Having a new cichlid fish tankmate for your aquarium is straightaway an excellent decision for you. Bolivian Rams are elusive fish that will add to the charms of your fish tank as they glide around elegantly.

These freshwater fish have been a popular pet choice for their appealing appearance and amusing behavior.

What’s more, is that they are quite easy to care for. They are not picky eaters, and with a little commitment, even newbies to fish parenting can take care of these sheeny fish.

If you are ready to get a new cichlid pet, pore over this guide to know all you need to know about the Bolivian Rams. 

Species Abstract

Facts about the Species
Scientific Name Mikrogeophagus altispinosus
Other Common Names Bolivian Ram Cichlid, Ruby Crown Cichlid, Bolivian Butterfly
Family Cichlidae
Origin Amazon Basins of Brazil and Bolivia
Lifespan 4 to 6 years
Size 3 to 4 inches
Type Freshwater fish

Natural habitat and habits

Bolivian Ram Cichlids naturally inhabit the shallow waters of the Mamoré and Guaporé rivers of the Amazon basin in Brazil and Bolivia. The slow-running water of these brooks provides an ideal environment for these peaceful cichlids.

The bottoms of these rivers are muddy and sandy. The aquatic plant life blooming on these riverbeds is the food for these bottom feeders. They are omnivores and feed upon plants or insects in the river’s base.

Their population in the wild is stable and healthy. They tend to move in swift small paces and then pause abruptly, so they don’t stir up the riverbed. It helps in scouring the bed for food. Though, when it comes to escaping predators, they are swift to swim away.


The Bolivian Rams are exquisite in their appearance. Their oval and elongated bodies have rayed fins to protect themselves from predators. The dorsal, pelvic, and tail fins have different shades of yellow, black, olive, and red toward the edges. Their body is wide at the pelvic region and goes slender at the tail.

Their color tone can vary from pale yellow to dark brown. Often their mood, health and what they eat decide their color. Despite their sober colors, they will be an eye-pleasing presence in your vivarium. The species show simple colors of yellow, silver, olive, and tan. The frontal body is yellowish and fades to olive at the rear. Their body is covered with vertical stripes of different tones. A black vertical stripe is imprinted over the eye. The edges of their dorsal and caudal fins are pink-red. The anal and pelvic fins are dotted and rayed in blue color.

Sexual Dimorphism

Whether a Bolivian Ram is male or female can be identified by its appearance. The caudal and dorsal fins of the males have elongations. Moreover, females appear smaller than males.

Vent Sexing is also a good method to tell them apart. After your cichlids are a few months old, the female will have a thick vent in its pelvis, while the male will have a small and sharp vent.


You can expect a full-grown Bolivian ram to be about 3 inches in size. These fish are geophagus cichlids and the average adult body size ranges from 3 to 6 inches.

Males tend to be longer and can reach the size of 3.5 to 4 inches, whereas a female Bolivian Ram’s size stays small and reaches about 2.5 to 3 inches.


In the wild, Bolivian Rams generally have a lifespan of 3 to 4 years. However, fish that are bred in captivity tend to live less. So, you can only expect your fish to live around 2 years.

Whether your pet fish lives long also depends on the care it gets. Good food and tank conditions will support your fish to live the maximum of its life. Still, they are a short-lived species, so while getting one, prepare for its care and expect it to live a good life of two to three years.

General care

To keep your fish healthy and happy, you need to commit to it with patience and cater to its needs carefully. In this section of the blog, we have written a detailed guide for the care of your pet.

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Food Habits

These fish are omnivores. You can treat them with a variety of foods. Their food must offer macronutrients, vitamins, and other necessary nutrients that keep your fish healthy.

They are bottom feeders and prefer sitting at the bottom of the fish tank. Food that sinks and settles at the bottom is thus preferred.

They prefer meals multiple times a day. However, keep the portions small each time to avoid overfeeding them. This also keeps uneaten food from contaminating the tank water.

Soaking their meals in Garlic Juice is a good habit to boost their immunity and appetite.

The best  food for Bolivian Rams is listed below:

  • Chopped Earthworms
  • Brine shrimps
  • Bloodworms
  • Sludge Worms
  • Larvae
  • Kensfish Flakes and pellets
  • Plant parts

Author’s Advice -If you get a new cichlid, you might see it shying away and not eating much, which is perfectly normal. They just need time to acclimate to the new environment. In a few weeks, your fish will get accustomed to their new home and will start eating properly.


The family of cichlids is notorious for being aggressive and tank bullies. The Bolivian Rams are an exception as they are not aggressive, but serene and peaceful fish. They tend to mix in with other fishes easily.

During breeding time, though, these fish become quite aggressive towards fishes that stray close to their breeding area. This is a behavior common throughout the animal kingdom for the protection of the brood.

They are timid and explore the tank for hiding spots. They move around the tank in quick paces, halt, sift for food, and dash again for a few paces. Their overall behavior is amusing to watch.

Did You Know – The Dwarf Bolivian Ram Cichlids are peace-loving, but some can be quite territorial. They may bully and chase out other fish entering their area.


