Bolivian Ram Cichlid Tank Mates and Care Guide

The Bolivian Ram (Mikrogeophagus altispinosus) is a beautiful, peaceful cichlid perfect for community aquariums. This colorful fish has a docile temperament and gets along well with various tank mates. The proper environment and compatible fish species are key to their health and happiness. This comprehensive guide covers everything you need to know about selecting the best tank mates for Bolivian Rams and optimizing their care.

Overview of Bolivian Ram Cichlids

Native to the Amazon River basin in South America, the Bolivian Ram belongs to the Cichlid family. They are a dwarf cichlid species, growing up to around 3 inches in size.

These fish exhibit sexual dimorphism – males are larger and more colorful. They display longer dorsal and anal fins, brighter red or pink bellies, and more intense yellow coloring. Females are smaller in size and less vibrant.

Bolivian Rams are one of the most peaceful cichlids. They don’t exhibit the aggressive territorial behaviors seen in many other cichlids. Given their docile nature, they are excellent community fish.

Bolivian Ram Temperament and Behavior

Bolivian Rams display a shy and peaceful temperament. They tend to keep to themselves and don’t bother other fish.

Compared to the German Blue Ram, the Bolivian Ram is calmer and harder. They adapt well to various water parameters and are more tolerant of aquarium mistakes. This makes them a great choice for beginners.

These fish aren’t entirely non-aggressive though. Males may spar with each other during spawning times. But otherwise, Bolivian Rams mostly mind their own business.

They spend a lot of time sifting through the substrate in search of food. It’s important to provide a soft, sandy bottom for natural foraging behavior. Adding driftwood, rocks and aquatic plants provides shelter and helps them feel secure.

Bolivian Ram Compatibility with Tank Mates

Due to their peaceful nature, Bolivian Rams make outstanding community fish. When selecting tank mates, choose docile, non-aggressive species of a similar size.

Some suitable options include:

  • Small Tetras: Ember Tetra, Rummynose Tetra, Cardinal Tetra
  • Rasboras: Harlequin Rasbora, Lambchop Rasbora
  • Barbs: Cherry Barb
  • Rainbowfish: Threadfin Rainbowfish, Red Rainbowfish
  • Danios: Zebra Danio, Pearl Danio
  • Catfish: Corydoras, Otocinclus
  • Dwarf Cichlids: German Blue Ram, Keyhole Cichlid
  • Shrimp: Amano Shrimp, Ghost Shrimp
  • Snails: Nerite Snail, Mystery Snail

Avoid fin-nipping species like Tiger Barbs, Common Plecos, or Goldfish. These aggressive fish may bully and harass Bolivian Rams.

Bolivian Rams are generally peaceful towards shrimp and snails. But they may eat smaller varieties, so choose larger shrimp species.

When housing Bolivian Rams with other fish, provide plenty of hiding places and broken sight lines. This allows everyone to establish their territories and prevents aggression.

Bolivian Ram and Angelfish Compatibility

Angelfish make excellent tank mates for Bolivian Rams. Both species originate from similar environments in South America. They share preferences for soft, acidic water and warm temperatures between 75-82°F.

Angelfish have a compatible, peaceful temperament. And their contrasting body shape and coloring look striking together.

The two species may even reproduce together. But hybrid offspring are unlikely to survive.

Provide plenty of plants and driftwood to break up territories. Angelfish are substantially larger, growing up to 6 inches long. Make sure Bolivian Rams have spaces to retreat and feel secure.

Angelfish and Bolivian Rams require a larger aquarium, at least 55 gallons. This allows adequate swimming room and reduces aggression.

Bolivian Ram and African Cichlid Compatibility

African cichlids generally have a more aggressive temperament than South American species. They are territorial and active fish that may intimidate the shy Bolivian Ram.

However, certain African cichlids can work with Bolivian Rams in a large tank environment. Suitable options include:

  • Yellow Lab Cichlid
  • Kenyi Cichlid
  • Acei Cichlid
  • Yellow Tail Acei

Avoid Mbuna African cichlids like the Demasoni, Auratus, or Bumblebee. Their aggressive behaviors will terrorize and injure Bolivian Rams.

Only combine African and South American cichlids in at least a 75-gallon tank. Provide plenty of hiding spots and break up distinct territories with aquascaping.

Bolivian Ram and Dwarf Gourami Compatibility

Dwarf gouramis are another excellent option for Bolivian Ram tank mates. Like rams, dwarf gouramis are peaceful, smaller cichlids that enjoy planted aquariums.

Compatible dwarf gourami species include:

  • Honey Gourami
  • Pearl Gourami
  • Sparkling Gourami

Avoid more aggressive gouramis like the Blue, Opaline, and Three Spot. They may harass Bolivian Rams, especially during breeding times.

Dwarf gouramis and Bolivian Rams share similar water condition needs. Both require warm tropical temperatures from 75-82°F and soft, slightly acidic water.

Provide lots of vegetation, including floating plants. This allows the two species to establish their areas and reduces aggression. The top-level suits gouramis, while Bolivian Rams occupy the lower regions.

