Fish, Tanks and Ponds

Fish, Tanks and Ponds
A comprehensive guide to fish

Mikrogeophagus altispinosus

Bolivian ram

Bolivian ram, Mikrogeophagus altispinosusBolivian ram, Mikrogeophagus altispinosus
Photos by Andy Rapson


Mikrogeophagus: Greek, mikros = small + Greek, gea = earth + Greek, phagein, to eat.

General Notes:

Bolivian rams when juvenile and especially when stressed i.e. in a shop environment could easily be overlooked due to their drab appearance. But with a little more age and good care they can become one of the most beautiful of tropical fish. Bolivian rams are longer lived and more tolerant of a wider range of conditions than its more popular close relative M. ramirezi. Bolivian rams are generally quite peaceful when housed with suitable tank mates although very small fish may be regarded as food by some individuals.


Wild Bolivian rams will sift through mud and sand looking for edible particles, in the aquarium they will do the same thing so it is important to avoid using sharp gravel as a substrate, use sand instead so that the fish can behave naturally with risking harm. They are quite easy to please and will accept most types of commercial prepared food along with live or frozen food.


Male Bolivian rams are more colourful and larger than the females once adult.


A well cared for pair will spawn regularly without any special treatment. They spawn in typical cichlid fashion where a small territory is prepared and cleaned and then the eggs laid in the open on an object within the pairs territory. The eggs will be robustly defended but in order to raise a brood the pair should really be housed alone. The eggs will hatch after two or three days and the fry free swimming after a further week. The fry will take newly hatched brine shrimps, micro worms or a commercial liquid fry food.

Wild status

The wild status of Bolivian rams has not been scientifically evaluated.

Information at a glance

pH: 6 - 7
dGH: 5 - 12
Temperature: 22 - 26°C (72 - 78°F)
Diet: Omnivore
Size: 5 - 8cm (2 - 3.2in)
Min tank size: 100 litres
Difficulty level: Easy
Aquarium type: Community
Swimming level: Middle

Distribution and habitat

distribution map for Bolivian ram, Mikrogeophagus altispinosus

Origin: South America: Amazon River basin, in the Guaporé River drainage in Brazil and Bolivia, and in the Mamoré River drainage in Bolivia.

Habitat: Bolivian rams occur in freshwater streams and pools.


Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Perciformes
Family: Cichlidae
Genus: Mikrogeophagus
Species: M. altispinosus (Haseman, 1911)

Common name:
Bolivian Ram

Synonyms: Papiliochromis altispinosus, Microgeophagus altispinosus