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German Blue Ram Breeding Journal


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I’ve decided to keep a journal of breeding German Blue Rams this summer. Simply put, here is why:

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Just took this snap of our young male GBR. It’s not hard to argue that this is one of the most beautiful small freshwater fish. In addition, they have an intelligent personality. People are quite divided on how easy / hard they are to keep. When we first wanted to buy some, one LFS owner swore he’d never order them again. “They die, and require  an advanced level of care. If I order them, you pick them up the day they arrive from our shipper here, and I can offer no returns or refunds whatsoever if they die on you.”

We were newbies to the hobby — my oldest boy and I — so we left there discouraged. We stopped in at another LFS, just to see if there were any interesting fish. While there, we asked the other owner about keeping Rams. “They’re great!” he said, “I’ve got a bunch right there,” pointing to a 20 gal. tank. We bought a pair, and the rest is history. We’ve bred hundreds of them now — nothing on the scale of Dean, or other breeding specialists — but we’re confident in a certain approach.

In this journal, my hope is to share everything in great detail, offer answers to questions (though hopefully others with even better answers will chime in) and above all to _learn new things_.

At the end, I hope to wrap up the journal with a tank full of beautiful breeding age Rams that I’ve bred and raised from scratch, all documented here on the Forum.

First off, I bought a female. She’s probably _not_ a pure color strain. It seems like she’s probably got Electric blue Ram color genetics in her heritage. This would bother a serious breeder, but it doesn’t get under my skin. She’s not a “hybrid,” just a slightly mixed color morph.

I bought her a month ago or so at the Ram-friendly LFS mentioned above. She’s been hanging out in our Discus tank for awhile. Temperature is up around 84° F.

That’s a key: Rams like temperatures above 80°.

More recently, I bought a young male German Blue Ram (photographed above). I set him up in a 20 gal. long with a school of tiny Glowlight Pygmy Barbs as tank mates. Rams can be bred alone, 1:1 — some breeders stress this. But if they’re not stressed, they’ll breed in a community tank as well.

There seemed to be a hint of Ich. I hit his tank hard with Ich-X, water changed, boosted temp... and it seems good.

Tonight, I’ve added the female. First suspending her in a specimen container. It was so neat to see him turn up the interest.

Once I added her, the romance really began in earnest. I’ve left the light on to see what happens. Here’s how their first “date-night” started off:

Just a couple minor notes: (1) the rattling sound in several videos above is just an old impeller in a HOB. It’s an unnecessary piece. I’ve left it for flow. (2) But don’t Rams prefer _less flow_ you may ask? Yes. But I don’t care. If they’re interested, they’ll find a place to spawn. (3) If they spawn, I’m going to try to pull the eggs and hatch in an isolated space. If I can get fry over the 2-week threshold, I plan to break the internet by moving this breeding pair out to a mini pond, and trying to get them to breed and raise a batch of fry outside on the back porch over the summer. 

Stay tuned!

 

Edited by Fish Folk
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Posted (edited)

I’ve found that feeding live foods is a helpful way to secure a good bond between a pair of fish. While I agree that the presence of smaller food-life in a tank that fry could eat may contribute to instinctive spawning, I also think that eating live foods (1) stimulates reproductive organs and systems in fish, and (2) gives fish a sense of simple shared satisfaction together before spawning.

 

Edited by Fish Folk
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This morning, after a “fasting day” I’ve checked in on the Ram pair. They’re looking good.

Male:

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Female:

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I’ve turned down the flow on the HOB to encourage more searching out a suitable spawning location in the tank.

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It may be that they will need a more closed-off / isolated spot — such as a small terra cotta pot might offer.

It’s time for a huge feast of baby brine shrimp. I hatch these out daily in our little fishroom. I’ve made a small bbs hatchery black-box with a small LED on constantly inside.

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The hatch is looking good.

So here goes . . . an overfeeding!

Complain away internet. Overfeed + Over-waterchange = spawning. Clean water is key, but so is roe and milt development. You shouldn’t, in general, overfeed your fish. But when stimulating breeding, it is important that they’re full while also in clean environment.

Once mature and comfortable, Rams can spawn every few weeks.

One last touch... cranking up temperature a few degrees from 80° F to ca. 83° F.

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Thinking ahead, I’ve added a heater to an outdoor mini pond for future “Ram tubbing.”

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And today, I took some basic temperature measurements in cool morning, and warm afternoon. 

Photo of thermometer from unheated mini pond at early morning (68° F):

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Photo of thermometer from heated mini pond at early morning (74° F):

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Photo of thermometer from unheated mini pond at end of afternoon (86° F):

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Photo of thermometer from heated mini pond at end of afternoon (87° F):

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Posted (edited)

One final chess move:

I caught the Rams favoring this quiet spot under the heater behind the large rock in this tank  (pulled from a dry creek-bed a few miles away out in the woods... another story altogether)

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So I grabbed a small flat landscaping stone I’d used in another tank...

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And I tucked it back there as an open invitation.

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If I come to this tank and can’t spot this pair, I’ll bet they’re spawning on that little rock!

I also adjusted the light to fall on the _front half_ of the tank, so that this little area starts to feel exciting and safe for them.

Now honestly, it’s hard to gauge if / when fish may spawn. He could be a tad young still (probably not). They maybe haven’t yet formed a mating bond yet (they probably will easily enough). I may pour in water from another tank where cichlids are spawning because the pheromones can flip a switch for other cichlids. It’s a fun guessing game. One little guess after another.

