Ron Goodrich, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Bolivian Ram Fish, whose scientific name is Mikrogeophagus altispinosus, is a freshwater fish that belongs to the family of cichlids. This species is also referred to as Bolivian Ram Cichlid or Bolivian Butterfly. The name butterfly is a result of its beauty and colorful nature. They are peaceful and easy-going, making them more appealing to most aquarists. They are pretty shy, and if you put them in a community tank, they will not bother with the other fish in the tank, which is one advantage of them. Besides the colorful look, they also display some exciting behaviors while swimming. In your tank, the Bolivian Rams will stand out due to their colors, such as red, yellow, and silvery blue.

This fish originates from parts of the Amazon River Basin in Bolivia, just as the name suggests. They prefer living in freshwater throughout Brazil. They are easy to take care of, making them the ideal choice for beginners. However, that does not mean that you can get into keeping this fish without proper knowledge and information about how to take care of them. Doing that will be very wrong and might be costly in the long run. You might bring up unhealthy fish which might not live long enough as expected. This article seeks to give you an extensive guide on all you need to know and do in the process of keeping the Bolivian Ram Fish as a pet.


Scientific NameMikrogeophagusaltispinosus
Size3.5 inches
ColorColorful, i.e., Silvery blue, yellow, and red
Tank size30 gallons
Temperature73.4 to 82.4 degrees F
LifespanUp to 4 years
Freshwater or saltwaterFreshwater
Care level Beginner


The Bolivian Rams Fish can either live in groups, pairs, or alone and thrive like any other fish. However, the ideal choice is to keep them in a group despite the fact that they will at times engage in small fights and conflicts. You can only keep them alone when they are too aggressive towards the other tank mates, and this normally does this by cornering one or taking their food. The males are more aggressive compared to the females, and you are likely to find them in fights which are normal as they try to dominate the whole territory over the other. They are seen retrieving their defeat to the female, but generally, they are peaceful species.

This species should be kept in groups of at least six since this it is also important inbreeding. Being peaceful species, you should choose non-aggressive tank companions that live in soft water and are bottom dwellers. The tank mates should also be of the same size as the Bolivian Ram Fish. By considering every factor, the most suitable tankmates include the following;

  • Platy
  • Dwarf Gourami
  • Neon Tetra
  • Tiger barb
  • Minnow
  • Silver dollar
  • Rummy nose tetra
  • Guppy
  • Dwarf Rainfall fish
  • Emperor Tetra
  • Baboo shrimp
  • Ghost Shrimp
  • Bamboo shrimp

There are some species that should never be kept in the same tank as the Bolivia Ram Fish for various reasons. Some are aggressive and will end up bullying them, while others are larger in size. Some are too small, and they will be mistaken for food by the Bolivian Ram Fish, such as Red Cherry shrimp.


Corpse89, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Bolivian Ram Fish is a small dwarf cichlid that has an oval body with a short but strong look. They have some large colorful fins. The males contain the largest dorsal fin, and they are generally larger in size compared to females. The maximum weight of a male is 5.5 cm in length while they are in the tank. In the wild, they can outgrow that size up to an average of 7.5 to 8 cm. It is due to their interesting and appealing colors that most of the aquarists prefer to keep this species.

This species has bright red eyes with a black band running through them. They have a yellow body which is covered by bright blue spots, some contrasting black markings, and some gold flashes. They have an interesting and amazing pattern and markings that are clearly visible, more so when you have a breeding pair. The color of the pelvic fins is normally red and blue. By look, you might assume that this fish is a bully and will be aggressive towards the tankmates, but that is not the case. This is an assumption that can easily be made by its look, but it is a peaceful fish that does not bother other fish.


There are some noticeable differences between the male and female Bolivian Ram Fish. The males have more vibrant colors compared to the females, who have dull colors. The males also have more pointed dorsal fins compared to their female counterparts. On matters to do with size, the females are generally smaller compared to the males.


The lifespan is mainly determined by how well you are going to take care of your pet. Factors such as the tank environment, diet, and water parameters are major determinants of your pet’s lifespan. Under proper care, the maximum lifespan of the Bolivian Ram Fish is four years. To help your fish to attain the maximum lifespan possible, you need to have a proper and well-planned habitat and provide optimal conditions such as water. The environment should also be stress-free, and your fish will live a long and happy life.


