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If there ever was a "cute" cichlid it would have to be the "Ram" (Microgeophagus ramirezi). It reminds one, in appearance as well as personality, of a cross between a Geophagus and a "mickey mouse" platy. A feisty little cichlid that has a much greater bark than bite. I currently house two pairs of these "pint sized" "show boaters" in a 20 gallon high aquarium. (Enough cliches already!) While not searching for food, they spend most of there time having mock battles with their neighbors. (Interestingly enough the battles tend to be with fish of the same sex and the opposition's mate is generally ignored.) Thus far, no real harm has resulted from these episodes. This type of behavior makes the Ram an excellent candidate for the beginner who may not be well versed in dealing with cichlid aggressions. The novice can still enjoy cichlidian behavior without having dead fish as a result of it! Additionally, their diminutive size makes them an excellent choice for the aquarist that doesn't have the tank space to keep larger cichlids. Adults only grow to be 5 cm long.
Rams are very easy to maintain. They can be kept in a community tank and will readily eat prepared foods. A maintenance temperature range of 27 - 28 C is recommended. Rams can be sensitive to the nitrogen cycle. Weekly water changes should be performed. (I would be hard pressed not to recommend weekly water changes for most fresh water fish!)
An obvious prerequisite to spawning most fish is to have one of each sex. Sexing rams is not difficult as they do show a reasonable amount of sexual dimorphism. The first several spines of the dorsal fin or "crest" of the males are longer than those of the females. Males also tend to be a little larger than females. Females on the other hand tend to be fuller in the abdomen and exhibit a bright red coloration in this area when in breeding condition. Wild fish generally require soft acidic water to breed. Their natural environment may have PH as low as 5.1 with almost no hardness. Fortunately, most commercially available fish have been raised in Florida and have adapted to spawning in harder water conditions. My initial spawn occurred at a PH of 7.5, conductivity of 200 microSiemens and a temperature of 31 C. (I have been evaluating the effect different water parameters have on breeding, hatch-out rate and parental behavior. However, at the time of this writing I haven't drawn any conclusion, except they will spawn in broad range of water parameters.) About 150 eggs are laid on a flat surface which can be a nicely removable piece of slate or more annoyingly the bottom of the tank itself. Unfortunately, these high strung fish tend to be egg eater. I recommend artificially raising the fry and adding 2 drops of methyl-blue per gallon to the hatching container. As with most substrate spawning cichlids the fry hatch in about three days and are free swimming in another couple of days. Initially the fry are too small to accept baby brine shrimp and must be feed "micro" foods. After about three days they will accept brine shrimp nauplii. Water quality is extremely important to the fry. They are very sensitive to nitrite levels. Again, frequent water changes are a must.
My next project in the world of dwarf cichlids is breeding the Bolivian Ram (Microgeophagus altispinosa). Hopefully, my experience with M. ramirezi should help me succeed in this endeavor.
This article is Copyright (C) 1994 by Dean E. Fear. It may be freely distributed in its entirety provided that this copyright notice is not removed. It may not be sold for profit nor incorporated in commercial documents without the author's written permission. This article is provided "as is" without express or implied warranty.HTML Translation by Erik Olson
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