Rams become sexually mature at approximately 3½ to 4 months of age. While they may not be full grown, they will have much of their adult coloration present, making it relatively easy to accurately sex them. German Blue Rams and Gold Rams are sexually dimorphic, meaning that there are color differences between the males and females making it easier to sex them. Electric Blue Rams present a bigger challenge. There are no color differences between the sexes, and one must use the secondary genetic traits present to try and determine the sexes. Because the secondary traits do not develop until maturity, it may be difficult to accurately sex Electric Blue Rams until they are between 4-5 months of age. One of the most frequently asked questions is how to sex rams. In order to completely answer questions regarding sexing of Rams, we dedicated a page, including photos, on our web site to help you in sexing your fish. Just follow this link to: Sexing Rams
Selecting Your Breeding Pairs
If your intent is to try to spawn and raise Rams, our suggestion would be to obtain a group of Rams and let them select their own mates. The easiest way for us to explain this is by using the blind date analogy. Remember when your mom/dad tried to fix you up with the “prefect blind date?” Even if your slected date had the greatest personality, the chances of success were minimal at best. But put into a large room with a larger number of the opposite sex, chances were pretty good that you could find someone you wouldn’t mind “pairing off with.” The same is true for fish. Picking one male and one female may not yield the best chances for success. For the greatest chance of spawning success, try and obtain a group of 6-8 fish, with equal numbers of males and females, and let them select their own pairs. Not only will the breeding process be speeded up, but the chances of a successful spawn are also greatly increased. If you only have the room for one pair of fish, we would suggest standing in front of the tank at your local pet store, or in front of the breeder’s tank, and watch the fish for a few minutes. As long as there’s more than a few fish in the tank, you can usually find a pair of fish that have already bonded, but may not be able to spawn because of the number of fish in the tank. They will be hanging out together, seemingly defending a small territory (usually the bottom corner of the tank, a glass heater, sponge filter, etc.) and chasing other fish away, but not chasing each other. Unless otherwise requested, we always sell our fish as sexed pairs, and generally use this method to select breeding pairs of Rams for our customers, as it really does help to ensure the possibility of breeding success.
When we are ready to select pairs for spawning, we will use one of several methods.
- Group Method- We use this method when trying to out-cross our lines of fish with fish from another breeder toimprove and strengthen bloodlines of our fish. We will take the four best males from our line, and place them in a 20 gallon long tank with four of the best females (or vice-versa). The tank is set up as a bare-bottom tank, with a sponge filter, heater, and 4-5 spawning slates. When a pair begins to form, it is very obvious. The pair will start hanging out together, hover over a slate, and drive the other fish in the tank away from their slate. Within a few hours, you may see their spawning tubes being extended. Due to the number of fish in the tank, individual aggression never becomes a problem and the rest of the fish realize that they should stay away. Most of the time, we will allow the pair to spawn at least one time before moving them to their own breeding tank. This confirms the bond between the pair and usually ensures that they will continue to spawn. Using this method, it’s not uncommon to have a new pair form up within a matter of hours after being moved into this set-up.
- Selective Method- We use this method when we are trying to “force” a pair of fish to spawn. This is usually when weare trying to fix a genetic trait, such as a specific color, or fin length, etc. Using this method, we will take the selected male and female and place them in the spawning tank. Our spawning tanks are simply 5½ gallon bare-bottom aquariums, set up with a sponge filter, heater, spawning slate, a piece of driftwood, and a bushy plastic (or live) plant. When placed together in this set-up, you will need to monitor the pair very closely. If the pair is not compatible, it usually becomes very clear. The male will sometimes chase and harass the female non-stop. This is one of the reasons for the plant and driftwood in the small tank. If the female has no place to hide, the male may, quite literally, chase her to death. You may also notice that the female just hides in the plant, or hangs out near the surface of the tank. If this persists for more than a day or two, it’s time to try a new pair.
Once we identify a pair using the “Group Method” described above, we will usually move them to this same 5½ gallon set-up. As we explained earlier, by placing an already bonded pair of fish in the spawning tank, the chances of a successful spawning are greatly increased. Once the pair actually spawns, the male usually performs the task of guard duty and will chase the female away. Because of the small size of the aquarium, the female can’t really get far enough away from the male, which is another reason for the plant and driftwood. As long as the female has a place to hide and stay out of the male’s line of sight, she will be fine.
Many times throughout this article, we have mentioned the use of spawning sites. Rams can, and will, spawn on nearly anything in the tank including heaters, silicone air lines, filters, and the silicone in the corners of the aquarium. Virtually anywhere it’s not convenient for you, but easy for them to defend. For the greatest chance of success, we will supply our rams with small pieces of slate (2” x 3”) as spawning sites. We have the best success using pieces that are dark colored. Black, rust, or dark red all work well. We usually place several of these pieces of slate (flat) in the corners of the tank and along the back of the tank. Rams have also been known to dig shallow “pits” in the gravel and lay their eggs in these slight depressions.
Getting Rams to spawn is not the real problem. Getting the Rams to raise their own fry is going to be the biggest problem. For some reason, Rams are notoriously poor parents. Of the hundreds of spawns that we have raised, we have NEVER had a pair of Rams raise their own fry. We know other breeders who have had some success, but never consistently. To learn how to hatch and raise the fry away from the parents, read our article "Hatching and Raising the Fry".