 4 months one of the two females had won the fight between them, so the females now hardly have fights anymore. Although the weaker female is a bit less colored she seems to be reasonably happy in my tank. Possibly it can be accidentally that the females give fewer problems and both look happy (despite of their fights). But more likely it can be explained through the fact that the females mostly don't form a territory and therefore they will move more easily too a quite place in the aquarium when they are oppressed.

I myself thought that the fishes would clearly form to pairs, but this didn't happen in my aquarium. Although the fishes clearly prefer one partner the arrangement of the pairs changes sometimes. This is mostly depending on the status of the fishes in the tank. But at this time it looks like the strongest male and the strongest female have formed a steady pair. Though this doesn't mean that the female is always in the neighborhood of the male. Only when they mate with each other the female is constantly in the territory of the male and helps the male to drive out the other fishes.

When a pair is going to mate they lay their eggs in a small hole they made in the gravel of the aquarium. In my aquarium the eggs are mostly eaten before they are a day old because when it's dark the blue rams can't protect their eggs so other fishes can eat the eggs when it's dark. Only one time I got a change to look a bit longer to the blue rams when they were protecting their eggs because this time that lay the eggs on a leave of my Nymphaea lotus, through which the fishes that normally ate the eggs couldn't reach them. At that time the male blue ram was mostly guarding the eggs while the female only came by so now and than. But at the moment I feeded the fishes in my aquarium the male lost his attention for the eggs for a few minutes which the other fishes used to eat the eggs.

Besides the very interesting behavior of these fishes blue rams aren't easy to keep fishes. For example these fishes are very sensitive to medicines. In my aquarium I first toke notice of this when a male blue ram got sick and died after a cure with the medicine Unicell of the brand HS. After this I started to collect some information about this and got the affirmation about my suspension that these fishes are sensitive for medicines in the water. Because of this it's a risk to use medicines in an aquarium with blue rams. A medicine I've used in my tank that didn't affect these fishes is the medicine Exit of the brand eSHa, that can be used for the white spot disease.

These fishes are also very sensible for nitrite in the water. Sometime ago I could notice this in my own aquarium when my male M. ramirezi was all of a sudden sick. When a few days later this fish even suddenly was cured I thought that it could maybe be because of an increased nitrite level in my aquarium. I suspect that the nitrite level in my aquarium was increased at that time because of the following three circumstances: 75% of my bottom eaters where placed in a quarantine aquarium (the corydoras species), a group of plants in my aquarium started losing leaves and I had given to much food to the fishes that week.

When a M. ramirezi is clearly suffering because of wrong water values, it mostly improves when the water values get better, but they never become the old one and in my aquarium they still died a few weeks later. In my aquarium it's mostly the male M. ramirezi that gets sick first when the circumstances in my aquarium are not 100% good. After I asked about this in the shop they said that this probably is a coincidence. Well I was told that fishes that are bred in captivity are often much stronger than the ones that are captured in the wild.

Foot-note
The picture of this page is taken from my own aquarium.

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