Bolivian Ram Cichlid – Care, Tank Mates, Feeding & Full Details!

Often referred to as the Bolivian Butterfly or Ruby Crown Cichlid, the Bolivian Ram (Mikrogeophagus altispinosus) is a captivating addition to community tanks.

Known for their peaceful nature, these cichlids differ considerably from their more aggressive counterparts. They’re non-problematic freshwater fish that coexist harmoniously with other species.

Bolivian Rams are native to the Amazon River Basin, most prominently in Bolivia, lending them their name. Additionally, they inhabit freshwater bodies across Brazil.

In the aquarium community, these visually appealing fish are incredibly popular. Not only are they relatively easy to care for, but their distinct personalities bring a lively ambiance to any aquarium.

The Bolivian Ram, an intriguing freshwater species, is a marvel in the fish keeping world.

With their attractive appearance, calm demeanor, and simple maintenance requirements, it’s easy to see why they garner an ardent fanbase among aquarium enthusiasts.

Their fascinating behavior and suitability for novice aquarists further add to their allure.

However, understanding the intricacies of their care is essential before embarking on the journey of Bolivian Ram ownership.

Our guide will offer in-depth insights into Bolivian Ram care, shedding light on their suitable tank mates, dietary preferences, ideal tank conditions, and even the complex breeding process.

Quick Stats About Bolivian Ram

Care Level: Beginner
Temperament: Peaceful
Color: Colorful
Lifespan: 4 years
Size: 3.5 inches
Diet: Omnivore
Family: Cichlidae
Minimum Tank Size: 30 gallons
Tank Setup: Freshwater
Compatibility: Other peaceful freshwater fish

Bolivian Rams, scientifically recognized as Mikrogeophagus altispinosus, are an embodiment of both beauty and tranquillity.

These freshwater dwellers are a captivating addition to any aquarium due to their appealing aesthetic and compatible nature.

Let’s delve deeper into the attributes of this popular aquarium fish.

Bolivian Ram Appearance

When first introduced to a Bolivian Ram, one might mistake them for a mundane aquatic creature due to their initial seemingly muted coloration.

However, with a closer look, the intricate beauty of these fish begins to unfold, revealing an intricate spectrum of colors and patterns.

The body coloration is a delicate blend of tan or silver, with subtle yellow hues enhancing the belly region. This muted background serves as a canvas for more vibrant, eye-catching details.

An imposing vertical black stripe adorns their head, crossing their eyes and forming a mask. A similar pattern is reflected in faded black stripes running vertically along the length of their bodies.

The fins of the Bolivian Ram are a vibrant display of color patterns. Every individual possesses rayed fins that act as protective barriers against predators.

The dorsal fin flaunts a small black stripe towards the front, while the rest remains transparent. Nevertheless, the most striking feature is the vibrant red edging that adds a pop of color to the tail and dorsal fins.

The anal and pelvic fins are subtly touched by red tones, coupled with streaks of light pearly blue, adding a dash of elegance to their overall appearance.

Another fascinating trait of Bolivian Rams is their sexual dimorphism, where males are usually larger and possess extended filaments on their dorsal fins.

Their distinctive appearance has made them a favorite among aquarists and aquarium enthusiasts alike.

Natural Habitat of Bolivian Ram

To ensure the best care for your Bolivian Ram, it’s crucial to understand their natural habitat. Originally from the Amazon River Basin, these fish thrive in fresh bodies of water that provide ample cover and a rich, diverse diet.

Their preferred environment is warm, slightly acidic water with a mild current, imitating the conditions of their native rivers.

In the wild, Bolivian Rams navigate dense aquatic vegetation, which offers refuge from predators and serves as an excellent source of food.

Sand substrates are commonplace, with the fish often sifting through the bottom layers for food. To mimic their natural habitat, introducing live plants and a sandy substrate in your aquarium would be beneficial.

Origin and Distribution

Bolivian Rams have a rather intriguing origin story that begins in the depths of the Amazon River Basin.

Named after the country they are most commonly found, Bolivia, these fish have a wide distribution that spans fresh bodies of water throughout Brazil as well.

Known by several names like the Bolivian Butterfly and Ruby Crown Cichlid, their popularity within the fishkeeping community has led to a global spread.

They are now widely bred and available across aquariums worldwide due to their appealing visuals and manageable care needs.

Growth, Size & Lifespan of Bolivian Ram

The journey of a Bolivian Ram from a tiny fry to a fully matured fish is a captivating process to observe. On average, Bolivian Rams grow to reach a length of approximately 3 inches.

However, the males, displaying larger sizes, can grow up to 3.5 inches, whereas females often stay closer to 2.5 inches.

Their growth rate is significantly influenced by their diet and overall care.

