Bolivian Ram: Care, Tank Mates, Size, Lifespan & Food


Common Name(s)Bolivian Ram, Bolivian Ram Cichlid
Scientific NameMikrogeophagus altispinosa
OriginBrazil and Bolivia
Temperature73.4-78°F (23-26°C)
SizeMales grow to approximately 6 cm (2.4 inches).
Females grow to approximately 5-5.5 cm (2 inches).
Minimum Tank Size30 gallons
Food & DietOmnivorous
Lifespan6 years
Water pH6.0-7.5
Tank MatesCompatible with schools of small sized Characidae species.
BreedingNaturally formed pairs will spawn eggs.
DiseaseMay be susceptible to Ich.
bolivian ram
Bolivian Ram (Mikrogeophagus altispinosa)

Bolivian Ram Care

The Bolivian Ram (Mikrogeophagus Altispinosa) is a small, peaceful cichlid, native to the freshwater systems of Brazil and Bolivia. They have beautiful, ranging colors along with extended fin rays which make for an eye-catching addition to any aquarium. Also, their shy, calm demeanor makes them suitable for community tanks and easy to look after even for beginners. 

Read on to learn more about how to look after them, what they require, and why you should be adding them to your aquarium.

How to Care for Bolivian Ram

The Bolivian Ram is a fairly hardy fish, making it overall easy to care for, and suitable for beginners and those looking to add to community tanks. They are not specifically prone to any diseases and should definitely stay healthy providing water is kept clean and well oxygenated. Parasitic, bacterial, and fungal infections can still be a risk though, especially the common white spot disease known as ‘Ich’. However, being tolerable fish this problem can usually be solved quickly and hassle-free by simply correcting tank cleanliness and possibly adding medication to the water. Any such infection though can also be avoided by carefully cleaning all new additions to your aquarium before adding them to the tank, meaning they do not require much effort beyond standard maintenance procedures.

Bolivian Ram Water Parameters

Bolivian Rams do not need a huge tank, so as a minimum it is suggested to allow a 30 gallon tank for a single fish, with an extra 5-10 gallons per additional Ram. As well as keeping water clean and well oxygenated, it is important to also monitor nitrate levels and ensure they do not reach a toxic level for the fish. Although generally very tolerant, their ideal water conditions mimic their natural environment, such as streams, backwaters, and lakes, meaning shallow and slow waters are preferable. Furthermore, recommended water hardness for these fish is between 6-14 dGH, with 10 dGH being most comfortable for them.

Bolivian Ram Care and Breeding

Bolivian Ram pH

As Bolivian Ram like waters similar to their natural habitat, it is best to keep the water slightly acidic, with a pH between 6.0-7.5 being favorable.

Bolivian Ram temperature

In general, for Bolivian Ram you should have the water at a temperature of 73.4- 78°F. If the aim is to stimulate spawning, you will want to raise this to 80.6 and 82.4°F. They are hardy fish though, and can cope with temperature shifts as high as 86°F which may actually be appropriate in some cases when trying to get rid of infections and parasites.

Bolivian Ram Food & Diet

In-keeping with the fact that they are easy to take care of, Bolivian Ram are omnivorous and moreover undemanding. With a good appetite, these fish really will eat anything from frozen to live food. This means their diet can include all the likes of blood or white worm, brine shrimps, daphnia, tubifex, and artificial foods. Typically, owing to their wild living conditions, river detritus (plants and various seeds) will also feature in their diets. Overall therefore, a mixed and varied diet with pellets* or flakes combined with meaty foods help them keep a balanced diet, and maintains the health of their brightly colored appearance.

*Pellets should be considered over flakes as Bolivian Rams are naturally bottom-feeding fish, and pellets sink more easily into the floor than flakes.

Bolivian Ram Tank Setup

To keep your Bolivian Rams as happy as possible, their tank should have plenty of organic matter to and food to feed on at the bottom, as well as a sandy, muddy base similar to how they would live in the wild. A fine sand substrate and pebbles can be used at the bottom of your tank, but should not be too heavy a focus in your set up. It is best to have a well-planted tank yet with plenty of open space for swimming, as well as a few empty hiding places in, for example, rock and driftwood. Fundamentally though, Bolivian Rams require a lot of shelter.

