is supported by our readers. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

Bolivian Ram Care Guide: Appearance, Feeding, and More

The Bolivian ram is a beautiful freshwater species that’s popular in the fish keeping world. Due to their peaceful nature, these fish are great for pet owners of all experience levels.

Mikrogeophagus altispinosus

If you want to get a Bolivian ram cichlid, then there’s lots of research to do first. This article will cover all the basics of the breed’s appearance, behavior, and care.

Bolivian Ram Overview

Before we look at the details of these beautiful fish, here’s an overview of their traits.

Scientific NameMikrogeophagus altispinosus
OriginBrazil and Bolivia
Lifespan4 to 6 years
Size2 to 3.5 inches
Minimum Tank Size30 gallons
pH6.0 to 7.5
Hardness6 to 14 dGH
Temperature72 to 79 degrees Fahrenheit
Good for Beginners?Yes

What is a Bolivian Ram?

Mikrogeophagus altispinosus is a small cichlid species that is commonly known as Bolivian ram (not ram Bolivian). Other common names include butterfly ram, Bolivian butterfly cichlid, and ruby cichlid.

In the wild, these fish are native to the Amazon River Basin of Bolivia and Brazil in South America. Their wild population is stable, and they’re becoming more common as pets too.

Their docile demeanors and unique behaviors make them interesting fish to observe. With proper care, they’ll live four to six years.

Bolivian Ram Appearance

Bolivian rams are small, beautiful fish that are known for their long fins that glide through the water as they swim.

Bolivian Ram Appearance

Males and females can be distinguished because males have much larger dorsal fins. They also have longer filaments along their tails.

Both sexes have rayed fins to protect them from predators. They can use them to strangle and suffocate sea creatures they view as threats. Luckily, they’re unlikely to harm humans because they rarely act aggressive.

Common Colors

These fish have muted colors, but their scales are still shiny. They usually have some dark markings on their body too, such as a black stripe across their eyes and a spot in the middle of their body.

Here are a few colors these fish can have:

  • Yellow
  • Red
  • Light Brown
  • Silver
  • Silvery-Blue
  • White
  • Black

These fish often have more than one color in their patterns, but they’re almost always one or more of the above colors. However, even though their bodies aren’t as vibrant as other fish, they’re still beautiful because of how shimmery they are.

Bolivian Ram Size

Most Bolivian ram fish are around 3 inches long. Males can be a bit larger at up to 3.5 inches while females can be as small as 2 to 2.5 inches.

Bolivian Ram Temperament

Bolivian Ram Temperament
Micro Aquatic Shop

Some cichlids are known for showing aggressive behaviors, but that’s not the case for Bolivian rams. These cichlids are peaceful fish that are more likely to get picked on than look for a fight. The only time they might act aggressive is when they’re breeding.

One unique habit these fish display is their swimming behavior. They usually stay near the middle or bottom of the tank. They move a few strokes at a time before stopping suddenly. That action occurs over and over again, and it’s most common when they’re feeding.

As they swim, they often search for food in the substrate. However, they try to disturb the bottom of the tank as little as possible as they sift through the material.

Bolivian Ram Tank Mates

Since Bolivian ram cichlids are easy-going fish, it’s common for them to get picked on by more dominant fish.

So, if you’re planning to keep them with other species, make sure those fish are around the same size and have a similar personality. They also need to have similar water parameter requirements.

Here are a few species you can keep with an adult Bolivian ram group:

If you’re planning to keep a lot of fish in one tank, make sure you consider the aquarium size. The more fish you have, the more space they’ll need, even if they’re tiny fish. So, when in doubt, buy a size up.

Bolivian rams do best with six to eight other Bolivian rams. So, you don’t have to include any other species if you don’t want to.

Bolivian Ram Care Requirements

Bolivian ram care requirements

Bolivian rams don’t require too much maintenance, but like all fish, they have specific care. Here are some tips for helping these fish thrive in their new environment.


These fish are omnivores that aren’t picky, so they’ll eat just about anything you give them. In the wild, they seek out plants and seeds, especially plant material and organisms found in the body of water’s floor. They may also seek out insects on the water’s surface, but it’s less common.

So, in captivity, these fish should have a balanced diet with a variety of foods. Flakes and pellets are great, but you should also throw in some frozen treats, such as brine shrimp and bloodworms. Chopped earthworms can also make a healthy snack for these fish.

Since these fish prefer to feed at the bottom of the tank, food that sinks will be more beneficial than floating flakes.

Bolivian rams need to eat frequently, so small portions several times a day should satisfy their needs. Small pinches throughout the day can help keep the water quality ideal since large, less frequent portions could lead to a cloudy tank.

Aquarium Set-up

30 gallons is the minimum tank size for these fish because they need plenty of room to swim around and explore. If you’re able to provide an even larger tank, your fish will appreciate it.

Also, consider how many fish you want to keep in one tank because that may require you to increase the size even further. Overcrowding can increase the risk of stress and disease for your fish.