The Bolivian Ram Fish originate from South American countries such as Bolivia and Brazil. They name Bolivian was given due to the fact that the first-ever cataloged specimen was collected from a shallow pond in Bolivia. They are mainly found along the Amazon River basin and the Guapore River basin. They prefer dwelling in river tributaries, lakes that have sandy and muddy bottoms, and backwaters. The ideal habitat should have shallow and slow-moving waters with a lot of snags and luxuriant vegetation.

Their natural habitats also have numerous roots ad branches so as to offer them a lot of hiding spots. They mainly reside in the mid-level and the bottom area of the slow-moving waters.


Generally, the Bolivian Ram Fish are peaceful, and they only show some aggressiveness during the breeding season. This aggression is only shown to the fish that get close to their breeding area. This is an act of protecting their breeding territory. During the other times, this species will live harmoniously with the other fish in the tank. This species spends the whole day swimming around the open spaces as well as exploring the hiding spots. They also spend their time looking for food through the substrate since they are bottom dwellers.

This species does not like disturbing the substrate too much as they look for food; all they do is swim in short bursts. They will be darting through the water, stop and then dart again. This gives them a chance to pick up some substrate for sifting. This is fun to watch.


There are some of the conditions that the tank you provide for the Bolivian Ram Fish should have. Below are some of the requirements;


It is advisable to always keep this species in groups, and it is for this reason that you need to provide a medium-size tank of at least 30 gallons for them despite their small individual size. This will give them enough space to swim without feeling overcrowded. Any other additional Bolivian Ram Fish that you add, you should also add an extra space of between 5 to 10 gallons. Always remember that a spacious tank will also prevent aggression between fish since they have enough space to hide and swim freely without encroaching the territory of the other.


As stated earlier, the Bolivian Ram Fish lives in slow-moving water while they are in the wild. This, therefore, means that you need to provide a filter in your tank so as to maintain a perfect balance between filtration and the water flow. The ideal filter that can perform this is the hang-on.


The Bolivian Ram Fish are bottom dwellers, and they spend most of their time at the bottom in search of food; therefore, it means you will need to provide a soft substrate with a soft and non-sharp texture. This is because a rough one might get the fish injured, which may affect their general health in the long run. The ideal choice for substate is the fine sand with a few pebbles here and there. Also, ensure that the size of pebbles that you provide is not too small because these fish might ingest them.


In the natural habitat, they are heavily shaded with dense vegetation, and therefore, you need to reciprocate this in captivity. It is therefore advisable to maintain a subdued lighting system in the tank.


Plants are very crucial in the lives of the Bolivian Ram Fish. They play the role of providing them with food, and they also provide the needed shade in the aquarium. They also helps in providing the hiding spots for this species. These fish prefer slightly acidic water, and this, therefore, means that you need to make sure that the plant you choose for the aquarium has the capacity to survive under acidic water. Some of the ideal choices of plants that you should consider adding to your tank include;

  • Java fern
  • Anubias Nana
  • Java Moss
  • Water Wisteria
  • Vallisneria
  • Amazon Sword Plant

There is a need to provide the fish with more hiding spots, and that is why you need some decorations such as caves, rocks, branches, and driftwoods. Also, as you add some decorations, ensure that you do not block their swimming space. These ornaments should also not have any sharp edges since they will pose a danger to the fish. When proving the pipes as ornaments and caves, ensure that their openings are large enough for the fish to slip in and out with no difficulty.

     Also, the driftwoods are very important to the aquarium since they help in lowering the PH   levels and bringing a tea-stained color in the tank water, which the Bolivian Ram Fish loves.


The size of the tank plays a huge role in matters cleaning. For instance, if you have a small tank, it will be very difficult to clean and also it will need regular cleaning more than the large one. Before putting any equipment or decoration in the tank, they should be cleaned first by putting them under running tap water. You can also vacuum the substrate so as to completely do away with the waste products. Also, you need to clear all the viewing panes of the algae, and the walls of the tank should be thoroughly cleaned using a piece of cloth and warm water. Remember, a fish tank should never be cleaned using any chemical or soap-based products since they might remain stained in the tank and, in the long run, hurt the fish.

