Water Conditions

Keeping Rams

The German Blue Ram, or more correctly called Blue Ram, is one of the most popular dwarf cichlids available for the home aquarium. Their bright, vibrant colors rival those of many saltwater species. It is these colors, coupled with their fast growth rate, willingness to spawn in even very small tanks, and their unique “personality,” make it easy to see why Rams are one of the most popular aquarium fish. Rams are available in three basic color variants; German Blue, Gold, and Electric Blue. Each of these colors also has a Long-Fin genetic variant, and there also may be some other hybrid crosses available.

Background and Water Conditions

Rams are dwarf cichlids, with the adult males rarely exceeding 3 inches in length, and the females are about 1/3 smaller (about 2.25 inches). Rams originated in the Orinoco River basin, in the northwest portion of South America. In their native habitat, the water is very warm (82-86 degrees), and the water is soft and slightly acidic, with a pH value of around 5.0 – 6.5. More often than not, it is these water parameters that keep many aquarists from trying to keep and breed rams. It is important to remember that the majority of published information regarding the preferred water parameters of Rams, refers to Rams in their native environment. Personally, we feel that the water parameters where the fish were hatched and raised is far more important than trying to maintain some “ideal” water parameters discussed on an internet post. Most of the on-line sources state that the pH should be slightly acidic, between 5.0 & 6.5. Remember, this is the pH of the water of their native environment, the Orinoco and Amazon River Basin. If you are purchasing “wild caught” rams, then it may be very important to match those parameters. The majority of Rams available here in the US are either raised locally by private breeders, or are farm-raised in Florida. There are also a number of pet stores that import their fish from overseas; the Philippines or Malaysia, (more on this later.) For the overwhelming majority of the Rams available today, it has been countless generations since these fish have seen water parameters similar to the native environment. This is why it is very important to know the water parameters of where the fish were hatched and raised. If you are planning on getting your fish from a pet store, don’t hesitate to ask where their fish come from. If you are planning on buying locally raised fish, it would also help to know what the parameters of the breeder’s water are, and try to match those as closely as possible. Or better yet, try to find a breeder with water parameters similar to yours. If your local water chemistry differs somewhat from the water parameters where the fish were raised, it’s not necessarily a “deal-breaker” as long as the they don’t differ too much. Rams are pretty adaptable. It can be just as detrimental to the health of a fish to take a fish that was hatched and raised in water with a pH of 7.3 and place them in a tank with the “ideal” pH of 5.0, as it is to take a wild-caught Ram and place them in water with a pH of 7.2. Trying to alter your water chemistry can do more harm than good. For the healthiest fish, always try to buy fish that were raised in water conditions that most closely mirror your own, without having to alter your water chemistry.

We are very fortunate to be supplied with Lake Michigan water for our hatchery. The water right out of the tap is very soft, about 140 micro-siemens (7 gh) and has a pH of between 7.2 and 7.6. The water we use for water changes comes right out of the tap, with no chemical additives (except for Prime as a de-chlorinator). We do not use any Reverse Osmosis (R/O) water. Our philosophy is simple; if we can’t breed and raise fish in our local tap water, we won’t breed them. If we have to chemically, or artificially alter the chemistry of our water to get our fish to survive, then when you get them in your tanks, they will never show their full colors, and may only slowly languish and eventually die.

Regardless of the other parameters, just make sure to provide the extra heat (82-86 degrees). If the water temps fall below 78 or so, it will not kill them directly, but they will not thrive. Rams kept at lower temps tend to become more susceptible to diseases, will not be as active and will “sulk” at the bottom of the tank. Often their coloring will become very dark, almost black. They may not eat as well, and will generally waste away, eventually dying several weeks or months later.


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RAMS collection