They are hardy fish. They can adapt to a variety of conditions. With proper ventilation and water conditions, they can live to the longest of their lifespan healthily.

Freshwater parasites likeIchare the biggest concern of every Bolivian Ram fish parent. Moreover, your fish are susceptible to worms.

If your fish starts behaving oddly, like losing appetite, unusual hiding behavior, etc. It is better to call a vet and get them checked. Also, you should always have a separate quarantine tank to isolate any sick fish from the healthy ones.

You can try raising the water temperature to about 30℃ to treat Ich or treat water with copper sulfate or other copper-based medicines. For assistance with your fish’s health care, keep a vet close.

Breeding Guide

The breeding process of Bolivian Rams starts with the selection of a mate. The male displays courtship behavior to attract a female for mating. This behavior includes rapid movement of the head and digging a pit in the bottom of the aquarium.

To help your pets in mating, you can keep three pairs of male and female fish together. They will pair up with each other themselves. Then you can transfer each of the pairs into separate tanks and offer them conditions optimum for mating. The fish get triggered to spawn with a drop in tank temperature.

The female lays scores of eggs in a straight line and the male fertilizes them. The process occurs multiple times. After fertilization, the female takes care of these eggs for two to three days, after which the eggs hatch. The pit that the male dug before mating acts as a spawning area. Hatched eggs are taken to the spawning area where both parents take further care of the young ones.

A peculiar behavior of new parents is noticed, where they might feed on the new eggs. This is nothing to be worried about, and as successive breedings, the behavior goes away.

During the mating period, a healthy diet of pellets and live foods must be given to the parent-to-be pair as breeding requires enormous amounts of nutrients and energy

When it comes to feeding newborns, they can be fed foods like brine shrimp. As they grow old, they will start moving around the aquarium to find food. After two months, you can start feeding packed fish food to the little ones.

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Did You Know – The female lays about 200 to 350 brownish eggs at a time and when they hatch, the parents carry their young ones around in their mouth.

Fish Tank Management

If you are preparing to bring a couple of Ruby Crown Cichlids home, you must do proper preparations beforehand and maintain your efforts in taking care of your fish. This portion of the blog has all you need to know about the management of the vivarium tank for your pet. 

Aquarium Specifications
Size 20 to 30 gallons/ 80 to 138 liters
Preferred Temperature 22℃ – 26℃
pH range 6.0 to 7.5
Hardness 6 to 14 dGH

Water Parameter

Keeping the water conditions suitable is a necessity for the good health of your fish. This includes maintaining the pH, hardness, and temperature of the water ideal for Bolivian Rams. The optimal conditions are

  • pH Range – 6.0 to 7.5
  • Temperature – 22℃ – 26℃
  • Hardness – 6 – 14 dGH


The best environment for your fish is one that mimics its natural habitat. The Amazon River Basin has a muddy and sandy river bed, thus a sandy substrate with small to medium-sized pebbles is suitable for them. They like to sift through the bottom for food without stirring it too much, thus a very light substrate might not be of their liking.

Aquarium Greenery

The natural abode of this fishhas a lot of underwater vegetation. These plants act as hiding spots for fish. Aquatic greens like Java Ferns, Water Wisteria, African Water Ferns, Amazon Sword, etc. are all suitable for the artificial abode for them. Along with the plants, other hiding spots like caves offer safe locations for the fish to lay eggs.

Oxygen Supply

Proper oxygen flows into the tank and filtration of the tank water needs to be taken care of, for offering healthy living conditions to your fish and avoiding any health issues and stress. Oxygen is as important for fish as it is for us humans. They need a proper oxygen supply to carry out various life activities. 

Fishes can not take up oxygen directly from the atmosphere or the air above the water level of the aquarium. What they depend upon is the Dissolved Oxygen in the water. The level of oxygen dissolved depletes based on the crowd of fish and other living organisms in the water tank such as microbes. 

Maintaining the oxygen content of tank water is thus important, so your fishdo not feel suffocated. This can be done using a good air pump to maintain airflow in the aquarium.


A filtration system that maintains the freshness of tank water is also very necessary. The life inside your tank produces a lot of waste including ammonia and organic matter. This matter serves as a substrate for bacterial growth, which leads to the production of nitrates. 

High nitrate levels are toxic for Bolivian Rams. Thus, a filtration system that maintains optimal levels of these chemicals is necessary. Moreover, as the fish prefer not to stir up the substrate, the water flow in the tank should be rapid but subtle. 


They prefer shade over a bright light. In their natural habitat, the tall trees around the rivers of the Amazon Basin prevent bright sunlight from reaching the riverbeds. Thus, they will prefer conditions with low illumination.

Installing a dim lamp in the pool will provide optimum lighting for these fish. You can still install a bright light source if ample shade is available in the tank.

Tank Mates

They are very calm fish. They can adapt to other fishes in a tank. Bolivian Rams can also live comfortably in community tanks if the tank is less crowded and spacious.

You can put just a school of Bolivian Butterfly Rams in your tank or pair them up with a few other fish species.