Care and Maintenance

To ensure favorable conditions are maintained for your Bolivian Ram, there are some pieces of equipment which can make your life significantly easier, and the fish’s more pleasant: to keep water flow low, you may want to install a filter. To keep the tank and water well oxygenated, an exterior-mounted canister filter will do the trick nicely, while you may also want to consider a heater to keep water temperature in its optimum range. You will also want to keep lighting low, which can be done deliberately, or with the use of plants in the aquarium. Finally, to ensure cleanliness levels are maintained, you should replace 20-25% of the water every week, also removing any organic waste or uneaten food.

Bolivian Ram Tank Mates

The Bolivian Ram, being a community friendly fish, enjoys being in a group of 6-8 of its own kind, and is otherwise most compatible with schools of small sized Characidae species. These species are natural companions for Bolivian Rams in the wild and thus add a sense of security for them. The main thing to look out for is size, as smaller fish can be viewed as prey and may end up being eaten by Bolivian Rams (small shrimp too may be seen as food rather than company). Similarly, you don’t want larger sized tank mates which pose a threat to them such as competing for shelter/ floor space, as Bolivian Rams will struggle with aggressive tank mates. In general though, they are calm and peaceful fish and have little interest in their other tank dwellers, meaning they can be put with other fish from pretty much any biotope, and are very suitable for community aquariums.

Are Bolivian Rams Aggressive?

The Bolivian Ram is a peaceful, well-tempered fish especially in comparison to other members of the cichlid species. They are not aggressive, and are compatible with many other types of fish. They are calm, like to be in a group of their own species, and otherwise are shy towards, and hardly interact with, other fish.

Can I Keep 2 Male Bolivian Rams?

In theory you can keep two male Bolivian Rams together, as without any females around there is nothing for them to fight over. They are however slightly more aggressive than their female counter parts, and so this should be kept in mind, although at the same time they indeed are a peaceful species. Therefore yes, you can, especially as they are less aggressive when not breeding, but there is definitely still a chance that they get territorial with each other, and this male desire to stake out their territory means that if you do opt for two males you should certainly get them at the same time.

Bolivian Ram with Angelfish: Are they compatible?

Bolivian Rams can live with Angelfish. Both fish favour softer, slightly acidic water, so tank conditions align nicely. They’re both cichlids and would be found in similar water parameters in nature as well. The important thing to ensure that Bolivian Rams and Angelfish will cohabit amicably is that you get them all together. Adding either one to the tank later than the other can result in the death of the newer one, simply due to the fish being territorial over the tank. Once these fish are acquired together and can establish personal territory at the start, sex also should not matter.

Are Bolivian Rams schooling fish?

Bolivian Rams are not schooling fish, but they do prefer to be in a group with other Bolivian Rams when in an aquarium. When in a group, ensure the tank is large enough (55+ gallons). Small disagreements can occur between a group, but are common and nothing to worry about.

Bolivian Ram Size

At a maximum, Bolivian Rams can reach up to 8cm (3.1inches), but usually males are more like 6cm (2.4 inches) long, and females a bit smaller at roughly 5-5.5cm (2 inches).

Bolivian Ram Lifespan

A Bolivian Ram’s lifespan is approximately 6 years.

Bolivian Ram Breeding

The biggest difficulty with Bolivian Ram is that when chosen at random they tend not to breed, and rather will only do so in specific, true pairings. Therefore, if the aim is breeding, it is best to let the fish choose each other. This is done by allowing a group of 6-8 young Bolivian Rams (in a large enough tank – 55+ gallons) to grow into adults, and to then choose their own partners. Another added benefit of doing this is that by naturally forming couples, these pairings are stable and will last even being transferred away from the rest of the group. However, once the tank is not too crowded, and there is enough space and sheltered areas for eggs to be laid, then there is no need to transfer the couple to a separate spawning tank, unless you are specifically trying to breed for scale. Otherwise, once a mated pair is formed, breeding is fairly straightforward once other tank mates don’t eat the eggs. At this point water temperature should also be quite warm, at around 77-82°F with low light. Eggs will hatch after about 60 hours, and it is normal for the couple to move around the tank after this point.

Fish Laboratory

With decades of collective fishkeeping experience, we are happy to share the knowledge that we've picked up along the way. Our goal at Fish Laboratory Aquatics is to keep publishing accurate content to help fishkeepers keep their fish healthy.

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