What's new

Bolivian ram aggression at feeding time

Gypsum

Fish Fanatic
Joined
Sep 30, 2019
Messages
61
Reaction score
7
Location
Glasgow
First time fish and cichlid keeper here... This is a learning curve.

I have two Bolivian rams in a 125L tank, along with some tetras, corys, otos, cherry barbs, and a raphael catfish. One of the rams is definitely a male, and when I got the other a few weeks later, I intended to buy a female but there's a fair chance that the fish shop incorrectly sexed it, and it's also a male. It's smaller and younger than the first ram.

I've been having difficulty feeding the small one, and I'm concerned I'm underfeeding it. First of all, the big one chases it to the back of the tank at feeding time, and it cowers back there, not coming forward to beg with the other fish. Secondly, it ignores sinking pellets when you drop them on top of it. With the corys and the raphael, nothing stays on the bottom of the tank for very long, so it has no opportunity to find pellets later. The only food it goes for when you drop it are frozen larvae. If you target feed it bloodworms, it eats them (and everything else in the tank also goes nuts).

Its behaviour has noticeably changed in the six or so weeks I've had it -- when I first aquired the fish, it would eat sinking pellets without any trouble, and would catch them before the corys did. Now it doesn't. It hasn't grown a lot, and its underside is slightly concave. Often, it sits lethargically at the back of the tank, although as I write this today, it's being a little more active. The big ram is nosey and curious and races in for food at feeding time.

Myself and my partner are discussing options, but we really don't know what's best: setting up a small quarantine-style tank and putting the small ram in there, although running two tanks long-term isn't something we really want to do at this second; rehoming the fish, either with the LFS I bought it from, or anyone who would take it on; or continuing to feed it bloodworms and hope it improves.

What do the experts think?
 

Byron

Member
Joined
Feb 25, 2009
Messages
10,988
Reaction score
1,626
Location
CA
You need to separate the two rams now. If you do not, the smaller will slowly die. There is no other option.

Bolivian rams are solitary fish, according to observations made in their natural habitat. A male will establish his territory, and in most aquariums this will be the entire tank. I had a male in a 5-foot 115g tank, and he owned that tank, no question, and made it obvious to all the cories and tetras so this is not just species-related. Introducing a second ram like you did (I made the same mistake several years ago before I understood this) has angered the existing male, who now sees the second ram, whether male or female, as an invader of his space. Pushing and shoving is the beginning; you will wake up to a dead ram before long.

Rams must select their mates and bond. I would stay with the one male, he will be happier, and have (barring other issues) a normal life expectancy. Four to five years is the norm, my male lived into his ninth year.
 
OP
G

Gypsum

Fish Fanatic
Joined
Sep 30, 2019
Messages
61
Reaction score
7
Location
Glasgow
Thanks for the advice. Looking into rehoming him, although he seems perkier today and the other one isn't hassling him as much.

There's so much contradictory information on the web regarding the best way to keep Bolivian rams and all of it is anecdotal. Should you keep one or two or six? It's really hard to figure out the ideal set-up.
 

Byron

Member
Joined
Feb 25, 2009
Messages
10,988
Reaction score
1,626
Location
CA
Thanks for the advice. Looking into rehoming him, although he seems perkier today and the other one isn't hassling him as much.

There's so much contradictory information on the web regarding the best way to keep Bolivian rams and all of it is anecdotal. Should you keep one or two or six? It's really hard to figure out the ideal set-up.
Experience is helpful, but knowing the scientific facts even more-so, and that is my aim.

You have to be careful going by back-and-forth interactions. As an exampple in my case, I had the male for a couple years, and when I found a tank of very healthy Bolivians I decided to get him a mate. He was in the 5-foot, plenty of room I thought. I introduced a female that was a tad smaller but not by much. They interacted as one would expect, and within a week spawned. The cories ate the eggs during darkness, and the female seemed to take this as a sign of the male's weakness and went after him. This in itself was unusual. A couple weeks later, they spawned again, and once more the cories got the eggs at night. This time the male went on the rampage, but they spawned again a few weeks later, and a fourth time after that. Each time the cories got the eggs (the third time they got the shoal of fry at night). I guess the male had had enough by this point, and after some harassment as previously, one morning she was dead. Looking back now with the benefit of research, I can see that all the signs were there but I didn't read them. The pair did not select one another and bond, and given that fact, success was never going to be achieved. Of course, they might have bonded but this so far as I know only works when they are in a group to begin with and do actually select one another.
 
OP
G

Gypsum

Fish Fanatic
Joined
Sep 30, 2019
Messages
61
Reaction score
7
Location
Glasgow
Knowing the science and how these fish behave and interact in the wild would be ideal, but as you probably know, there's a lot of anecdotes on forums and not a lot of science out there. For instance, I was told they were social fish and having only one would stress it out, hence buying the second one. It seemed like a good idea at the time because the first ram didn't settle into the tank that quickly, and I was having issues getting him to eat the pellets. When I got the second one, roughly two weeks later, the first one became more chilled out and stopped being a problem to feed. I thought I'd solved a problem until the small ram started hiding more and not eating cichlid pellets.

The dominant ram will occasionally chase cherry barbs and tetras, but not relentlessly, and he doesn't hassle the corys and no one messes with the raphael catfish.
 

Byron

Member
Joined
Feb 25, 2009
Messages
10,988
Reaction score
1,626
Location
CA
Knowing the science and how these fish behave and interact in the wild would be ideal, but as you probably know, there's a lot of anecdotes on forums and not a lot of science out there.
This is true with respect to the anecdotes, and it is a topic that comes up frequently in threads. But it is possible to pin down the accurate reliable sources from the much less so. There is more science than one might imagine given the amount of drivel one encounters on YouTube and elsewhere. The first thing is to know (either personally or more often by qualifications/reputation) the individual responsible for the information/data. You soon learn to know who to trust and who is not worth the time of day.
 
OP
G

Gypsum

Fish Fanatic
Joined
Sep 30, 2019
Messages
61
Reaction score
7
Location
Glasgow
Well, the small ram has gone to live a life of luxury in a 300L tank. The remaining ram is doing a lot of swimming up and down the glass but who knows if this behaviour is related to suddenly being the only ram in the tank or just a coincidence.
 

Byron

Member
Joined
Feb 25, 2009
Messages
10,988
Reaction score
1,626
Location
CA
Well, the small ram has gone to live a life of luxury in a 300L tank. The remaining ram is doing a lot of swimming up and down the glass but who knows if this behaviour is related to suddenly being the only ram in the tank or just a coincidence.
Good. I can guarantee the small ram would have been dead before many days passed. The dominant ram will settle down, not a problem.
 
OP
G

Gypsum

Fish Fanatic
Joined
Sep 30, 2019
Messages
61
Reaction score
7
Location
Glasgow
He seems fine at the moment. As we had a bit of space opened up in the tank, we got three more otocinclus. Our existing three otos will probably appreciate the company more than the ram appreciated the company of his own species.
 
Top