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Dwarf South American Cichlids - Part 1

Updated on June 20, 2013

Small jewels of South America

There are a wide variety of Cichlids in the world, they span South America and Africa as well as other continents. Most grow rather large for an aquarium and often they can be quite aggressive, especially when they are ready to spawn. Most will cordon off a territory and keep all other fish away as long as they can.

The main exception to aggressive tendencies of cichlids are the many South American Dwarf Cichlids. They are often some of the most passive fish in a small community aquarium and are often quite timid. There are a few different species available for the aquarist to keep. In part 1, I will be restricting the focus to the varieties of Papillochromis ramirez often seen at local pet stores. There are other dwarf cichlid species as well, such as the various Apistogramma types as well, and they will be discussed in Part 2, along with a few other dwarf cichlids that are not.

Papiliochromis ramirezi - Balloon Rams
Papiliochromis ramirezi - Balloon Rams
Papiliochromis ramirezi - Electric Blue Rams
Papiliochromis ramirezi - Electric Blue Rams
Papiliochromis ramirezi - German Rams
Papiliochromis ramirezi - German Rams
Papiliochromis ramirezi - Gold  Rams
Papiliochromis ramirezi - Gold Rams
Papiliochromis ramirezi - Long Finned Rams
Papiliochromis ramirezi - Long Finned Rams

Many types to choose from

The rams, as they are often known are a type of Dwarf cichlid that has become quite popular with discerning aquarists who want the personality of the cichlids, but prefer to keep other peaceful species with them. Most cichlids must be kept with other similarly sized cichlids with compatible personalities because of their aggressive tendencies. The rams, as a whole, are much more peaceful and can co-exist with quite a number of other fishes that are not cichlids.

Many will show some of the standard aggression when ready to spawn, but often this is directed to their mates and others of their own kind. They have been successfully bred in captivity, As time has progressed, breeders and aficionados of the species have been able to create quite a number of different varieties that are now available to select from many pet store's tanks. Some of these would never be found in nature. The electric blue is a perfect example of one of these variations. The colour is intense and rich, and the spawning battles are often qiuite fascinating to observe. But such a brightly coloured fish would have difficulty hiding from predators and needs a suitable set of tank mates to thrive.

Personally, I like the more natural colouration of the German rams, where the black bars are deep black and the accenting colours make them stand out in any small community. Most rams do have a characteristic black bar across the eye and elevated spikes at the front of the dorsal fin. But, just like many of the goldfish species, the common blue rams have been mutated into a number of different morphs that begin to blur the distinctions.

Balloon rams have much rounder bodies than common rams.

There are also a number of colour variations like the gold ram where the black accent bars are often the only remaining colour left, witht he body being gold in colour. They will sometimes add some highlights and vibrant colours when ready to spawn, but otherwise they are mostly a uniform gold. The previously mentioned electric blue is probably the most stunning of the modified types. Another modification that would be difficult to survive in the wild is the long finned variety. With their long and flowing finnage, they would become easy targets to more streamlined and swift predators fond in their native waters.


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    • Bard of Ely profile image

      Steve Andrews 6 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      Interesting coverage of this little fish! I am off to see what else you have written!

    • peanutroaster profile image

      peanutroaster 6 years ago from New England

      I have some Bolivian Red Rams myself. Cichlids are fantasitc.