Providing a balanced diet rich in protein, coupled with optimal tank conditions, ensures a healthy growth rate.

The average lifespan of a Bolivian Ram is around four years, provided they receive quality care.

Maintaining proper water conditions, feeding a balanced diet, and creating a stress-free environment can greatly contribute to their longevity.

Whether you’re an amateur or seasoned aquarist, the Bolivian Ram offers an enjoyable and rewarding experience.

By understanding their unique needs and characteristics, you can cultivate a thriving environment for your finned friend.

Bolivian Ram Behavior and Temperament

While known for their striking appearance, Bolivian Rams are equally appreciated for their serene and cooperative behavior. Unlike their aggressive Cichlid relatives, Bolivian Rams present a peaceful disposition, making them ideal for community aquariums.

They are social creatures, often seen interacting with their tank mates. Being bottom-dwelling fish, they frequently engage in foraging activities within the substrate, presenting an entertaining sight for aquarists.

Although generally non-aggressive, these fish are not without a sense of territory. Male Bolivian Rams can occasionally show assertive behavior, especially during breeding seasons.

Despite these occasional displays, their overall tranquil demeanor and compatibility make them a fantastic addition to any aquarist’s community tank.

Perfect Tank Setup for Bolivian Rams

To replicate the Bolivian Ram’s natural habitat and ensure their comfort and health, it is essential to provide an optimal tank environment.

Here’s how you can achieve it:

Tank Size

A crucial aspect of setting up an aquarium is choosing the right tank size. A tank capacity of at least 30 gallons is recommended for a pair of Bolivian Rams. A spacious tank allows the Rams to exhibit their natural behavior and supports a balanced ecosystem.


Since Bolivian Rams are fond of sifting through the substrate, opting for a soft and sandy substrate would be ideal. This not only allows them to exhibit natural behavior but also minimizes the risk of injury.

Decorations and Hiding Spots

Adding a variety of decorations like rocks, driftwood, and aquatic plants enhances the tank’s aesthetic and provides excellent hiding spots for the Rams. An environment with ample cover closely mimics their natural habitat and helps lower stress levels.

Water Parameters

Maintaining optimal water parameters is paramount. The water temperature should range from 72 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit, with a pH level between 6.0 and 7.5. The water hardness should ideally be within the range of 3-10 dGH.

Filtration and Aeration

A high-quality filter is essential to maintain water cleanliness and eliminate waste. In addition, a good filter can provide a mild current, replicating the natural water conditions of the Bolivian Ram’s native habitat.


Moderate lighting conditions are preferred by Bolivian Rams. Too bright lighting might stress the fish, so consider using adjustable LED lights or dim natural light.

Tank Mates

Bolivian Rams get along well with many fish species due to their peaceful nature. They cohabit well with other peaceful species of a similar size. Avoid aggressive or very large fish that may intimidate or harm the Rams.


Feeding a balanced diet is critical for the Rams’ health. They are omnivores and appreciate a varied diet. Flake or pellet foods supplemented with occasional live or frozen foods like bloodworms or brine shrimp ensure a nutritious and balanced diet.

Creating an ideal home for your Bolivian Rams involves careful planning and execution.

By mimicking their natural conditions and catering to their unique needs, you can ensure a thriving and serene environment for these beautiful aquatic dwellers.

Bolivian Ram Tank Maintenance

Maintaining an aquarium can seem daunting, but fear not! With a few simple steps, your Bolivian Ram tank can thrive and stay clean.

Let’s dive into the nitty-gritty of tank maintenance.

Regular Water Changes

Water changes are vital to the health of your Bolivian Rams. It’s best to change about 25-30% of the tank water every two weeks.

This ensures a healthy tank environment by removing excess waste and replenishing essential minerals. Make sure to match the temperature and pH of the new water with the existing tank water to avoid shocking your Rams.

Cleaning the Tank and Decorations

Over time, algae and uneaten food may accumulate in your tank and on decorations. Use an aquarium-safe algae scraper for the tank walls and a soft brush for decorations. Be gentle when cleaning around your Bolivian Rams and avoid disturbing them too much. Regular cleaning helps keep your tank looking fresh and your fish healthy.

Filter Maintenance

The filter is a workhorse, purifying your tank water round the clock. Therefore, it requires regular check-ups and cleaning. Rinse filter media with tank water (not tap water, as it may kill beneficial bacteria) during your regular water changes.

If the filter performance declines or the water flow weakens, it might be time to replace the filter media.

Monitor Fish Health

Keeping an eye on your Bolivian Rams is the best way to ensure they stay healthy. Monitor their behavior, eating patterns, and physical appearance.

Any sudden changes might be a sign of stress or illness. If you notice something off, research or seek advice immediately to prevent any minor issues from escalating.

