The Bolivian Ram (Mikrogeophagus altispinosus) is a widely available and very popular species of Cichlid within the aquarium trade. Beyond simply being an attractive fish species, Bolivian Rams are very tolerant of a variety of water conditions including pH, temperature and water hardness. In addition to being a hardy species, Bolivian Rams are also a peaceful species that can be house with a variety of other peaceful to semi-aggressive fish species. However, being a shy species the Bolivian Ram will not do well with more aggressive or large Cichlid species. Bolivian Rams can be kept in a pair or in a group of individuals. If kept in a group their will be some initial fighting to establish a dominant male, but this should soon subside once dominance is established and further fights will be rare.
Although the Bolivian Ram is tolerant of a wide range of water parameters, they are intolerant of poor water conditions. Since they originate from large river systems that have plenty of water volume and turnover, they are accustomed to high quality water conditions. It is important to employ a quality filtration system with strong biological and mechanical filtration, along with partial water changes to keep nitrate levels low. Bolivian Rams live in dimly lit and heavily vegetated river bottoms, thus they will prefer an aquarium setup that mimics their natural habitat. An ideal aquarium setup will have a sandy substrate, dense vegetation, some driftwood, moderate water flow and diffused or dim lighting. Tank mates should include other smaller peaceful to semi-aggressive Cichlid species and hardy tropical community fish species. A pair of Bolivian Rams will do well in a 30 gallon aquarium, with a larger aquarium being recommended for a group of Rams or if they are housed with other fish species.
Many hobbyists have had success breeding Bolivian Rams in the home aquarium, and they are considered a good species for beginning breeders. A single male and two to three females should be given their own breeding aquarium of 30 to 40 gallons. The aquarium should have a sandy substrate with some rock piles and/or some driftwood. The male will eventually court one of the females after which time the pair will form and they will begin to clear an area at the base of a rock or driftwood for their nest. After the nest is established, the female will lay upwards of 200 eggs which the male will quickly fertilize. After spawning the female will guard the eggs, while the male protects the general area around the nest. Once a pair is established the other females should be removed from the aquarium, as the mated pair will stay together for a lifetime.
Bolivian Rams are omnivores, thus they will consume both plant based and meaty foods. In the wild they eat a lot of plant matter, algae and small insects and crustaceans. In the aquarium environment they should be offered a varied diet consisting of quality flake, pellet, freeze-dried and frozen preparations designed for omnivores. Additional feedings of blood worms, tubifex worms, brine shrimp or other similar foods are a good supplement to staple diet of omnivore flake and pellet foods. Their diet should contain both plant based and meaty foods in order to provide them a balanced diet that will allow them to maintain a healthy immune system. Bolivian Rams should be fed a couple of times per day an amount of food that they will consume within a few minutes.