German Blue Ram Care Guide header

One of the most beautiful little freshwater tropical fish is the German Blue Ram Cichlid, a unique, quirky, extremely social little fish. They’re beautiful and interesting and fun to watch, and they make for great pets, if you know what you’re doing.

And you’ve probably got questions like, “How big do German blue rams get?” “What are some good electric blue ram tank mates?” and “Are German blue ram community tank fish?” Read below and you’ll find the answers to nearly everything you could ask about these fish.

German Blue Ram

Quick Intro to German Blue Ram Cichlids

Scientific NameMikrogeophagus ramirezi, Papiliochromis ramerzii, Apistogramma Ramerzii
Other NamesGerman Blue, German Blue Ram (GBR), Ram, Butterfly Cichlid, Dwarf Ram cichlid, Dwarf Cichlid, Ramirezi Cichlid, German Balloon Ram
Care LevelAdvanced to expert

Natural Habitat, Identification, and Where to Buy

Despite the ram cichlid freshwater fish’s common name of “German” blue ram, this cichlid is native to the Orinoco River basin in the South America, both in Venezuela and Colombia, not the European country. The region “Los llanos” means flat plains in Spanish, which describes the area well.

The weather and water are warm year-round here, the water is soft, and the pH is around 5. The water where these little guys live is also naturally slow-moving, so they’re not looking for any high-water flow tanks.

If you’re trying to identify a blue ram, you can tell by a few things. First, they get no larger than about 3-inches in length and usually are shorter than this by a little bit. The males are very brightly colored with yellow-green bodies and blue dots along the dorsal, caudal, and anal fins.

They also have seven faint interrupted dark, vertical stripes on their flanks and an intensely bright stripe that runs vertically down across the head through the eye.

You should note, though, that aquarium-bred rams have less intense coloring than wild-caught.

Once you’re ready to buy some German blue rams, you’ll find them for sale at a number of sites, including these three:

Optimal Water Conditions for German Blue Ram Cichlids

Temperature72 to 79-degrees Fahrenheit
Water Flow RateSlow-flowing water
HardnessKH 5-12

Tank Setup

Minimum Tank Size30+ gallons
Optimal Tank Size35+ gallons
Optimal Tank ShapeLong rectangular, for loads of swimming space
Recommended Filter Typeheavy filtration required, canister combined with HOB would be best, with all three types of filtration in place – chemical, biological, and mechanical
Extra Air Flow and How to ProvideGerman blue ram cichlids don’t like a lot of water flow, so use baffles around air filters and pumps, but do provide low-flow air stones to keep enough oxygen flowing in the tank.

These fish are very sensitive to the water parameters in which they live, which is a large part of why they are considered expert level fish. If you know how to manage parameters extremely well you can care for them safely, though, even if you’re an intermediate fish keeper.

German Blue Ram Electric Blue

Creating the Landscape

When you’re ready to turn your current, well-established fish tank into a Ram cichlid tank, you’ll need to verify that everything is ready for blue ram cichlid compatibility. That means having a mix of sand and gravel for your substrate and providing some large rocks and treated driftwood for hiding spots.

You also need to provide your ram cichlid with the proper plant coverage while leaving loads of space for swimming. These guys are small, but they need loads of room, which is why the german blue ram size for the tank is so large in comparison to other small freshwater fish.

They also do best with a combination of floating and rooted plants.

Best PlantsJava fern, Amazon sword, Wisteria
Best LightingModerate
Best DecorationsSand and gravel substrate, treated driftwood, large rocks – generally, loads of cover
Decorations to AvoidAnything with sharp corners or edges

Physiological Considerations

Maximum Blue Ram Cichlid Size3 – inches
Rate of Growth4-6 months
German Blue Ram Lifespan2-3 years
Preferred Tank RegionAny
Gill ConsiderationsBlue rams do not have any specific gill considerations to keep in mind, though they should be kept an eye on to guarantee the fish’s health. If you notice any discoloration, immediately consult a veterinarian who understands blue ram cichlid care.
Swimbladder ConsiderationsLike any fish with a swim bladder, they are prone to swim bladder conditions. If you see any odd swimming behaviors or bloated belly, your fish likely has a distended swim bladder and could be in severe danger. Consult a vet immediately and take swim bladder care precautions.


Except during spawning season, blue rams are a peaceful species of fish. They should be kept in pairs – with the base 30 gallons to start and 10 more gallons per pair after that – and should be kept in a peaceful fish tank with other non-aggressive fish.

One fun thing about Blue rams is that they have been known to school with other non-aggressive fish. This means that they are social fish that make for a great community tank fish. In fact, there are quite the number of German blue ram tank mates that are easy to pair the fish with. Some of the best ram cichlid tank mates include:

Generally speaking, German Blue Ram Cichlids do best with non-assertive – read non-aggressive – fish species and other tankmates. Just don’t pair them with shrimp, as these guys will think the shrimp are a tasty snack instead of a friend.

And definitely do not pair blue rams with barb species and other aggressive fish, even if they’re similar in size. They also should not be housed with smaller fish, as they are likely to also think them tempting treats instead of friends – especially other mild-mannered dwarf cichlids.

These fish do become stressed somewhat easily, so it’s very important to provide them with plenty of hiding places for the sake of privacy. This means they really do need loads of plants, caves, driftwood, clay pots, decoration items, et cetera.

It should also be noted that they are peaceful fish, but males will become aggressive during mating season as they protect their eggs.

Another thing to note is that German Blue Ram Cichlids are often considered a difficult fish to keep, but much of the time this isn’t simply about the water conditions, but about the fish they are stocked with. Housing them only with appropriate tankmates is critical for this reason.