What’s important is that the living conditions of all the species living in a tank are similar, or it might cause discomfort to one or the other species. 

Some of the tank mates for them are-

  • Other Cichlids
  • Rummy Nose Tetras
  • Kuhli Loaches
  • Cherry Barbs
  • Cory Catfish
  • Dwarf Gourami
  • Silver Dollar Fish
  • Platyfish
  • mperor Tetra
  • Ghost Shrimps
  • Bamboo shrimps 
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Fact– Often, you can catch your fish lip-locking. This is a behavior to show dominance. Among the two fish that lock lips, the first one to let go loses and swims away defeated. 

Price and Availability

Fish shops put Bolivian Rams as babies or adults for sale. You can get one starting from $19.95. The fish you buy are captive-bred. Getting hands-on wild ones is hard and they cost more.

Instead of buying a single one, you should get at least a pair of them. Even though they don’t swim in schools, they prefer company. You can buy pairs of males and females, though differentiating between them when they are young is hard.

Before you bring them home, ensure they are healthy. You should check if they are eating properly, are active, and do not show any signs of disease. Before adding them to your tank. Acclimatize them in a separate tank. 

Fun Fact – When the Bolivian Ram fry eats some food, its belly changes colors. Eating live baby brine shrimp will turn their bellies pink, while a bit of dry food will give it a brown tone. 


Which cichlids can I mix Bolivian Rams with?

There are a variety of cichlids that find their way into aquariums of fish keepers. Mixing various cichlids in your community tank might be a good idea only in some cases. 

The Bolivian Rams do not go well with German Blue Rams. Both fishes require different water conditions. The German Blues are less hardy and less tolerant to low temperatures. The German Blue Rams prefer tank mates that are not so energetic. They can get aggressive during mating season putting the two species at odds.

A good choice for cichlid tank mates will be Bolivian Ram and Angelfish if you have a large tank of about 55 gallons.

Why is my fish not eating properly?

Loss of appetite is a symptom of ill health for your Bolivian Ram. There can be a variety of causes for your fish’s sickness. If your fish shows symptoms like unusual isolation, scraping against objects along with loss of appetite, look for white spots on the body of your fish. These symptoms are exclusive of Ich infestation. 

Another thing that you should check is the feces of the fish. If you see any white in the feces, it is a sign of an infestation of internal parasites. Rams are quite prone to parasitic infections. 

There are various meds available for the treatment of your sick fish. Prazipro is a very popular medication used to prevent and treat parasite infections in fish. 

How many Bolivian Rams should I keep in a 40-gallon tank?

Every fish enjoys spacious accommodation. For a 40-gallon tank, not more than 8 Bolivian Rams should be kept. Overcrowding a fish tank puts stress on the fish as it can increase competition for food, Dissolved Oxygen, etc. Moreover, they don’t prefer to swim in large schools. They like to explore their habitat in smaller groups or pairs. 

How can I help my Bolivian Rams in their breeding?

They can take care of their breeding cycle themselves. You just need to provide suitable conditions for breeding in the tank. These fish require a safe place to lay eggs and breed the hatchlings. A cave made of pebbles, cave-like decors, and smooth rocks will act as a ground for laying eggs. The male makes a breeding place by digging the bed, so a sandy bottom is appropriate. 

If your fish already have mates, you can offer them isolated environments in separate tanks. This is helpful as these Rams get aggressive during the breeding period. If your fish have not chosen mates. You can keep pairs of males and females together and let them choose their partners. 


The Bolivian Rams can be a very magnificent addition to your aquatic vivarium. They have a very somber but alluring appearance along with remarkable feeding habits. Whether you want an aquarium exclusively of the Bolivian Ram or keep them in a community tank, these fish are calm and mix well with other tank mates. 

No matter what your experience is in fishkeeping, they are easy-maintenance fish. They readily accept most market fish foods and have a simple breeding routine. All of their habits are very comical to watch. With proper commitment and care, these fish are sure to be good companions for your aquarium. Once you get your new cichlid friends, do share your experiences with us in the comments.

About the Author

Shelby Crosby

Shelby is a passionate fishkeeper who has been writing about fish for over 5 years. She is a pro aquarist and holds a BSc Honors Degree in Wildlife and Fisheries. She creates her own beautiful aquarium layouts and loves to share her knowledge of tropical fish with other hobbyists.

Career Highlights:

  • Has worked with several aquarium manufacturers as a consultant
  • Organized and hosted workshops on freshwater fish keeping at retail stores, educational facilities, and libraries
  • Released content for the amphibian community through her writings

Educational Highlights:

  • BSc Honors in Wildlife and Fisheries in 2011 (University of Northern British Columbia)
  • Completed her undergraduate thesis on the effects of zoochlorella supplementation on the growth and health of fish.

Writing Experience

Miss Crosby is a Freelance blogger; many of her articles are posted online on various blogs. She has also written a few short articles for "Tropical Fish Hobbyist Magazine" in the past. She is a regular contributor to FishParenting.com. Her education, first-hand experience with fishkeeping, and in-depth knowledge in aquaculture make her one of the most competent writers in the industry.

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