The tank and all the decoration and substrate should be cleaned every month. Also, before bringing in a new fish in the tank, you should ensure that you quarantine them for a few days so as to ensure they do not carry any disease into the tank. Even the equipment needs to be quarantined before being put in the tank because they might be carrying some toxic substances that might be a threat to the Bolivian Ram Fish’s well-being.


Water is very crucial to the general well-being of the fish. If you provide contaminated water in the tank, this will definitely be going to have devastating effects on the health of your Bolivia Ram Fish. You can choose to use tap water that does not contain some components such as chlorine and iron. Below are some of the parameters that the tank water should adhere to;


The average water temperatures should always be between 74 to 78 degrees F.  In order to keep monitoring the temperatures, and you need to submerge a thermometer in the tank. This will help you know when the temperatures drop, and you need to heat it to be within the range.


On average, the water hardness in the tank should range between 6 to 14 DGH. We said earlier that the water should be slightly acidic, and therefore the PH level should be between 6.0 to 7.4. To monitor the ph. Level, you can be using the litmus paper from time to time.


The Bolivian Rams are very sensitive to the level of minerals in the water, and therefore you should ensure that the water has low levels of nitrates.


Just as we have stated, the level of nitrates needs to be as low as possible, and this can easily be achieved by performing regular water changes in the tank. All you are required to do is develop a schedule of the interval you are going to use to replace the water, whether weekly, after 14 days, or on a monthly basis. Whichever you settle for, you need to be consistent throughout. The water quantity you are going to change depends on the interval you are going to choose. Below is the percentage you are supposed to change depending on the interval you choose;

  • Weekly after seven days, change 10 percent of water.
  • Fortnightly after every 14 days, change 25 percent of water
  • Monthly after every 30 days, change 50 percent of water

The tank water should never be replaced in its entirety since this will kill the beneficial bacteria. This should only be done if the water is heavily contaminated and may be carrying some toxic components. The changing of water in its entirety also tampers with the ecological balance of the tank. The new water that you are introducing in the tank should always meet all the conditions as stated in the guide, from temperatures, ph. and hardness.


The Bolivian Ram Fish are omnivores in nature, and they do not picky like some of the fish species. They will feed on almost everything that will be made available, be it meat-based or plant-based. In their natural habitat, the Bolivian Ram Fish is a bottom feeder that feeds by filtering the water that they swim through for food. Being bottom feeders, they will move around any bottom of the tank when feeding. They will, in some instances, come to the surface in search of food, but it is advisable to go for foods that will sink since they are mainly found there.

One of the best choices for food includes the pellets since they sink in the tank where the Bolivian Rams mainly dwell. Frozen food such as white worms, bloodworms, bring shrimp can also make a good choice for food. You can also choose to chop some earthworms and feed them to tour fish. If you choose to feed your fish some live foods, you need to be careful and ensure they do not have any parasites and diseases that might end up infecting your fish.

 It is important to diversify the diet of your Bolivian Ram Fish so as to make sure they get all the necessary nutrients. To keep the healthy, you need to switch between frozen food, live foods pellets, and flakes. You should be careful to avoid overfeeding your fish, and therefore the recommended amount should be 2 to 5 pinches of food per day. This species is known for its big appetite, and therefore you need to restrict what you feed them. Below are some of the ideal foods that the diet of a Bolivian Ram Fish should consist of;

  • Tubifex
  • Chopped earthworms
  • Blanched vegetables
  • Frozen or live Bloodworms
  • Frozen or live White worms
  • Daphnia
  • Cyclopeeze
  • Frozen or live brine shrimps

You can also feed them on some artificial food such as Hikari Tropical Pellet Fish Food.


The Bolivian Ram Fish become sexually active after attaining the age of 9 to 10 months. The best way to encourage this species to breed is by purchasing an average of 8 to 10 young Ram Cichlids at once and letting them pair naturally as they grow. Once you have identified a mating pair, you can start to condition them for breeding.

 It is advisable that you move the spawning pair into a different breeding tank so that the fries can be safe and also avoid fights with other fish. The males can be identified by their large size and brighter colors, while the females are smaller and duller. This species can begin to breed on their own if you continuously keep the tank clean under the right conditions and have enough space.

