Keeping rams (Mikrogeophagus ramirezi) can be a difficult prospect for some fishkeepers. Rams simply do not adjust to water that is anything other than soft and acid, which is what the water is like in their natural habitat. In addition, they seem to prefer higher temperatures than most typical tropical fish – about 84 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit. This is why they are often recommended as tankmates for discus.
Rams are such a beautiful freshwater fish that fish farmers all over the world breed them and offer them for sale to wholesalers and then to your local fish store (LFS).
The problem is that the many of the rams that you will see at your LFS are from the Far East. These are very weak fish that have been “pushed” to get to sellable size at high temperatures, in sterile conditions and with lots of live food. They also may have been fed hormones to bring out more vivid colors. These fish are put into a bag with a whole bunch of their brothers and sisters and then into a box that is flown halfway around the world. When they are at the wholesalers or distributors, they are at kept at lower temperatures and have been stressed from their long trip. They are also suddenly expected to eat dry flake food.
If you want these cichlid fish species, ask your LFS to specifically bring in some German blues – not necessarily from Germany, as there are quite a few breeders in Florida – but definitely NOT from the Far East. True German blue rams will cost more than the Far East ones (often twice as much), but they are worth it.
Finally, if you are fortunate enough to get some true German blue rams, they will really only thrive for you if they are kept in soft/acidic water, at 80 degrees or higher.