Proper tank maintenance not only assures the health and happiness of your Bolivian Rams but also provides you with a thriving, beautiful aquarium to enjoy.

Remember, a clean tank is a happy tank! Keep these tips in mind and your Bolivian Ram aquarium will surely flourish.

Acclimating Your Bolivian Ram

Introducing your Bolivian Ram to a new tank needs careful attention. Bolivian Rams, like many other tropical fish, are sensitive to sudden changes in water conditions.

Follow these simple steps for a smooth transition:

  1. Temperature acclimation: Float the sealed bag with your Bolivian Ram in the aquarium for 15-20 minutes. This allows the water in the bag to match the tank’s temperature, reducing temperature-induced stress.

  2. Water mixing: After temperature acclimation, gradually mix a small amount of tank water into the bag every five minutes for about half an hour. This helps your Ram adapt to the tank’s water chemistry.

  3. Transfer: Use a net to gently move the Ram from the bag to the tank. Try to avoid adding bag water to the tank to maintain your tank’s water quality.

Bolivian Ram Diet and Feeding

Feeding your Bolivian Ram a balanced diet is crucial to their health and longevity. Here’s a detailed guide on their diet and feeding:

Varied Diet

A healthy Bolivian Ram diet is diverse and balanced. They are omnivores, so they enjoy both plant-based and protein-rich foods.

  • Protein: Brine shrimp, bloodworms, and daphnia make excellent protein sources.

  • Vegetables: Boiled peas and zucchini, spinach, and spirulina can be included in their diet.

  • Commercial food: High-quality flakes or pellets can supplement their diet.

Feeding Frequency and Quantity

It’s best to feed your Bolivian Ram small amounts of food 2-3 times a day. Give only as much food as they can eat in 2-3 minutes. Overfeeding can lead to poor water quality and health problems.

Adapting Feeding to Behavior and Life Stage

Bolivian Rams may require dietary changes based on their life stages or behavior. For instance, breeding Rams may benefit from increased protein, while younger Rams might need smaller, more frequent feedings.

Monitoring your Bolivian Ram’s eating habits and adjusting their diet accordingly is key to maintaining their health and vibrancy.

Remember, a well-fed Bolivian Ram is a happy and active Bolivian Ram!

Bolivian Ram Tank Mates: Friends and Foes

Bolivian Rams are generally peaceful and can coexist with a variety of other species. The best tank mates are those that share similar water parameter needs and peaceful behavior.

Here are some suggestions for compatible tank mates, as well as ones to avoid:

  1. Tetras: Species like Neon Tetras, Cardinal Tetras, and Rummy nose Tetras are excellent choices. They are peaceful, small, and won’t compete with Rams for territory.

  2. Corydoras Catfish: Known for their peaceful nature, Corydoras are great bottom dwellers that will not intrude on the Rams’ space.

  3. Rasboras: Harlequin Rasboras and Galaxy Rasboras can live harmoniously with Bolivian Rams.

  4. Dwarf Gourami: These peaceful surface dwellers can add color and activity to the upper part of the tank.

  5. Plecostomus: These docile bottom feeders can share space with Rams without conflict.

  6. Dwarf Cichlids: Species like Apistogramma and Kribensis can make good tank mates.

  7. Guppies: Colorful and non-aggressive, Guppies can add a dash of vibrancy to your tank.

  8. Mollies: They are peaceful and are unlikely to trouble the Rams.

Tank Mates to Avoid

Some species may not be compatible due to their aggressive behavior or vastly different habitat requirements.

  1. Oscar Fish: Oscars are aggressive and grow much larger than Rams.

  2. Jewel Cichlids: Known for their territorial nature, they can stress out the peaceful Rams.

  3. Jack Dempsey Fish: Their aggressive behavior makes them unsuitable tank mates.

  4. Green Terror Cichlids: They can bully smaller, peaceful fish like the Bolivian Ram.

  5. Red Devil Cichlids: Their size and aggressive behavior make them unsuitable tank mates.

Breeding Bolivian Ram and Fry Care

Breeding Bolivian Rams can be a rewarding experience.

Here’s a step-by-step guide:


Ensure a favorable environment with plenty of hiding spots and a flat stone or surface for egg-laying.


When ready to breed, Bolivian Rams develop richer colors. The female will lay eggs on a flat surface, and the male will fertilize them.

After Spawning

Once the eggs are laid, both parents will guard them fiercely.

Fry Care

After the eggs hatch (typically after 60-70 hours), the fry should be moved to a separate tank to ensure their safety.

  1. Feeding the Fry: Start with infusoria or finely crushed flake food, gradually moving to brine shrimp as they grow.

  2. Water Quality: Maintain excellent water quality with regular changes and careful monitoring of parameters.

  3. Growth Monitoring: Watch for any signs of illness or slow growth, adjusting food and water conditions as needed.

By following these steps, you can enjoy the rewarding experience of breeding Bolivian Rams and nurturing their fry to adulthood.

