Bolivian Ram – Species Profile & Facts

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If you are into fishkeeping and have developed a passion for cichlids but don’t think you can cope with their aggression, I present the in-between option. Today we will discuss the Bolivian ram, which is among the few peaceful cichlids you can get.

So, let’s get into it!

What is a Bolivian Ram?

The Bolivian ram is a 3.5-inch cichlid that comes with a peaceful temperament, an intricate color pattern, and a hardy and resilient profile. You can recognize the cichlid by its transparent fins and the black stripe crossing over its eyes. Most Bolivian rams are either light brown, silver, or grey mixed with blue tints over different areas.

Most specimens also showcase a yellow belly at times and yellow patches around the pectoral fins.

Bolivian Ram Requirements

This peaceful cichlid doesn’t need much to adapt to life in captivity. Clean waters, stable parameters, and a healthy and balanced meal plan are necessary. But let’s get into the specifics!

Tank Size & Setup

The tank’s size depends on how many cichlids you plan on having and their size. These are energetic fish with a predilection for social life. I recommend keeping at least 4-5 in a tight group, for which you will need to employ at least 50 gallons. There is no limit to how many cichlids you can get, as these fish thrive in both pairs or small or large groups, depending on your preference.

Some occasional scuffles may be visible over time, but these are normal. They are just means to enforce a tight hierarchical order.

When it comes to the overall tank layout, your goal should be to mimic the fish’s natural habitat. We’re talking about plenty of live plants, a sandy substrate (you can mix some pebbles or gravel in it), and a variety of hiding areas. Go for caves, rocky structures, driftwood, and whatever element your cichlids can use for this purpose.

Water movement should be minimal-to-moderate, and the same goes for lighting. Bolivian rams are fairly small fish that rely on their environment to hide from predators. They don’t have any to fear in captivity, but the presence of the hiding spots helps them feel comfortable and more secure.

Water Requirements

Aim for temperatures around 74-78 °F with a pH of 6.0-7.4. Water hardness should remain in the 6-14 dGH range. These cichlids require clear and clean water, so a good filtration system is necessary for this purpose. Depending on your cichlids’ needs, you should also perform regular water changes and tank maintenance.

Feeding & Diet

Bolivian rams are omnivorous bottom feeders, which is typical for cichlids in general. They will scan the substrate for plant matter and insect larvae but also require plenty of food supplementation. Fortunately, these are not fussy eaters. Cichlids will consume everything they can find, so long as it’s tasty and nutritional.

Test the waters with some flakes and pellets, and provide your cichlids with chopped live food several times per week. Bloodworms, brine shrimp, and even earthworms are great in this sense, thanks to their protein and fat content.

Make sure that the ram’s food is fresh and safe. Don’t feed them wild-caught insects, fish, or worms because these can be filled with contaminants, parasites, and bacteria.

Either buy them or grow them yourself in home cultures. Setting and maintaining a culture is both simple and cheap.

For a clearer picture on how to feed your Bolivian rams properly, consider the following tips:

  • Meal frequency – Bolivian rams have a healthy appetite but can’t eat too much in one go. Depending on your cichlids’ needs, you want to feed them several smaller meals throughout the day. Go for at least 3 small meals daily and adjust the meal size and frequency according to your cichlids’ preferences.
  • Moderate protein and fat – Don’t go too heavy on live foods. These are naturally tasty, and your rams will love them, but they’re not exactly great in large amounts. The excess of protein and facts can constipate your cichlids. Only provide your rams with 3-4 protein meals per week.
  • Clean the residues – Always clean up any residues that may sink to the substrate. This is especially important in a cichlid tank with a lot of plants, rocks, and other decorations that can hide the leftovers. The residues will decompose and cause ammonia spikes, which can be lethal to your aquarium life.

Meal frequency and size are the most important facts to consider here. It’s easy to overfeed cichlids due to their healthy appetite and them having no self-control when it comes to eating. The ideal meal size is one that cichlids can consume within 3 minutes at most with minimal leftovers.

Do Bolivian Rams Need a Heater?

Yes, they do. The heater isn’t necessarily a vital piece of equipment, but it’s necessary to preserve water temperature and prevent fluctuations. The heater is that much more necessary if you reside in a colder region or one with significant temperature differences between day and night or between different seasons.

Do Bolivian Rams Need a Filter?

Yes. The tank filter is probably the most important piece of aquarium equipment you can get for a cichlid tank. It’s not that cichlids are particularly sensitive, but they prefer clean and well-oxygenated waters more so than other aquarium species.

When choosing the right tank filter for your Bolivian rams, consider the following:

  • The power – You want an adjustable filtration system that allows you to control the intake and output power. That’s because cichlids aren’t fond of extreme water currents.
  • The size and placement – Where and how you place your filter matters. Especially in a tank with a variety of plants, decorations, and a sandy substrate. You don’t want the filter to stir up the sand or suck in plants or smaller fish which can clog the system. Place the intake in the tank’s midsection and the output close to the surface.
  • The fish’s needs – The type of filtration you’re getting depends on the types of fish you have. Community tanks with multiple fish species generally have different filtration demands compared to single-species habitats.
  • A complete filtration profile – You need mechanical, chemical, and biological filtration for a clean, fresh, and stable environment. You can either invest in a well-rounded filtration system to provide all these benefits or use an activated carbon-based filter in combination with your normal mechanical system.

The filter will oxygenate the cichlids’ environment, remove floating particles and food residues, and keep the water cleaner for your cichlids to enjoy.

