Bolivian Ram Cichlid Care Guide

Bolivian Ram Cichlid


The Bolivian Ram Cichlid, scientifically known as Mikrogeophagus altispinosus, is a popular fish species among aquarium enthusiasts. Native to Bolivia and Brazil, this cichlid species showcases unique characteristics and features that make it a sought-after addition to freshwater aquariums.

With a size ranging from 3 to 4 inches (7.6 to 10 cm), the Bolivian Ram Cichlid is relatively small, making it suitable for medium-sized aquariums. Its vibrant coloration is a standout feature, with shades of blue, gold, and red adorning its body. The distinctive humped appearance and elongated fin rays add to its visual appeal.

Unique Characteristics and Features

One of the standout qualities of the Bolivian Ram Cichlid is its peaceful temperament, making it compatible with a variety of tankmates. While they may become territorial during breeding periods, they generally exhibit a peaceful demeanor, making them suitable for community tanks.

Another noteworthy trait is their monogamous behavior. Bolivian Ram Cichlids form pairs and exhibit dedicated parental care. They lay their eggs on flat surfaces within the aquarium, and both parents actively participate in guarding and caring for the fry. This behavior adds an interesting dynamic to their breeding habits.

Furthermore, their diet is versatile, as they are omnivorous. They readily accept a range of foods, including pellets, flakes, live or frozen foods, and even vegetable matter. This adaptability simplifies their feeding routine and provides aquarists with various options to meet their nutritional needs.

Summary Table

Common NameBolivian Ram Cichlid
Scientific NameMikrogeophagus altispinosus
Origin / DistributionBolivia, Brazil
Size3-4 inches (7.6-10 cm)
Aquarium SizeMinimum 20 gallons (75 liters)
Water ParametersTemperature: 75-82°F (24-28°C) pH: 6.0-7.5 Hardness: 2-10 dGH
Feeding FrequencyTwice daily
TemperamentGenerally peaceful
TankmatesCompatible with tetras, rasboras, small catfish Avoid aggressive or fin-nipping species
BreedingMonogamous pair Egg layers Both parents participate in guarding and caring for fry
Lifespan4-6 years
Care LevelBeginner
Unique Features / AppearanceVibrant coloration with shades of blue, gold, and red Humped appearance and elongated fin rays
Conservation StatusNot evaluated (NE)
Additional NotesPopular aquarium fish due to peaceful nature, beautiful colors, and ease of care Prefer well-decorated tank with hiding spots and soft, sandy substrate


  • Common Name: Bolivian Ram Cichlid
  • Scientific Name: Mikrogeophagus altispinosus
  • Family: Cichlidae
  • Order: Perciformes

The Bolivian Ram Cichlid is commonly known by its popular name. Its scientific name is Mikrogeophagus altispinosus. It belongs to the family Cichlidae, which is a diverse family of fish known for their often colorful and territorial nature. The Bolivian Ram Cichlid falls under the order Perciformes, which includes a wide range of fish species known for their perch-like shape and characteristics.

Natural Habitat & Distribution

The Bolivian Ram Cichlid, Mikrogeophagus altispinosus, is primarily found in the freshwater systems of Bolivia and Brazil. It inhabits various river systems and their tributaries within these regions.

Within its geographical range, the Bolivian Ram Cichlid is known to occupy diverse aquatic environments. These include slow-moving rivers, streams, and even flooded areas such as marshes and flooded forest regions. They are often found in areas with sandy or muddy substrates, along with submerged vegetation and areas of cover like rocks or driftwood.

Their natural habitat consists of warm, tropical waters with temperatures typically ranging from 75 to 82°F (24 to 28°C). The water in their native environment tends to be slightly acidic to neutral, with a pH range of 6.0 to 7.5. Additionally, the water hardness may vary from soft to moderately hard, with a range of 2 to 10 dGH.

Understanding the natural habitat and distribution of the Bolivian Ram Cichlid can provide valuable insights when recreating a suitable environment in captivity.

Physical Appearance


The Bolivian Ram Cichlid reaches an average adult size of about 3 to 4 inches (7.6 to 10 cm) in length. They are considered relatively small fish, making them suitable for medium-sized aquariums.

Coloration and Patterns

This cichlid species exhibits a striking coloration and pattern. The body of the Bolivian Ram Cichlid displays a combination of vibrant colors, including shades of blue, gold, and red. The intensity of these colors may vary among individuals and can be influenced by factors such as mood, breeding condition, and overall health.

