The ramirezi fish (Mikrogeophagus ramirezi) is a freshwater species belonging to the cichlid family (Cichlidae), a taxon with an estimated 3000 different species, of which approximately 1650 have been described. Along with the ramirezi, other famous cichlids are the discus (Symphysodon), the angelfish (Ptherophyllum) and the oscar (Astronotus ocellatus).
Cichlids are very widespread fish in the aquarium world, as they include a number of species of beautiful appearance, marked personality and very interesting reproductive courtships. In general, however, they are not easy to care for, as they have quite specific requirements. Here we tell you all about the ramirezi fish.
Habitat of ramirezi fish
Before focusing on the aquarium care of this species, it is useful to review its biological particularities in the wild. With the knowledge of the real ecosystem of M. ramirezi it is easier to estimate its care in captivity.
Its clearest area of distribution is limited to the Llanos region – shared between Colombia and Venezuela. This ecoregion has a tropical savanna-type climate, with a markedly seasonal rainy season, between May and November. The typical landscape is one full of grasses and scattered bodies of water, with some trees and forests separated from each other.
The ramirezi fish stands out for its beauty on all possible fronts. It is a dwarf cichlid with a compressed and elongated body on its sides -fusiform silhouette-, although its general shape is a little more rounded and flattened when compared to other species.
Its dorsal fin is very prominent in males, and it has 3 very marked initial rays, black in color. Males usually reach 7 centimeters in length, while females are a modest 5.5 centimeters. This species is considered “dwarf” compared to other cichlids, as an adult Oscar can easily reach 36 centimeters.
However, what is most striking about this small animal is its color. The body surface of the ramirezi fish is dominated by warm shades, ranging from bright yellow to metallic blue, as well as reds and creams. The black stripe running vertically across the head is a striking feature of this species, as are its bright red eyes and bluish fins.
The ideal is to have a pair in all cases, since males can attack and make life impossible for each other. Distinguishing between the two genders is very simple if you take into account the following guidelines:
- Males have more pronounced dorsal fin rays than females.
- Females show a pink spot in the ventral region, even more evident in the breeding season. Meanwhile, males show a constant yellowish coloration in this area.
- Males are larger than females.
Due to various selective crossbreeding over time, ramirezi fish can show up in the hobby with atypical colors and shapes. Here are a few of them:
- Ramirezi electric blue or electric blue: its metallic blue coloration is much more predominant than in the wild variants.
- Ramirezi dorado or golden ramirezi: this variant is dominated by yellow and cream tones, although otherwise it is very similar to the normal morphotype.
- Balloon Ramirezi: its coloration pattern is similar to the wild type, but it has a much more flattened shape and reduced body length. Its body is almost circular and flattened on the horizontal axis.
- Ramirezi velo: this variety stands out for its longer and more pronounced fins.
In general, we do not strongly recommend purchasing atypical morphotypes, especially those that involve drastic morphological changes -such as balloon-. Inbreeding and selective breeding can take its toll on the specimens in the long run, so consider only buying these variants from reliable breeders.
Behavior of ramirezi fish
Cichlids are notorious for their territoriality and aggressiveness, but the ramirezi fish is the exception that proves the rule. This species will be the star of any community tank and will get along well with many small tropical species. However, it is strongly discouraged to mix ramirezis with other cichlids, as they will not get along at all.
Ideally, only one pair should be added to the aquarium, as this species is monogamous and males are very territorial with each other. On the other hand, ramirezi have no preference for specific sections of the aquarium, so they will swim vitally throughout the water column during the day. They are some of the most active fish with the most personality to be found in the hobby.
Preparing the aquarium for the ramirezi fish
Although the ramirezi fish is small, you should not forget that it is a very active and dynamic species. Therefore, the minimum size of a tank to accommodate a couple should be 60 liters. In addition, these animals prefer a fine sandy substrate and a landscape with as natural decoration as possible.
When it comes to adding plants to the aquarium, the most experienced tutors usually opt for the Microsorum, Taxiphyllum, Cryptocoryne and Anubias genera. It is also recommended to add trunks and branches specific for tanks, as well as rocks and caves. These cichlids love to hide and make a den of their own, especially during the breeding season.
On the other hand, the aquarium should have a powerful filter, but one that does not create too strong a water flow. Ideally, it should clean enough so that it is not necessary to change more than 10-15% of the water every week. Massive water changes can be very damaging to the health of these fish and stress them.
Many keepers choose to add dried leaves to the bottom of the aquarium. This, aside from giving the tank a more natural look, will help generate the slightly acidic water conditions that the species requires.
Once you have the tank prepared, you should wait about a month before adding the pair of ramirezis. It is necessary that the water acquires the minimum properties for its habitability, so do not be in a hurry. On the other hand, if they are going to be part of an already formed tank, make sure that the aquarium parameters are adjusted to their needs.
Here are the minimum requirements for ramirezi fish in captivity. Don’t miss it:
- Temperature: the ideal range is between 26 °C and 29 °C. To reach these levels constantly, it is advisable to buy a specific heater for aquariums.
- PH: ideal values are between 5.2 and 6.7, although these fish will tolerate a range of 4.0 to 7.0. The addition of dried leaves can help to acidify the aquarium environment a little, as it occurs in the natural environment of the species. This will give a brownish tint to the water, but it is nothing to worry about.
- Aquarium tank mates: these fish are very non-aggressive, but their water requirements make it not so easy to choose tank mates for them. Some species of tetras, neons and Corydoras adapt well to these waters, but check with a professional first.
If you keep these parameters in the normal range, a pair of ramirezis can live in the home environment healthy and happy for 2 to 4 years.
Feeding of ramirezi fish
Ramirezi fish are omnivorous, although they benefit from a mostly protein-based diet. Ideally, feed the fish once a day, alternating cichlid-specific flakes with live or dead invertebrates. Frozen mosquito larvae, Artemia or Daphnia will delight these aquarium inhabitants.
It is necessary to alternate live food with some vegetable matter. This will avoid problems associated with constant protein consumption.
These animals are very curious when it comes to reproduction. Like all other cichlids, ramirezis form monogamous pairs once they reach sexual maturity and have specific courtship dynamics. Therefore, if you want to breed two specimens, you should take them out of the community tank and place them in a special tank.
However, breeding this species can be quite complicated. Eggs tend to be spoiled by fungal agents and inexperienced pairs often eat their eggs by mistake or stress. The chances of something going wrong are higher in the “commercial” varieties, as inbreeding and selective outcrossing make them reproduce rather worse.
In captivity, there is no specific time when the reproductive cycle begins. It is best to keep the fish in the community tank until they form a pair and begin to look for a sheltered place where they can become intimate. At that moment, it is essential to take them out and prepare a special tank for them, full of hiding places and natural plants.
Once external fertilization occurs, the 100-300 eggs produced by the female adhere to a solid surface, such as the underside of a leaf or a large rock. Incubation lasts only about 3 days and both parents play an essential role in parental care.
During the first days, the larvae do not need any food and remain at the bottom of the tank. However, when they start swimming, they should consume microscopic food specific for cichlid hatchlings. Once they have reached a considerable size, they can start eating artemia and other live aquatic invertebrates.
The ramirezi fish is one of the most beautiful and accessible cichlids in the aquarium world. A pair can live happily and trouble-free in a community tank, but care must be taken with the water parameters. Ideal conditions for a ramirezi may not be ideal for the other members of the tank.
On the other hand, always remember to buy your fish from reliable facilities that assure you of captive breeding of the specimens. Otherwise, you are indirectly supporting the removal of animals from their natural environment for economic purposes.