Bolivian Ram – (Mikrogeophagusaltispinosus)
The Bolivian Ram is believed to be native to the upper rio Madeira basin in Bolivia and Brazil.
This species is often found in the sand-banks of Rio Marmoré, making its way a down into lakes near San Joaquin, Bolivia’.
Tank and fish size:
Bolivian Ram Cichlids shoul be kept in a 30 gallon aquarium or larger for a single pair or community. They usually grow to be 3-4 inches long when mature, and the males tend to be slightly larger than the females.
The most essential addition is a soft, sandy substrate so that the fish sift through it naturally. Coarser options such as gravel or small pebbles can inhibit feeding, damage gill filaments and even be ingested with the potential of internal damage.
Aquarists should consider the addition of driftwood and branches placed in such a way that plenty of shady spots and caves are formed. Flat rocks or similar surfaces provide potential spawning sites.
Water flow, should not be excessive and very large water changes are best avoided. Insted opt for regular water changes of 10-15% to avoid stressing the fish.
This species has a better chance when added to an established aquarium. When conditions deteriorate it becomes susceptible to a condition similar to that referred to as head and lateral line erosion or hole-in the-head in other species which initially manifests itself as small pits formed by eroding flesh around the head and lateral line pores.
Temperature: 20 – 28 °C
pH: 6.0 – 7.5
Hardness: 18 – 179 ppm
Bolivian Rams are benthophagous by nature, normally taking mouthfuls of substrate which are sifted for edible items with the remaining material expelled via the gill openings and mouth, although they will also browse solid surfaces and snatch items directly from the water column.
In the aquarium they should be offered a variety of live and frozen fare such as bloodworm, Artemia, Daphnia, grindal worm, etc. supplemented by good quality, sinking dried foods of a suitably small size. Wild fish may initially refuse the latter but normally learn to accept them over time.
Home-made, gelatine-bound recipes containing a mixture of dried fish food, puréed shellfish, fresh fruit and vegetables, for example, also work well and can be cut into bite-sized discs using the end of a sharp pipette or small knife.
Behaviour and Compatibility:
Be cautious when adding to general community aquarium since this species requires pristine water quality and is a poor competitor.
Groups of peaceful, open water-dwelling fish are recommended tankmates since the presence of small schooling or shoaling fishes appear to be considered an indicator that there is no immediate threat in the vicinity and therefore can help reduce shyness.
Peaceful bottom-dwellers such as Corydoras are also suitable.
Be sure to research your potential choices in depth and avoid territorial or otherwise aggressive fishes, including most other cichlids, and those requiring harder water.
M. altispinosus is a relatively gregarious cichlid and should ideally be maintained in a mixed-sex group of 6-8 or more.
Adult males grow larger than females, possess slightly more-extended fins and are more intensely-coloured.
This species is a biparental substrate spawner and is best bred in a dedicated set-up with no other fishes present.
There does not appear to be any particular trigger for the spawning process with the main requirements being good diet and stringent maintenance regime. Unless sexable adults are available it is best to begin with a group of young fish and allow pairs to form naturally.
The eggs are normally laid on a solid surface such as a flat rock, piece of driftwood, broad plant leaf or directly on the aquarium glass, and spawning occurs in typical style with the female laying one or more rows of eggs before the male moves in to fertilise them, this process being repeated numerous times.
Inexperienced pairs may initially eat their brood but often get things right after a few attempts.
If maintaining the adults in a community situation it is recommended to remove either tankmates or eggs should you wish to raise good numbers of fry. Both male and female participate equally in brood care.
Incubation is 2-3 days after which the fry remain largely immobile for a further 5-8 days during which period they do not require any supplementary food.
If left with the parents they will be moved to a pre-excavated depression or ‘pit’ in the substrate once hatched, and are often moved between several such pits on a daily basis.
Once free-swimming microworm, Artemia nauplii, and suchlike can be introduced.