How Much Do Bolivian Rams Cost?

Bolivian rams are quite popular thanks to their easygoing attitude, adaptability, and ease of care. You can find this fish at prices between $10 and $20, depending on the specimen’s age, size, and appearance. Most sellers offer them in batches, given that most aquarists buy several for their community tanks.

What is the Lifespan of Bolivian Ram?

Bolivian rams can live up to 4 years in captivity, slightly shorter than other cichlid breeds. You can boost the cichlid’s lifespan by providing it with a natural-looking habitat, clean waters, a healthy and well-rounded diet, and peaceful tankmates.

How Big do Bolivian Ram Get?

Bolivian rams grow up to 3.5 inches, with males being larger than females. Females won’t grow past 2.5 inches but will appear bulkier and meatier than males, especially during the breeding season.

Are Bolivian Rams Aggressive?

No, these are among the few peaceful cichlids you can get, which is why they are so popular in the aquarium trade. They prefer to avoid conflicts and can be easily stressed by more energetic, bullying, or aggressive tankmates. This is why you should provide your cichlids with a varied layout consisting of a multitude of hiding areas.

This will allow cichlids to retreat when stressed to recollect their thoughts and calm down.

Bolivian Ram Tank Mates

Bolivian rams are interested in 2 things: peace and food. Their tankmates should have similar interests. Some good options include tetras, tiger barbs, dwarf gouramis, dwarf cichlids, plecos, and even guppies and platies. When looking for the ideal tankmates for your rams, aim for the following features:

  • Similar in size – Bolivian rams are peaceful and docile, but they’re also cichlids. You don’t want to keep them with excessively small fish because cichlids will eat them. Make sure their future tankmates are at least 2 inches in size. Also, avoid larger fish that could eat your rams. If that happens, both fish are likely to die. The ram because of, well, being eaten, and the attacker because of the cichlid’s fin spines. The cichlid uses its fin spins as tools of self-protection against any predator than may attempt to taste its cichlid meat.
  • Similar requirements – Look for fish species that enjoy similar water requirements and prefer a similar tank layout. This allows you to accommodate all fish in the same environment.
  • Cichlid-only tank – Bolivian rams can also live in groups but require more space to prevent territorial and hierarchical battles. They won’t fight too aggressively, but some scuffles may occur occasionally, especially if your cichlids don’t have sufficient space.

Other than that, make sure all your fish are comfortable and tolerant of each other.

Are Bolivian Rams Good for Beginners?

Yes, Bolivian rams are good for beginners, especially due to the fish’s adaptability and peaceful temperament. Bolivian rams don’t need any specialized care other than what all other fish require. Clean waters, stable water parameters, a personalized habitat, and good food are everything your Bolivian ram needs to thrive.

How to Tell if Bolivian Ram is Male or Female?

Bolivian rams aren’t too difficult to sex, but they are quite similar in appearance. You need to understand the basic sex markers before determining which is which. Here are some good ones to consider:

  • Size – Males are always larger, typically by at least 1 inch. You can easily tell the difference between males and females by assessing the size disparity.
  • Chin – Males have a fuller chin, while females have a dent in that area.
  • Dorsal fin – Both genders have similarly-looking fins, with the difference that males have them slightly taller. Their dorsal fin also has a longer spine in the rear section.
  • Tail fin – Males have longer and wider tail fins.

The difference between the 2 sexes become even more visible during the breeding season. The female will grow a visible egg-belly, while the male will remain slim and athletic.

How do Bolivian Rams Breed?

Bolivian rams breed quite easily in captivity, so expect a lot of fry. A female can produce approximately 100 eggs in one spawn, which is low by most species’ standards, but decent for cichlids.

One thing to know about Bolivian rams is that they are group spawners. You can’t pair a male and a female and expect them to breed because that’s not how it works. The female may not accept the male, in which case you’ll only breed violence.

Instead, go for a group of 6-8 juvenile cichlids, wait for them to mature sexually, and observe their behavior. The cichlids will run dominance-based scuffles to determine which get to breed and which will sit on the sideline.

Interestingly enough, cichlids only spawn in pairs, which seems like it contradicts the whole group theory, except it doesn’t. Cichlids require the presence of a group for the breeding pair to form.

Once that happens, the pair will separate from the group and find a safe and hidden area to produce and fertilize the eggs. Both parents will protect the eggs over the 60-hour (give or take) incubation period. They will also protect the resulting fry, guarding them and often moving them to safer areas if they feel like their current spot has been compromised.

I recommend moving the entire cichlid group in a breeding tank, allowing the mating pairs to form, and removing the rest of the cichlids. This will provide the breeding pair the comfort and safety it needs to produce and care for the young.

After the young hatch, the male and female will take turns carrying them in their mouths for up to a week. The fry will only come out to eat and explore their habitat shortly before going back in. The fry will swim freely after the 7-day mark and will accept adult food once they’re 2 months old.


Bolivian rams are great for novice cichlid lovers who cannot handle the aggression and pretentiousness of other species. This species is much more forgiving in terms of environmental and dietary requirements and is more resilient overall.

Provide your rams with a healthy, peaceful, and safe habitat, and they will thrive.

Author Image Fabian
I’m Fabian, aquarium fish breeder and founder of this website. I’ve been keeping fish, since I was a kid. On this blog, I share a lot of information about the aquarium hobby and various fish species that I like. Please leave a comment if you have any question.

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