Bolivian Ram Compatibility with Dwarf Cichlids

Due to their comparable size and temperament, other dwarf cichlids make ideal Bolivian Ram tank mates. Suitable options include:

  • German Blue Ram: Very similar care needs and temperament. You must be vigilant for crossbreeding.
  • Apistogramma: Dwarf South American cichlids like Apistogramma cacatuoides. Peaceful bottom dwellers.
  • Mikrogeophagus: Small, peaceful cichlids like the Butterfly Ram (Mikrogeophagus ramirezi).
  • Kribensis: West African dwarf cichlid. The Kribensis cichlid has a usually docile temperament.

When keeping Bolivian Rams with other dwarf cichlids, provide plenty of space and hiding areas. Watch males during spawning periods for heightened aggression and separate if needed.

Bolivian Ram Compatibility with Shrimp and Snails

In general, Bolivian Rams are peaceful towards shrimp and snails. Their small mouths limit the size of creatures they can swallow.

However, small varieties like Red Cherry Shrimp or newborn shrimp may become food. Stick to larger shrimp species at least 1.5 inches long like:

  • Amano Shrimp
  • Ghost Shrimp
  • Bamboo Shrimp

Nerite, Mystery, and Ramshorn snails are safe options too large for a Bolivian Ram to eat.

Provide lots of plant cover and hiding spots like rock caves and driftwood. This allows shrimp and snails to escape a Bolivian Ram’s line of sight if needed.

Bolivian Ram Community Tank Size

Bolivian Rams suit community tanks, but larger aquariums are always better. A good starting point for a Bolivian Ram community aquarium is:

  • 20 gallon long aquarium for 1 Bolivian Ram
  • 40 gallon breeder aquarium for a pair of Bolivian Rams
  • 55+ gallon tank for a community with multiple Bolivian Rams and other species

In smaller environments, Bolivian Rams may become territorial. Make sure each fish has their own space and domain. Adding more plants, driftwood, and rock structures helps define boundaries.

For a community with multiple Bolivian Rams, allow at least 20 gallons per additional fish. More swimming space reduces aggression and makes everyone feel secure.

Bolivian Ram Care Guide

Now that you know the best tank mates for Bolivian Rams, let’s go over their care requirements. Meeting the proper water parameters, diet, and aquascaping needs is key for healthy rams.

Bolivian Ram Water Parameters

Bolivian Rams thrive under the following water conditions:

  • Temperature: 74-82°F. They prefer warm tropical temperatures. Use a submersible aquarium heater.
  • pH: Slightly acidic pH between 6.0-7.0.
  • Water Hardness: 4-8 dGH. They need soft water conditions.

Use peat, driftwood, and Indian almond leaves to naturally lower pH and soften water. Or use RO/DI filtered water and remineralize to the target parameters.

Perform regular partial water changes

Bolivian Ram Tank Setup

In the wild, Bolivian Rams inhabit slow moving rivers with dense vegetation. Recreate this environment in your home aquarium.


Bolivian Rams sift through the substrate looking for food. Use a fine-grained sand bottom around 1 inch deep. Pool filter sand or a special Cichlid substrate works well. Smooth gravel under 3mm diameter is also suitable.


Bolivian Rams appreciate heavily planted tanks. Include various stem plants, floating plants, mosses, and broad-leaf plants like Amazon swordplants or Anubias. Choose low-light varieties that thrive in soft water.

Leave plenty of open swimming space between plants. Good options include Vallisneria, Java fern, hornwort, Anacharis, and Amazon frogbit.

Wood and Rocks

Add driftwood, twisted roots, and smooth rocks for territorial markers and hiding spots. Arrange the hardscape materials to create caves and tunnels. This allows Bolivian Rams to carve out their domains.


Use a high-quality external canister filter rated for at least twice the tank volume. Bolivian Rams are sensitive to poor water quality. The improved filtration helps maintain clean water conditions.


Bolivian Rams require warm tropical water between 74-82°F. Use an adjustable aquarium heater sized for your tank volume. Monitor temperatures daily.


Low to moderate lighting suits Bolivian Rams best. Excessive light stresses them. Use a fluorescent or LED aquarium light on a timer for 8-10 hours per day. Floating plants help provide shaded spots.

Bolivian Ram Diet and Feeding

Bolivian Rams are omnivores that need both plant and animal matter. In the wild, they forage along soft lake beds consuming worms, insects, crustaceans, and plant debris.

In the aquarium, feed a varied diet including:

  • Quality cichlid pellets and flakes
  • Frozen or live foods like brine shrimp, bloodworms, daphnia
  • Blanched vegetables like zucchini, spinach, shelled peas
  • Dried leaves for natural grazing

Feed 1-2 small meals per day. Avoid overfeeding, which degrades water quality. Use sinking pellets or flakes and target feed shy individuals.

Try soaking dry foods in garlic juice or vitamin supplement mixes for picky eaters. This enhances palatability. Turn off aquarium lights during feeding times to reduce stress.

Bolivian Ram Tank Maintenance

Perform regular partial water changes each week, replacing 25-30% of the water. Use a gravel vacuum to remove waste from the substrate.