But where there’s _NO_ guessing is what I plan to do if they spawn:

(1) Unless impossible, I’ll pull the rock they spawn on, and attempt to hatch out the GBR fry and raise up in an isolated container suspended in the spawning tank. I’ll use R. O. water, and vigilantly water change.

This part of getting fish to spawn is Science: theories, tests, hypotheses, experimentation... but the actual raising of fry is Art: well-practiced craft, reliable know-how, etc.

(by the way, everyone seems to get science and art completely backwards... but that’s discussion for another forum)

Edited by Fish Folk
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So, Ram pair (and Pygmy Barbs) all appear happy. Temperature is near 81° F.

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Decided to run a general parameter water test just for good measure...

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Everything looks fine — pH, ca. 7.4-7.8, Ammonia - 0 ppm, Nitrite - 0 ppm, Nitrate - after 5 mins - ca. 5-15 ppm.

I decide to do a 25% water change, and two pumps of Easy Green...

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And I rescued another frag of bolbitis from the algae infested tank below, and added it. This tank is adopting a rhizome theme...

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Fed frozen spirulina brine shrimp...

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Cant force things. Still waiting on them.

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Suspicious things going on behind the rock in the back of the tank tonight...

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Found Electric Blue Acaras ramping up to spawning mode again at lights out. (Bad photo)

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So I transferred 1/2 gallon from the EBA tank to the Ram tank to “share pheromones” . . . no idea if this really works at all, honestly

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What I want is to get 1x good spawn pulled and doing well before I try them outside in the outdoor mini pond.

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Posted (edited)

If I could reach through the glass and slap a fish, I’d definitely smack this male Ram right now.

This female is all tube-dropped, scraping on stone, ready to spawn. And he’s just oblivious.

I bet she unloads her eggs tonight, and none get fertilized. 🤦‍♂️

I left the light on... I’ll check later... maybe she’ll woo him...

Edited by Fish Folk
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Good heavens! She definitely emptied out...

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I’m honestly guessing _none_ of these are fertilized. I know they all look brown now... but his tube wasn’t even dropped when I last left them.

But, here’s the drill in any case — I’ll treat this like a viable spawn:

(1) Float 2x 16 oz Walmart bottled waters in tank for 10 mins to match temperature. I use this water because it’s made using reverse osmosis (R.O.) — which ensures it is very _soft_.

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(2) I dump one bottle into a specimen container, pull the stone, try to eliminate any clinging detritus, algae, etc. and add it. Then I gently add from the other bottle. Any room in the specimen container left gets tank water. I use the bottled water because inside a specimen container, sealed off from the tank flow, fungus will run wild. I suspend this all inside the tank along with a couple wild alder cones that grow naturally near us on the edge of swamps.

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(3) Next, I add an Airline and Airstone. I had to forage around for a spare air pump, some Co-Op airline, and a ziss never-clog air stone.

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(4) And for extra good measure... my son and I prefer using H2O2 over methylene blue. I add about 1 ml. of over-the-counter 3% Hydrogen Peroxide. This, like the air and alder cones, is all about counteracting fungus.

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So, now it’s a waiting game. My guess is that these will turn white and all end up infertile. I just doubt this male did the deed. Unloaded female though!

 

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Here’s a closeup of the Ram eggs. The ones that are opaque or more cream-colored are likely infertile. But the slightly darker or see-through brown appear to be fertile. We might end up with 30-50 Wigglers if all goes well this week. I’m done dosing H2O2. Alder cones are beginning to release tannins. The air flow is still very strong.

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Well, it looks like there’s wiggling tails and vibrating eggs! Check this out:


I’ve tightened down / lowered the flow, added an extra control valve, and lifted up the air stone so that when Wigglers break free from the rock, they won’t get tossed everywhere.

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The alder cones are releasing some nice tannins now too. 

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There’s a bunch of viable wrigglers. I decided to gently shake them off of the stone, since the infertile eggs are eventually going to succumb to fungus, and I’d like to remove it.

From this point on, it’s really brutal for the next two weeks. Once they’re all off the stone, we will see how many make it to become free swimming. They eat through their yolk sack, which weighs them down. Then we need to _lightly_ feed micro food to them. Once they can eat baby brine shrimp, they’ll be over the next hurdle. Regular water changes become crucial. Once they’re past two weeks and eating baby brine, the die-offs go way down. I’m going to reserve a very conservative view of how many fry will survive. If I get 10x from this first spawn, I’ll be satisfied. If I get 25 or more, I’ll be ecstatic. Once we raise these fry to full maturity in our water, and then they breed — you’ll see much more hardiness in the line, and the colors should be amazing.

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Posted (edited)

Checking back on the Wigglers in the specimen container, I decided to shake off the rest of them.

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Along with the fry came a large amount of white, fungus-covered, infertile eggs.

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I remove the air stone to get the water still, and begin the patient, painstaking job of carefully drawing eggs out while leaving fry. I use an over-the-counter WalMart liquid medicine syringe with a long piece of airline attached.

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It is not easy. Everything must be done slowly and gently.

The stone, with a number of infertile eggs still attached, I just chucked back into the adult tank. The GBRs begin eating them.

I’ll flush the dead eggs I pulled from the fry container.

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So, Wigglers remain on the bottom of the container. The stone and fungused eggs are out. The airline is returned.

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Now we a wait-and-see a few days...

Edited by Fish Folk
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