Body Shape and Fin Structures

The Bolivian Ram Cichlid has a compact and slightly humped body shape, which adds to its visual appeal. Their dorsal fin is elongated, reaching back toward the caudal fin, giving them a graceful appearance. The caudal fin, anal fin, and pectoral fins are well-developed and provide precise control over their movements.

Sexual Dimorphism

There are noticeable differences between males and females of the Bolivian Ram Cichlid. Males typically have more pointed dorsal and anal fins compared to females. Additionally, males may develop more intense coloration, especially on their dorsal and anal fins, while females tend to exhibit slightly subdued colors. During breeding, both males and females may display more vivid colors and intricate patterning as part of their courtship behavior.

Behavior & Temperament

General Behavior

The Bolivian Ram Cichlid is known for its generally peaceful behavior, making it a popular choice for community aquariums. While they can become territorial during breeding periods, they are usually peaceful towards other fish species. Their peaceful nature also extends to interactions with their own species, as they can coexist with multiple individuals in the same tank.

Social Interactions with Other Fish

Bolivian Ram Cichlids are social fish that can thrive when kept with compatible tankmates. They often exhibit interesting social behaviors, such as establishing hierarchies within their community. It’s not uncommon to observe them engaging in interactions like displaying their fins, chasing, or establishing territories.

Suitable Tankmates

When selecting tankmates for Bolivian Ram Cichlids, it’s important to consider their peaceful temperament. They are generally compatible with other peaceful community fish that share similar water requirements. Good tankmate choices include tetras, rasboras, small catfish species, and other peaceful cichlid species. It’s recommended to avoid aggressive or fin-nipping fish species that may harass or stress the Bolivian Rams.

Aquarium Requirements

Minimum Tank Size

For housing Bolivian Ram Cichlids, it is recommended to provide a minimum tank size of 20 gallons (75 liters). This size allows them to have sufficient swimming space while also accommodating their territorial behaviors.

Water Parameters

Maintaining appropriate water parameters is crucial for the well-being of Bolivian Ram Cichlids. The following are recommended ranges:

  • Temperature: 75-82°F (24-28°C)
  • pH: 6.0-7.5
  • Hardness: 2-10 dGH

It’s important to regularly monitor and maintain stable water conditions to ensure the health and longevity of the fish.

Filtration and Aeration Needs

A reliable filtration system is essential to maintain good water quality. A combination of mechanical, biological, and chemical filtration methods is recommended. Adequate water movement and aeration should also be provided to ensure proper oxygenation.

Substrate Preferences

Bolivian Ram Cichlids prefer sandy or fine-grained substrates in their aquarium. This type of substrate resembles their natural habitat and allows them to sift through it in search of food. Additionally, a soft substrate helps prevent injury to their delicate barbels.

Lighting Requirements

Moderate lighting is sufficient for Bolivian Ram Cichlids. Providing a natural day-night light cycle helps maintain their natural behavior and promotes a healthy environment.

Decorations and Hiding Places

Creating a well-decorated aquarium with ample hiding places is important for Bolivian Ram Cichlids. They appreciate the presence of rocks, driftwood, caves, and plants. These elements offer hiding spots, breeding sites, and territories for the fish. Live plants, such as Amazon swords, Vallisneria, or Anubias, can provide additional benefits by improving water quality and providing natural aesthetics.

Diet & Feeding

Type of Diet

Bolivian Ram Cichlids are considered omnivorous, meaning they consume a combination of plant matter and animal-based food. In their natural habitat, they feed on a variety of small invertebrates, insects, crustaceans, and plant material.

Feeding Frequency

To meet their nutritional needs, Bolivian Ram Cichlids should be fed twice daily. Providing smaller, more frequent meals helps mimic their natural feeding behavior and prevents overeating.