Bolivian rams need a substrate on the bottom of the tank since that’s where they spend most of their time. A sandy floor works well for most fish, but feel free to add some pebbles into the mix if you want a different look. With the right substrate, you can also add live plants to make your aquarium healthier and more appealing.

You’ll also need to provide places for your fish to rest and hide. If possible, include natural items like rocks and wood. Artificial decorations can work well, but make sure they don’t have any sharp edges before you put them in the tank.

The decorations in your tank should provide cave-like hiding places for the fish. Organize them in a way that still gives your fish plenty of open spaces to swim in. Hides are great for keeping fish content, but the amount of decorations shouldn’t crowd the space.

As you observe your fish, you may gain a better understanding of what they like and dislike. Adjust your aquarium to those preferences as needed.

Water Parameters

This species is hardy, so their water parameter range is larger than some other breeds. Here’s what the conditions of the water should be at all times:

  • Temperature: 72 to 79 degrees Fahrenheit
  • pH: 6.0 to 7.5 (6.5 is ideal)
  • Hardness: 6 to 14 dGH (10 is ideal)

If your tank doesn’t meet these requirements, your fish could face health concerns. Keep the Bolivian ram pH and hardness as close to 6.5 and 10 as possible for best results.

Use an aquarium test kits regularly to make sure the water is ideal for your fish. You’ll also need to change a portion of the water on a regular basis to keep is clean.

Bolivian Ram Health Concerns

Like all fish breeds, Bolivian rams are susceptible to a variety of diseases and infections. However, these fish are at a higher risk of ich, which is often caused by stress and poor water conditions.

Ich is a parasitic disease that creates white spots on a fish’s body. It’s highly contagious and will keep getting worse until it’s treated. If you ignore it, your infected fish will eventually die.

A common way to treat ich is to increase the water temperature of the infected fish to about 86 degrees Fahrenheit. Since Bolivian rams are more tolerant of warm water than other species, it’s usually effective. Copper-based remedies are also available.

Always quarantine sick fish from other fish in the tank to reduce the spread of contagious diseases. Whenever you introduce new items into the tank, rinse them off to ensure that you don’t introduce new unhealthy bacteria.

If you’re ever unsure how to address your fish’s unusual symptoms and behaviors, reach out to your vet. It’s a good idea to know of a vet that handles aquatic creatures before your fish get sick. Save the vet’s number in your phone in case of an emergency.

Bolivian Ram Breeding Tips

In the wild, these fish breed naturally all the time. A group of wild fish can quickly produce 100 eggs, but in captivity, they’re a little more selective.

Not all pairs will mate with each other, so choose two fish that you know get along well. You can keep them in the normal tank, but the process is easier if you set up a breeding tank. Otherwise, the breeding fish may become aggressive, and other fish may try to eat the fry when they hatch.

Their breeding tank should have just as much space as their regular tank, if not more. They should have lots of hiding spaces to lay eggs in. The water temperature should also be a bit higher than normal. Between 77 and 82 degrees Fahrenheit is suitable.

When the fish are ready to breed, the female will find a safe place to lay the eggs. Then, the male will follow and fertilize the eggs externally. Both fish will guard that area, even if no other fish are present in the tank.

The eggs will take about 2 to 3 days to hatch. Even after the baby fish hatch, the parents will still be protective over them. They may try to hide the fry in different areas of the tank or transport them in their mouths.

The fry can eat baby brine shrimp. Then, at about two months old, you can start treating them like adult Bolivian rams. You can feed them regular fish food and transition them into the regular tank.

Breeding these fish sounds like a complicated process, but it’s a lot easier to manage than other species. If you don’t have the time and resources to create an ideal breeding environment, it’s best not to purposely breed your fish.

Frequently Asked Questions

Even the most docile fish have lots of care requirements. So, here are a few questions and answers to help you decide if this is the right species for you.

What’s the Difference Between Bolivian Rams and German Rams?

German rams might look similar to Bolivian rams, but they are higher maintenance and don’t tolerate cold water as well. German rams are also smaller, more vibrant, and harder to breed. So, they have different care requirements and shouldn’t be kept together.

What is the Best Substrate for Bolivian Rams?

Bolivian rams need substrate at the bottom of the tank because they like to stay down there to search for food. Sand is the most popular option because it allows them to search the bottom without messing up the material too much. Yet, gravel or aquatic plant soil will also do the job.

Can Bolivian Rams Live with Angelfish?

Yes, angelfish can live with Bolivian rams. It’s not one of the most common pairings, but both species should leave each other alone as long as they have plenty of things to explore in the tank.

Are Bolivian Rams Right for You?

Most beginners can handle Bolivian rams, but like all fish, they require lots of patience when it comes to setting up the environment and providing care. So, make sure you’re ready to commit to a fish, and make sure you know as much about the species as possible before buying some.

Bolivian rams can make wonderful pets due to their docile personalities and unique swimming habits. If you think you’re prepared to care for these shimmery fish, start gathering supplies for your tank.

Jason Roberts
About Jason Roberts
Jason is an aquarium fanatic that has been a fish hobbyist for almost three decades.