Wipe down tank walls with an algae pad or scraper to keep the glass clean for optimum viewing. Check filter media monthly and rinse or replace as needed.

Test water parameters weekly and correct any fluctuations. Ideal levels for Bolivian Rams are 0 ppm ammonia and nitrites with <20 ppm nitrates.

Remove dead leaves and trim plants as needed. Pruning encourages new growth while thinning overgrown sections. This keeps your aquascape looking great.

Bolivian Ram Tank Mates by Aquarium Size

Now let’s go over some specific stocking recommendations for different sized Bolivian Ram community tanks:

10 gallon Bolivian Ram Tank Mates

  • A 10 gallon tank is too small for Bolivian Rams. They need at least 20 gallons.

20 gallon Bolivian Ram Tank Mates

  • 1 Bolivian Ram pair
  • 6-8 small Tetras (Ember, Neon)
  • 6-8 Rasboras (Harlequin, Lambchop)
  • 4-5 Corydoras catfish (Panda, Peppered)
  • 5-6 Cherry Shrimp

30 gallon Bolivian Ram Tank Mates

  • 1 Bolivian Ram pair
  • 10-12 small Tetras or Rasboras
  • 6 Corydoras catfish
  • 5-6 Otocinclus catfish
  • 10 Cherry Shrimp

40 gallon Bolivian Ram Tank Mates

  • 1 Bolivian Ram pair
  • 15 Neon Tetras
  • 8 Harlequin Rasboras
  • 6 Corydoras catfish
  • 4 Otocinclus catfish
  • 10 Ghost or Amano Shrimp

50 gallon Bolivian Ram Tank Mates

  • 2 Bolivian Ram pairs (1 male & 3 females optimal)
  • 15 Cardinal Tetras
  • 10 Rummynose Tetras
  • 6 Corydoras catfish
  • 5 Otocinclus catfish
  • 10 Ghost or Amano Shrimp

55 gallon Bolivian Ram Tank Mates

  • 2 Bolivian Ram pairs
  • 15-20 small Tetras or Rasboras
  • 8 Corydoras catfish
  • 5-6 Otocinclus catfish
  • 10 Amano or Ghost Shrimp
  • 5 Nerite or Mystery Snails
  • Bristlenose pleco (just one!)

75 gallon Bolivian Ram Tank Mates

  • 3 Bolivian Ram pairs
  • 25 Tetras/Rasboras mix
  • 10 Corydoras catfish
  • 8 Otocinclus catfish
  • 10-15 Amano Shrimp
  • 5 Mystery or Nerite Snails
  • Bristlenose pleco
  • Dwarf Gourami trio

100 gallon Bolivian Ram Tank Mates

  • 4 Bolivian Ram pairs
  • 30 Tetras/Rasboras mix
  • 12 Corydoras catfish
  • 10 Otocinclus catfish
  • 15 Amano Shrimp
  • 5-6 Mystery Snails
  • Bristlenose pleco
  • Dwarf Gourami trio
  • 6 Kuhli loaches

Bolivian Ram Gender Differences

Male and female Bolivian Rams have some distinct physical differences:

  • Size: Males reach larger maximum sizes, up to 3 inches long. Females max out around 2.5 inches.
  • Dorsal Fin: Males have a longer, pointed dorsal fin. Females have a shorter, rounded dorsal fin.
  • Anal Fin: The male’s anal fin is longer with pointed tips. The female anal fin is shorter and rounded.
  • Belly: Mature males develop a pink or reddish belly. Females have a silver-white belly.
  • Other Markings: Males tend to have more vivid yellow or orange colors. Females are usually silver-gray with less intense coloring.

Males are generally more aggressive than females, especially when defending breeding territories. But overall, the Bolivian Ram is a peaceful community fish when provided with proper tank conditions.

Bolivian Ram Breeding

Bolivian Rams are bubble nest breeders. They reach sexual maturity around 5-7 months old. To induce spawning behavior:

  • House a breeding pair alone in a 20 gallon tank with soft, acidic water between 77-82°F.
  • Feed high protein foods like live worms, brine shrimp, or frozen mysis shrimp.
  • Perform large weekly water changes to stimulate breeding activity.
  • Introduce flat rocks or overturned flower pots for the male’s bubble nest site.

The male constructs a bubble nest near the spawning site. He displays intense colors to entice the female and guards the area aggressively.

During spawning, the female releases around 60-100 eggs which the male fertilizes. The eggs float up into the bubble nest where the male tends them until hatching. The fry are free-swimming after 6-8 days.

Feed the Bolivian Ram fry finely crushed flakes, infusoria, or powdered fry food four times daily. Perform small, frequent water changes to maintain ultra-clean water. The parents may eat the fry, so move them to a separate rearing tank.


With their vibrant colors, peaceful temperament, and manageable size, Bolivian Rams make exceptional additions to community aquariums. They can be housed with various peaceful fish, invertebrates, and tank mates given proper care.

Your Bolivian Rams will surely thrive by optimizing water parameters, providing adequate space, and choosing suitable tank mates. Their beauty and activity add excitement and color to freshwater tanks.