Can You Keep Apistogramma with Rams? (YES! But with Caution) is supported by our readers. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn a commission.

Have you wondered if Rams and Apistogramma can live together? Perhaps it is due to their diminutive size, iridescent colors, and distinct personalities.

Keeping these two stunning South American dwarf cichlids in a community tank is a topic that is often discussed but highly debated within the community.

There is no set answer to this question: they can coexist in some cases, but sometimes they need to be kept separately.

Apistogramma and Rams Coexistence

Apistogramma and German Blue Rams can get along well in the same tank, but their compatibility depends on the species and the tank setup. Consider the following key points in mixing species together in an aquarium.

Facts About the Apistogramma


Apistogramma is a large genus consisting of almost 100 recognized species that are widely distributed throughout tropical South America, east of the Andes. This diverse group of fish is differentiated by their region of origin, and each species has its own preferred water quality parameters. Virtually all their natural habitats are characterized by soft water with low pH levels in forested areas.

Also known as Dwarf Cichlids, these small fish typically grow up to a maximum length of 3.5 inches (8.9cm). A 20-gallon long tank is a popular choice for keeping a pair or trio of Apistogramma. While they are generally peaceful, they can become territorial and aggressive during the breeding season, especially highly polygamous species such as A. trifasciata, A. agassizii, or A. cacatuoides.

Facts About the Rams

Microgeophagus, on the other hand, only has three described species, including:

  • Mikrogeophagus altispinosus (Bolivian Ram cichlid)
  • Mikrogeophagus ramirezi (German Blue Rams)
  • Mikrogeophagus maculicauda

The first two are readily available at fish stores. M. altispinosus is native to Rio Mamoré, below the mouth of the Rio Guaporé in Bolivia; M. ramirezi originates from the Orinoco system in Venezuela. Their native habitats are usually very soft, with a pH of 6.5-7.2, and the water is exposed to direct sunlight.

German Blue Rams grow to be about 2-2.5 inches (5-6 cm) in size, smaller than Bolivian Ram Cichlids, which can reach up to 3 inches (8 cm). Aquarists often keep a pair in tanks larger than 20 gallons.

What Are the Risks?

In some situations, mixing Rams and Apistogramma in an aquarium can come with serious risks for several reasons.

They are Bottom Dwellers

Both Rams and Apistogramma are known to be bottom dwellers, spending a significant amount of their time exploring and foraging for food on the substrate of their aquarium or natural habitat. Rams may swim in the middle areas of the water column when they feel comfortable and secure in their environment.

This means they can compete for the same food and space at the bottom area, potentially resulting in a physical confrontation or aggressive behavior towards one another.

Differences in Water Parameters

Despite having the same requirement for soft water, Rams and Apistogramma have different preferences for water temperature and pH levels.

In the wild, as we mentioned above, Apistogrammas naturally favor shaded areas where the temperature is lower, whereas Rams prefer warmer waters in direct sunlight, often ranging from 79-85°F (26-29°C) and sometimes even reaching temperatures over 91°F (33°C).

SpeciesWater TemperaturepH Level
German Blue Rams (M. ramirezi)78 to 85 °F (25.5-29.5 °C)5.2 to 6.7
Bolivian Ram cichlid (M. altispinosus)72 to 79 °F (22–26 °C)6.5 to 7.2

For most fish, whether in captivity or the wild, excessively high temperatures can increase their metabolism, potentially leading to health issues. If you keep a cold-water Apistogramma species in warmer water with Rams, it may either age fast or become more susceptible to stress-related diseases.

Ideally, the optimal pH in Apistogramma’s aquariums should be acidic (between 4.5 and 6), depending on the species, whereas Rams live in slightly alkaline water in nature. While Apistos can accommodate such pH levels, their eggs may not hatch successfully.


Experienced owners always advise maintaining separate tanks for Rams and Apistogrammas when breeding.

This is mainly due to the fact that they have different optimal water parameters, and Rams are known to eat eggs and fry. This happens too often at home aquariums with just a single pair, which is contrary to the natural behavior of Rams in the wild, where they typically form colonies to spawn.

Ways to Help Rams and Apistogramma Coexist

If you choose to house rams and Apistos together in a community tank, you will have to take certain measures to increase the likelihood of success.

Tank Size and Territory

Just because they are small in size doesn’t mean they don’t need space. As with most cichlids, Rams and Apistogramma have specific considerations as to how much space each fish will need.

As a general rule, each Apistogramma should be provided with a territory of at least 12 inches (30 cm) in diameter. The same goes for Rams; however, because juveniles of the same age are more social and naturally form large schools in the wild, you should consider opting for a larger tank if you want to observe this behavior in your aquarium.

Tank sizes smaller than 40 gallons (Long) are usually a problem. There simply isn’t enough room for them to claim their territories. Therefore, it is not recommended to keep them together in smaller tanks.

In terms of territory, isolated caves and plants should be used to create clearly defined boundaries between the two species. Can you fit these desired décor into the tank?

When introducing the Rams to an established Apistogramma tank, a great way to tone down aggressive behavior is to rearrange the décor in the aquarium.

Fish Choices

Fish species vary in different water requirements in which they can survive and thrive. The Bolivian Ram (M. altispinosus) is more tolerant of lower water temperatures, usually between 72° and 84°F (22-29°C), than the most popular German Blue Rams (M. ramirezi).

Therefore, German Blue Rams (M. ramirezi) are suitable tank mates for Apistogramma species that prefer warmer waters. In nature, M. ramirezi and some Apistos, such as A. macmasteri and A. hongsloi may be sympatric species, meaning they may coexist in the same biotope.

On the other hand, Bolivian Rams (M. altispinosus) are good options for “cold-water” Apistos, such as the Umbrella Cichlid (Apistogramma borellii).

Ages & Size

You may never be able to trust the coexistence between different-sized fish, especially if one fish can fit into another’s mouth. Depending on what species of Apistogramma you have, Apistogramma may be able to coexist with them if they are the same size and age.

Juvenile fish are usually easygoing. Start with all young fish and raise them to maturity together if possible.

Aggressive Behavior

Captive-bred individuals are less aggressive than their wild counterparts, but this is not always guaranteed. Do not mix wild-caught fish with captive-bred specimens, which could lead to fights.

In general, intraspecific aggression is much stronger than interspecific aggression, meaning Apistos and Rams would coexist better than two species of Apistogramma or Apistos with their relatives. Therefore, it is highly suggested that you select only one fish species and avoid mixing two or more species together.


Do Apistogrammas, Rams, and other fish have personalities? Yes, they do. Even when all the necessary conditions are met, there may be a tank boss, especially during the breeding season. Observe their behavior and watch for signs of aggression or shyness in order to identify the most dominant fish. Separating the overly aggressive ones from the rest of the tank if you have any doubts.


Again, it is possible for Apistogramma to live together with Rams with no issues, but that is not always the case. Consider their size, behavioral patterns, and water parameters before deciding if these two species can be kept together.

It is best to plan ahead! With proper planning, patience, and observation, you can create a beautiful and peaceful tank where these two species can co-exist in harmony.


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Ivan Yeoh
Ivan Yeoh

I’ve been working with fish for the past 12 years, and I can honestly say that it has never been a dull day. In my time, I’ve worked at the largest fish farm in Singapore – so you could say I know a thing or two about keeping things running smoothly in watery environments.

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