 This species will always go for a rocky area of a dip in the sediment to lay their eggs. A female can lay an average of 100 to 200 eggs once by making multiple passes over the nest. The male will switch between guarding the nest while the female lays eggs and fertilizing these eggs as the female rests and watches. Normally the Bolivian Ram Fish will eat the first Banach of their eggs instead of letting them hatch, and therefore if you notice this happen, do not be worried. In the second or their third spawning, they will stop eating the eggs.

 The eggs take 0 hours after they have been fertilized to hatch, and at this point, both the male and female will combine the efforts and move the young ones to another safe place within the tank. They will take the fries in their mouth and carry them across the tank. The fries do not take long before they can swim on their own, and this takes about seven days, and still, at this point, the parents will be looking after them. You need to be very careful about the surrounding environment of this fish during the breeding period as well as the environment of other fish.

Bolivian Ram Fish are generally protective parents and will attack any fish that comes close to their eggs, even their own fries from the previous spawning. This species can also be eaten by other fish or get sucked by the filter. The number of fries that are hatched in one spawning can also be another challenge since they lay about 100 to 200 eggs. This can lead to overcrowding in the tank, and therefore you need to have extra space to keep the newly hatched fries. You also need enough food to feed them.


The Bolivian Ram Fish are prone to various diseases, more so when they are bullied or stressed. They can also get some diseases as a result of the poor environment that they are living in. Some of the common diseases include;

  • Ich
  • Parasitic infections
  • Bacterial infections
  • Fungal infections

Most of these diseases and infections can be treated if they are responded to fats before it gets out of hand. It is important that whenever you notice that your fish is not okay or has started showing signs of sickness, you consult a vet. Before buying the fish from a local pet store, you also need to give them time to observe for any signs of illness. First, quarantine them in a separate tank to avoid infecting the other fish with any disease they might be having.

If you notice some reduced activity in your fish or lack of appetite, it is advisable that you give the time as you monitor them before bagging them and end up subjecting them to more stress. The captive-bred Species are hardier and are likely to travel better and quickly adapt to a new environment.

To completely avoid most of these diseases, you can do so by giving the right nutrition to your Bolivian Ram Fish and also ensuring that the tank water is always changed and the tank is clean on a regular basis.


Are the Bolivian Ram Fish freshwater fish?

Yes, they are freshwater fish that originates from South America. They prefer inhabiting is shallow waters with slow-moving water.

Are Bolivian Ram Fish schooling fish?

Bolivian Rams Fish are not schooling fish, but they prefer living in a group rather than alone. However, when they are living in groups, you need to ensure that you provide a large enough tank so that they have enough space to swim. Also, remember that when they are overcrowded in a tank, there will be constant fights as they try to protect their space.

Can I keep one Bolivian Ram Fish in the tank?

 Yes, you can. However, it is advisable to keep them in groups or pairs unless they are extremely aggressive towards others.

How do I induce breeding in my Bolivian Ram Fish?

The first step to inducing this species is by putting them in pairs over time. Then you can raise the water temperature in the tank to approximately 82 degrees F and ensure that you keep the water pristine and soft. The major challenge to breeding this species is getting the water parameters right.

How often should I feed my Bolivian Ram Fish?

When they are still growing before reaching maturity, they need more food, and therefore, you can feed them twice a day. Ensure the food is light, and to restricted quantity, they are eating you should keep the time to under 3 minutes. Once your fish has grown to maturity, you can reduce the amount of food you feed them to once a day.


The Bolivian Ram Fish can be a bit difficult to take care of, but they make a beautiful fish in the tank. They have very beautiful colors, and their schools can be very eye-catching and interesting to the aquarist and any visitor. They are peaceful fish and shy, but they can get aggressive sometimes, especially when fighting for space. They usually have a massive appetite and will feed on anything, and that is why you need to be in control of the amount you are feeding them to avoid overfeeding.

Generally, they make wonderful community fish and will be one of the most colorful fish you can keep in your home aquarium. If you are interested in this fish, we hope that this guide has given you detailed information about all you need is you keep them as fish, and if you follow all the requirements, you can be assured of a long-living, healthy and lively pet.

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