Tips for Providing a Balanced and Varied Diet

To ensure a balanced and healthy diet for Bolivian Ram Cichlids, consider the following tips:

  • High-quality Commercial Foods: Offer a variety of high-quality dry foods, such as pellets or flakes, specially formulated for cichlids. Look for products that contain a good balance of protein, fats, and essential vitamins and minerals.
  • Live and Frozen Foods: Supplement their diet with live or frozen foods like brine shrimp, bloodworms, daphnia, or small insect larvae. These provide essential nutrients and help mimic their natural prey.
  • Vegetable Matter: Include vegetable matter in their diet by offering blanched spinach, zucchini slices, or spirulina-based foods. These provide fiber and contribute to a well-rounded diet.
  • Consider Feeding Techniques: Bolivian Ram Cichlids are known to be selective eaters. To ensure all fish receive adequate nutrition, you can scatter food throughout the tank or use feeding rings to prevent food from sinking into the substrate before it is consumed.

Tank Mates

Compatible Species

Bolivian Ram Cichlids can coexist peacefully with a variety of compatible fish species. Some suitable tank mates include:

  • Small tetras (such as Neon Tetras or Cardinal Tetras)
  • Rasboras (like Harlequin Rasboras or Chili Rasboras)
  • Dwarf Gouramis
  • Corydoras Catfish (such as Bronze Corydoras or Panda Corydoras)
  • Otocinclus Catfish
  • Peaceful dwarf cichlids (such as Apistogramma species)

These compatible species share similar water parameters and peaceful temperaments, creating a harmonious community within the aquarium.

Incompatible or Potentially Problematic Species

It’s important to avoid tank mates that may exhibit aggressive behavior, fin-nipping tendencies, or that have significantly different care requirements. Incompatible or potentially problematic species include:

  • Aggressive cichlids (such as larger and more aggressive species)
  • Fin-nipping species (like some barbs or certain tetras)
  • Large, predatory fish that may view the Bolivian Rams as potential prey
  • Bottom-dwelling fish that may compete for territory or resources with the Bolivian Rams

Recommendations for Creating a Harmonious Community Tank

To create a harmonious community tank with Bolivian Ram Cichlids, consider the following recommendations:

  • Research Compatibility: Before adding any fish to the tank, research their temperament, size, and water parameter requirements to ensure compatibility with the Bolivian Rams.
  • Provide Sufficient Space: Provide ample swimming space and hiding spots by incorporating rocks, driftwood, caves, and live plants. This allows each fish to establish territories and reduces potential conflicts.
  • Introduce Tank Mates Gradually: When introducing new tank mates, do so gradually to minimize stress and aggression. Monitor the behavior of all fish during the acclimation process.
  • Observe and Adjust: Regularly observe the interactions between the Bolivian Rams and their tank mates. If any aggression or compatibility issues arise, be prepared to make necessary adjustments or rehome problematic fish to maintain harmony.


Breeding Behavior

Bolivian Ram Cichlids exhibit interesting breeding behaviors. They are monogamous, forming pairs that remain together throughout the breeding process. The pair engages in courtship rituals, including fin displays, chasing, and potential nest site preparation.

Once a pair has bonded, the female lays eggs on flat surfaces, such as rocks, leaves, or substrate. Both the male and female actively participate in guarding and caring for the eggs and later, the fry.

Ideal Breeding Conditions

To encourage successful breeding, create optimal conditions within the aquarium:

  • Water Parameters: Maintain stable water conditions with a temperature range of 78-82°F (25-28°C) and a pH range of 6.5-7.5. Water hardness should be around 5-15 dGH.
  • Adequate Hiding Places: Provide suitable hiding places such as caves, flat rocks, or PVC pipes where the pair can lay eggs and protect the fry.
  • Proper Nutrition: Ensure the breeding pair receives a varied and nutritious diet, including live or frozen foods, to enhance reproductive health.

Raising Fry and Specific Care Requirements

When the eggs hatch, they will become wrigglers, remaining attached to the spawning site. After a few days, they will become free-swimming fry. At this point, the parents will guide the fry to suitable hiding places within the tank.

To ensure the successful raising of fry, consider the following care requirements:

  • Provide Sufficient Food: Supplement the fry’s diet with powdered or liquid fry food, infusoria, or baby brine shrimp. Offer small, frequent feedings to accommodate their small size and high metabolic needs.
  • Protect from Aggressive Tank Mates: If kept in a community tank, remove any aggressive or fin-nipping fish that may harm or prey upon the fry.
  • Maintain Water Quality: Perform regular water changes to maintain pristine water conditions, as fry are more sensitive to water parameters.
  • Separate Fry if Desired: If you wish to raise a large number of fry or ensure their survival, consider setting up a separate breeding or grow-out tank.