Spotting Stress in Bolivian Ram

As an aquarist, it’s essential to recognize signs of stress in your Bolivian Ram. Early detection can prevent illness and maintain a harmonious tank.

Signs of stress include:

  1. Change in Color: If your Bolivian Ram’s vibrant colors fade, this could indicate stress.

  2. Loss of Appetite: A stressed Bolivian Ram might eat less or not at all.

  3. Atypical Behavior: If your Ram is hiding more than usual, swimming erratically, or showing aggressive behavior, it might be stressed.

  4. Physical Signs: Look out for clamped fins, rapid breathing, or visible spots and lesions.

If you notice any of these signs, evaluate your tank’s conditions and take necessary steps to address any issues.

This could involve adjusting water parameters, changing diet, or seeking veterinary advice.

Common Health Issues and Treatments

Despite your best efforts, Bolivian Rams can face health issues.

Common problems include:

  1. Ich: This parasitic infection causes white spots on the fish’s skin. Treat it by raising the tank’s temperature gradually to 86°F for a few days, along with medicated treatments if necessary.

  2. Fin Rot: If your Ram’s fins appear frayed or discolored, it might have Fin Rot. This bacterial infection can be treated with commercial antibiotics.

  3. Bloat: This condition causes swelling and is often due to overfeeding. Provide a varied diet and avoid overfeeding to prevent it.

  4. Gill Flukes: These parasites can cause respiratory distress. They can be treated with antiparasitic medication.

Remember, prevention is better than cure. Maintain a clean tank, provide a balanced diet, and monitor your fish regularly for signs of illness.

Additional Tips for a Healthy Aquarium

Running a healthy aquarium involves more than just regular cleaning and feeding.

Here are some additional tips:

  1. Quarantine New Fish: Before adding new fish to your tank, quarantine them for a few weeks to ensure they’re not carrying any diseases.

  2. Avoid Overstocking: Overstocking can lead to poor water quality and increased stress among fish. Ensure your tank is appropriately sized for its inhabitants.

  3. Maintain Stable Water Conditions: Sudden changes in temperature, pH, or hardness can stress fish. Invest in a quality water testing kit and adjust parameters as needed.

Should You Get a Bolivian Ram for Your Aquarium?

Bolivian Rams are a charming addition to any aquarium. They’re relatively peaceful, easy to care for, and bring a burst of color to your tank.

If you’re prepared to provide the right tank conditions, diet, and attentive care, a Bolivian Ram could be the perfect new member of your aquatic family. Remember, a happy Bolivian Ram is one that feels at home in its surroundings.

So, if you can replicate its natural habitat, this beautiful fish will reward you with its stunning display and fascinating behavior.

Conservation Status

When it comes to Bolivian Rams’ conservation status, they are listed as “Least Concern” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

This rating is due to their widespread distribution and large population. Nonetheless, their natural habitats are threatened by pollution and habitat loss, so it’s crucial to source your fish from ethical breeders who follow sustainable practices.

Availability & Pricing

Bolivian Rams are fairly common in the aquarium trade. Most pet shops and online retailers that specialize in tropical fish will have them in stock.

Pricing can vary based on factors such as the fish’s size, age, and coloration. You can generally expect to pay anywhere from $6 to $15 per fish. Be sure to confirm current prices with your preferred retailer.

Frequently Asked Questions About Bolivian Ram

Q – What is the lifespan of a Bolivian Ram?

Ans – A well-cared-for Bolivian Ram can live up to 6 years in captivity.

Q – Are Bolivian Rams aggressive?

Ans – Bolivian Rams are generally peaceful, but they can be territorial, especially during breeding.

Q – Can Bolivian Rams live alone?

Ans – Yes, they can. However, they are social fish and usually prefer the company of their kind or other peaceful species.

Q – What should I feed my Bolivian Ram?

Ans – A varied diet of high-quality flakes, pellets, and occasional live or frozen foods is best for Bolivian Rams.

In Conclusion

The Bolivian Ram is a fantastic choice for both novice and experienced aquarists. They’re peaceful, vibrant, and relatively easy to care for, making them an ideal addition to a community tank.

However, they require specific tank conditions and a balanced diet to thrive. By understanding their needs and behavior, you can ensure a healthy and happy life for your Bolivian Ram.

Remember, fish keeping is more than just a hobby—it’s a commitment to the well-being of these fascinating creatures.

By choosing to keep a Bolivian Ram, you’re promising to create a slice of their natural habitat in your home, providing them with all the care and attention they need to flourish. Happy fish keeping!