Name: Mikrogeophagus altispinosus
Origin: South America
Bolivian Rams are one of the most fascinating dwarf cichlids in my opinion. They are not that difficult to care for as long as you meet some basic requirements for them. The pH in a Bolivian ram tank should be kept around 6.5 - 7.0, being no lower than 6.0 and no higher than 7.5. Even more important than the level, when it comes to pH, is stability. Water hardness should be kept relatively low. Hardness works hand-in-hand with pH, and rams of all varieties require a low pH and water hardness. Water quality means ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates. Ammonia and nitrites should always be kept at 0 ppm. no matter what. Your tank must be cycled before the rams are added. Nitrates should be kept at a minimum. The best nitrate level is between 5 and 10 ppm, and this can be achieved by keeping the tank well planted and doing appropriate partial water changes on a regular basis. Proper tank mates are also key to keeping happy rams. It would be impossible to go fully into depth with proper tank mates for rams in a small explanation like this though. Tank space is vital to happy and healthy rams. I strongly disagree that a pair of rams can be kept in a 40 L tank like some others do. I believe that an appropriate amount of space is 80 L minimum for a pair of rams, and another 40 L for each other pair added. This does not mean that a single ram can be kept in a 40 L though. I believe that 80 L is a bare minimum, whether you keep a single ram, or a pair. A good diet for rams includes frozen bloodworms and brine shrimp, as well as a good staple cichlid flake. I do not feed mine regular flakes, as they are over generalized and are not form-fitted to this kind of fish. In the end, Bolivian Rams are a beautiful fish if well cared for, and they will let you know if they are unhappy by not displaying their colours and not swimming very much.
The M. altispinosa, or Bolivian Ram, makes a nice alternative to the Blue Ram (M. ramirezi), which has been rumoured to be difficult to keep due to being delicate to water conditions. I have a pair that resides with four Checkerboard Dwarf Cichlids (Dicrossis filamentosa), and two schools of Tetras. They appear to be happy and show colours that rival that of the Blue Ram. They settled into the tank and other occupants almost immediately and haven't fought either themselves or their tankmates. This suggests to me that they make good community inhabitants. I feed mine flake, frozen brine shrimp/bloodworm & live brine shrimp/blackworm. They prefer their own space, i.e. rocks/plants. At the the time that this was written I have several baby Swordtails in the tank which have, suprisingly, remained untouched by the Rams. Being classified as a Micro/geophagus (Small/Eartheater) tends to suggest that they filter substrate for food - I have observed them doing this and would recommend using sand or a similar sized substrate. They spend most of their time at the bottom third of the tank, keep this in mind if you have highly territorial bottom dwellers (Red-Tail Sharks etc). I have not tried to breed them yet and don't have any suggestions to the latter apart from the usual: Water condition/food conditioning/own tank/rocks & plants to spawn in. The main sexual dimorphisms are: Males have longer rays on the first 3 originating rays of the dorsal fin, and also have much brighter/varied colouration. If you have a chance to buy them and have a suitable environment I suggest that you don't pass it up. They are an expressive, industrious little fish, a delight to watch.
There is not much information on this species. The Bolivian Ram Male has patches of yellow, pink and blue on its body and not as much gray. They are considered a lot more active than the Blue Rams. They grow up to 8-10 cm I believe. Water parameters vary since they come from different areas of South America with varying water conditions. I've read in a Dwarf Cichlid book - canīt remember the name but itīs the one with an Apisto. cacatuoides on the cover - it states that these cichlids like a higher pH and 7.6 is ideal. As well someone has done some testing with the bolivian ram and the German ram and has discovered that when the pH is lowered the bolivian rams will not breed as much or be as successful. They as well breed in the open, meaning they have no problem having their fry swim around in the open, and when they do hide they just stay down on the gravel.
I originally bought 8 altispinosa, hoping to get a pair. I wasn't sure how to tell the sexes apart. As they grew, I noticed elongation of the red trim on the tail fins like trailers. They also had more color. Six of the 8 turned out to be males. The easiest way to tell which were males was from behavior. They sqabbled and set up territories, chasing each other around. I noticed that what turned out to be females were not chased at all, and were welcomed and coaxed into territories by the males. They laid their eggs on a flat stone, which they "cleaned" first together. Then, as the eggs hatched, the wigglers were moved to a shallow impression in the gravel that the male prepared by rubbing his body on the substrate. Both parents guarded and watched the eggs up to free swimming babies. I fed them frozen baby brine shrimp. Once they started breeding the kept laying eggs about every 2-3 weeks. I had 2 pairs who were at off weeks, it was pretty cool. They bred in community tanks and in small planted tanks too. They didn't seem too picky. The water here is very hard and alkaline.
These little guys rock! I had 2 in a 200 L community tank, along with a green severum, electric yellow pair, red fin black shark, pleco, black ghost knife, pictus and others. With their beauty and fun behaviour I went out and bought another 2. With 4 of these dudes they are even more fascinating to watch. One minute they are all together having a social gathering and the next they face off and ram each other of just peck one another to show who's boss. They like a surface current in the water, in which case they move to upper levels of the tank with black-tipped dorsal fin fully erect showing off their lovely colours. They like all foods and even wrestle the pleco for his algae wafer! A mate has the gold variety which is a beautiful variant. These fish are great for any community tank any they are by far more robust and active than the blue ram with equally impressive colours.
I have 3 alti's and they get along very well in my community tank. They live with 1 discus, a pleco, and a school of neon tetras. Recently they spawned on a small rock I placed on the tank floor with about 100 small eggs. Some of the eggs turned a white color which I assumed were unfertilized; but the majority did hatch. This first brood was unsuccessful and I believe it was due to a loach I had in the tank at the time, but luckily my alti's have bred again. This time I did not even notice they were spawning until I saw about 70 babies swimming around in a school, near a depression in the substrate. This brood is doing exceptionally well and is readily feeding. I feed the babies once or twice a day with baby brine shrimp and First Bites by Hikari. They have been growing very rapidly and I have only lost a small percent due to natural selection. My water is relatively soft, the tank is at 28°C. My pH is on the lower end at about 5.8-6.0 and they enjoy weekly water changes.