Health & Disease

Common Diseases and Their Symptoms

Bolivian Ram Cichlids are generally hardy fish, but they can still be susceptible to certain diseases. Some common diseases that may affect them include:

  1. Ich (Ichthyophthirius multifiliis): Symptoms include white spots resembling grains of salt on the fish’s body and fins, increased scratching or flashing behavior, and loss of appetite.
  2. Fin Rot: This bacterial infection can cause the deterioration of fins, leading to fraying, discoloration, and tissue erosion.
  3. Fungal Infections: Fungal infections can appear as cotton-like growths on the fish’s body, fins, or mouth.
  4. Swim Bladder Disorder: Fish with swim bladder disorder may have difficulty maintaining buoyancy, resulting in floating, sinking, or erratic swimming behavior.

Prevention and Treatment Strategies

To prevent and manage common diseases in Bolivian Ram Cichlids, consider the following strategies:

  1. Maintain Water Quality: Regularly test and maintain optimal water parameters, perform routine water changes, and ensure proper filtration to minimize stress and reduce the risk of disease.
  2. Quarantine New Fish: Quarantine any new fish before introducing them to the main tank to prevent the spread of potential diseases.
  3. Balanced Diet: Provide a varied and nutritious diet to boost the fish’s immune system and overall health.
  4. Stress Reduction: Minimize stressors such as sudden changes in water parameters, aggressive tank mates, or overcrowding.
  5. Medication Treatments: If disease symptoms occur, consult a veterinarian or a knowledgeable aquatic professional to identify the specific ailment and prescribe appropriate medications.

Care Level

The Bolivian Ram Cichlid is considered a suitable choice for beginner to intermediate aquarists in terms of care level. While they have specific requirements, they are generally hardy and adaptable fish when provided with appropriate conditions.

Special Considerations or Requirements

Although Bolivian Ram Cichlids are relatively easy to care for, there are a few special considerations to keep in mind:

  1. Water Parameters: Maintaining stable water conditions within their preferred temperature range of 75-82°F (24-28°C) and a pH of 6.0-7.5 is crucial. Regular monitoring and adjustments may be necessary to ensure optimal conditions.
  2. Compatibility: While they are peaceful overall, it’s important to select suitable tank mates that share similar temperaments and environmental preferences. Avoid aggressive or fin-nipping species that may stress or harm the Bolivian Rams.
  3. Hiding Places: Providing ample hiding places, such as rocks, caves, and plants, is essential to create territories and offer security for the fish. This helps reduce stress and promotes natural behaviors.
  4. Varied Diet: Offering a diverse and balanced diet that includes high-quality pellets, flakes, live or frozen foods, and vegetable matter ensures proper nutrition and overall health.

Conservation Status

As of my knowledge cutoff in September 2021, the Bolivian Ram Cichlid (Mikrogeophagus altispinosus) has not been evaluated for conservation status by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). This means that there is currently no official listing for the species on the IUCN Red List.

Regarding legal restrictions on keeping the species in captivity, it is important to consult local regulations and laws specific to your country or region. Some countries may have regulations in place to protect certain fish species or restrict their collection from the wild. It is advisable to check with local authorities, fishkeeping organizations, or reputable aquarium stores to ensure compliance with any legal requirements.

Please note that conservation statuses and legal restrictions may change over time, so it is essential to stay updated with current information from reliable sources.

Additional Information & Fun Facts

Here are some additional facts and fun information about Bolivian Ram Cichlids:

  1. Mimicry: Bolivian Rams have the ability to change their coloration and patterns based on their mood, breeding condition, or environmental factors. This ability to mimic their surroundings adds to their captivating nature.
  2. Bonding with Owners: Some hobbyists have reported that Bolivian Rams can form bonds with their owners over time. They may recognize their caretakers and display signs of recognition or interaction during feeding or tank maintenance activities.
  3. Active Digging: Bolivian Rams are known to be active diggers, especially during breeding or when creating territories. They may rearrange the substrate, move plants, or create small pits in which to lay their eggs.
  4. Vocalizations: Bolivian Rams are not entirely silent. They can produce audible sounds, often described as grunting or squeaking noises, which they use as a means of communication with each other.
  5. Lifespan Variability: While the average lifespan of Bolivian Ram Cichlids in captivity is around 4-6 years, with proper care, some individuals have been reported to live longer, reaching up to 8 years or more.

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