Gender, Breeding, and Reproductive Considerations

If you think you’d like to consider German Blue Ram breeding, they’re one of the easier options, actually. But you will need to be able to identify mating pairs. Thankfully, males are reasonably easy to tell apart from females.

The male German Blue Ram can reach up to 3-inches in length, but the female will typically remain smaller. The male is also a bit stockier and more vividly colored than his female partner. Females also have more pink pigmentation on their ventral regions. The fin rays of the dorsal fins on females are less developed as well, and the back of the dorsal and anal fins are pointier in males. Males have a V-shaped tail fin and elongated second ray that’s present on the dorsal fin.

German blue rams form monogamous pairs that are both engaged in brood care once they’ve mated, spawned, and created their little eggs. So, it’s best to purchase juvenile pairs and let them grow up together so that they more easily form this bond once they reach sexual maturity in a few months.

They will naturally form their own pairs if you have a few males and females in the same tank as they mature.

Once you’ve readied a breeding tank and are ready to get that breeding going, you can coax your rams into breeding by providing them with softer water that you gradually increase the water temperature on. Gently ease it up from their usual temperature up to about 82-degrees Fahrenheit. You should also make sure that the pH range for breeding time is 5.5 to 6.5 for the best results.

Use a timer for your aquarium lights to help simulate consistent day and night patterns, as well, since erratic times can confuse the fish and prevent them from engaging in normal breeding behavior.

When you set up your breeding tank, be sure to include some flat stones over some gravel and sand substrate. Not all the pairs will care, but some prefer digging small pits into the substrate for their breeding sites, while others will use a combination of the stones and gravel to create their ideal nests.

If you have more than one pair in your breeding tank, take special care to provide extra shelter spots for the fish, as the males are extra aggressive during this time.

When it is time for breeding, you’ll notice the red patch on the female’s belly will grow bigger and brighter than normal. This is usually when she will clean the flat stone or dig a pit in the gravel – although, it may be the male that does this for her.

And then you’ll notice a kind of dance take place between the fish. The couple will start to budge each other or twirl a bit and the male will often dart away and back at high speeds or will glide against the side of his mate’s body.

Nutritional Needs

German blue ram food will reflect clearly that they are omnivores. That means they should be given plenty of food that’s both plant-based and animal-based.

That means they should be given plenty of food that’s both plant and animal-based.

When Blue rams are first introduced to a new aquarium, they are likely to lose their appetites and become finicky with their food, so give them a little time. And, if they seem to be on full food-strike, tempt them with their favorite treats, which will get them back into eating again. They will then regulate out properly to a standard feeding schedule.

They especially love live mosquito larvae or frozen insect larvae, brine shrimp, and bloodworms.

But for a balanced, everyday diet, these little guys need a combination of base food – avoid grain based anything, if at all possible, and instead feed them low grain or no-grain prepared cichlid food – and supplements. These supplements include things like larvae, algae wafers, and frozen foods.

You should also be aware the German blues are shy, slow eaters, so you should feed them separately and be patient with them as they eat. If you don’t, they be outcompeted for food and won’t get enough nutrition to stay alive and happy.

If you find your blue rams continue having issues with being picky, trying soaking their pellets in garlic. They’ll gobble them down that way.

Best Sustenance Food TypeLow-grain or no-grain cichlid pellets or wafers
Additional Food for Optimal HealthAlgae wafers, brine shrimp, freeze-dried bloodworms, live insect larvae, frozen insect larvae, tubifex, Daphnia
Special Foods and Considerations for Best Color and GrowthBrine shrimp, freeze-dried bloodworms, Daphnia
When and How Often to Feed Fish Based on Life CycleOnce they are acclimated to their tank, feed them one to two times daily, with small amounts of food. If they seem hungry, increase to twice daily.

Common Diseases and How to Avoid and Treat Them

Blue ram cichlids are especially sensitive to their water quality. When they aren’t as the fish need – especially those nitrate levels – the fish are much more prone to diseases and illnesses. You need to monitor their water parameters frequently – daily when possible – and provide 10% to 20% water changes weekly to help keep the parameters in check.

Beyond this base issue, there are certain conditions blue rams are prone to. Specifically, a common issue known as Ich disease. Ich can be treated with standard methods and medications.

They are also susceptible to fish tuberculosis – known as TB – which can be passed onto humans, and is dangerous for all. Fish TB is caused by a similar bacterium to what causes it in humans, and is a free-swimming bacteria found in freshwater and saltwater environments.

If you notice your blue ram becoming thinner, developing ulcers on its head or body, popping eyes, gray/white nodules, or dropsy, immediately seek medical care for your fish. And do not come in direct contact with the water yourself, or you may be exposed to the TB.

Fish TB can only be treated with specific antibiotics prescribed by your vet. And the whole environment will have to sterilized and plants and all substrate will need to be replaced.

  • Best Antibiotics: Those prescribed by your vet for Ich, fish TB, or other conditions your fish may contract
  • Treatments to Avoid: Nothing of note
  • Food Recommendations When Sick: Up the protein, reduce all grains to non-existent
  • Hospital Tank or Isolation Within the Community Tank Specifics: Isolation tanks are a must, especially if your fish contracts fish TB. Remove carefully and place in isolation/hospital tanks and sterilize the main tank and environmental items, change out plants and substrate, and re-cycle the tank to conditions your blue ram needs for survival.

3 More Things to Know About German Blue Ram Cichlids

  1. German blue ram care can be tricky, thanks to their susceptibility to both water parameter issues and a terrible disease known as fish TB. These are not fish for beginners.
  2. Despite looking rather fierce, these little fish are exceptionally friendly little critters and often will school with other species of fish.
  3. They fish can be very finicky eaters but soaking their food in garlic juice will encourage them to eat again.

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