Ruby Clown Cichlid: A Detailed Care Guide

Ruby Clown Cichlid is one of the best additions to your tank and there is no question about it. But what are they like? How can you take care of Ruby Clown in your tank?

Ram Cichlid in planted tank
Ram Cichlid in planted tank

These Ruby clown cichlids, also popularly known as Bolivian Ram Cichlids, are colorful, freshwater fish. They are very peaceful and are one of the ideal choices for beginners.

You can easily take care of them even if you are new to fish keeping. They are even great addition to the community tank as these cichlids are shy and will not disturb other fish.

But will this information suffice for keeping Ruby Clown Cichlid in your tank? No, it won’t. so, let’s learn what are the dos and don’ts for this fish.

Ruby Clown Cichlid: An Overview

Ruby Clown Cichlids are also widely known as Bolivian Ram cichlids, Butterfly Ram, and Bolivian butterfly Cichlids. Mikrogeophagus altispinosus is another name they carry scientifically.

These ruby clowns belong to family Cichlidae family keeping themselves among the family of the largest group of freshwater fish.

Before you know how to take care of your fish, you need to know what they are like. Where do ruby clown cichlids originally belong to? What is their water preference?

Distribution And Habitat Of Ruby Clown Cichlid

These ruby clown cichlids originally belong to the Amazon basin of South America. You can also find them in the freshwater bodies in Brazil.

As their other name suggests, it is quite easy to understand where they are from. They are endemic to upper Rio Madeira of Bolivia.

They thrive in the lagoons, steams, and pools with thick vegetation. These fish are very shy so they ask for hiding spots and shaded areas where they live.


Well, if you know these fish and searching for their care guide, then you definitely know how beautiful and eye-catching these fish are.

Ruby Clown Cichlids are beautiful, colorful, and very impressive fish. They are quite small yet add a certain beauty to the tank.

These fish are known for their graceful swimming and playful nature with the elongated oval-shaped body. The fast yet graceful and effortless swimming of these fish is the result of soft fins.

Their pointed tail and fins make them more desirable and the male has much-pointed dorsal fins and longer filaments.

Even the range of colors they are found will definitely give you so many options to choose from. They go from dull brown to grayish-blue featuring an overall solid-color body.

The dorsal fins tips, tail edges, pectoral and anal fins have a hint of orange along with a whitish-yellow belly. The front half also has a yellow color making them so colorful yet beautiful.

The middle area of the dorsal fin they have has a beautiful black spot adding more color to their body. As their name states, these ruby clownfish have colors that will enhance the beauty of the community tank.


As the largest group of freshwater fish carrying the load of 2000 types, these cichlids are divided into few groups like African Cichlids, the South American Cichlids, Dwarf Cichlids, etc.

Talking about these ruby clown cichlids, they hug the dwarf cichlid group with their small size along with other dwarf cichlids like Rainbow cichlids.

The average size these Ruby Clowns grow up to is 3.5 inches. The size, however, may vary among male and female species.

The male tends to grow larger than the female, thanks to the pointed fins and longer filaments. Female grows up to 2 inches only while the male reaches 3 inches when they mature.


While we are at this, firstly it is good to know how long they live in the wild. These cichlids live up to 6 years in their natural habitat.

So, lifespan, no doubt, shortens when you bring this fish to the life of captivity. Even though you provide proper care, attention, and water parameters, these fish will live for 4 years only.


As already stated, Ruby Clowns are peaceful, shy yet playful fish you can get in your tank. They show no aggression and mind their own business most of the time.

Because of their good temperament and beautiful features, they make themselves quite an addition to the community tank.

When most of their distant relative cichlids are well-known for their slight aggression and bullying nature, ruby cichlids jump the other way making an exception.

They make themselves a great companion for a few freshwater fish with the same requirements. Even their preference for the tank level gives a window for fish that prefer swimming around the top of the tank.

These cichlids prefer and are often seen swimming around the lower and mid part of the aquarium. And the way they swim with few strokes and pause, makes them look so adorable.

Ruby Clown Cichlid Care

When you plan on getting any cichlids or even any freshwater tropical fish, there are certain things you need to do for these fish.

If you miss out on any of the things they ask for, you may lose your fish even when they are among the hardiest fish.

Ruby Clown Cichlids are hardy and can handle slight fluctuation in the water parameters. But if the change can affect the dynamic of the tank, then it will definitely affect your fish.

You need to be careful while handling fish as they are very sensitive living beings. There are certain water parameters and quality these cichlids ask for, make sure you give them all that.

Water Parameters For Ruby Clown Cichlid

Every fish asks for water quality that mimics their natural habitat. So does your ruby clown cichlid. They need water that is in ideal condition.

These clown cichlids are an ideal choice for beginners as they are hardy and will adjust to a huge range of water.

However, you need to take care of a few things and maintain the ideal temperature, pH, and hardness of the water in the tank. This is the best thing you can do for these cichlids.

You need to keep the water warm and on the acidic side as well as the water flow shouldn’t be too powerful. You need to keep in mind that they belong to slow-moving streams so keep the flow as moderate as possible.

Also, you need to change 30% of the water once in a while or on weekly basis to maintain pristine water quality. The ideal water parameters for Ruby Clown Cichlids are:

Temperature 74 to 82 °F
pH 6 to 7.5
General Hardness 5 to 15 dGH

School Size

Ruby Clown Cichlids can live alone as well as with a group and will show no issues whatsoever. There is no right or wrong in this case as they adjust well alone or in pair or even with a group of them.

They are not schooling fish but will school when kept together. And if you are planning to breed them in the future, it is necessary to keep 6 to 8 of them together.

These fish partner up from the juvenile phase and stays together throughout their life. So, it is clever to allow them to partner up naturally as artificial pairing barely succeeds.

Tank Size For Ruby Clown Cichlid

The aquarium size plays an important role to determine the happiness of your fish. The ideal size for your Ruby Clown Cichlid is around 20-gallons. So, you need to know How To Set-Up A 20-Gallons Fish Tank.

Learn More about Fish Tank Setup For Beginners

But if you are planning to add a few numbers of these cichlids, it is better to go for a 30-gallons tank. Your fish are hardy and adjusting doesn’t mean they can handle the crowd.

These cichlids need their own space to explore and swim around and will be stressed if the tank is small or overcrowded.

Stress always leads to diseases and eventually death so make sure you are giving enough space to your fish.

And if you are planning to keep a school of them go for 55+ gallons tank so that all of them have enough space. And the same goes for the community tank as well.

Substrate For Ruby Clown Cichlid

There are so many different types of aquarium substrates to choose from. They are very unique fish that don’t disturb substrate much. Although, these ruby clowns sift the substrate while searching food quite differently than most bottom dwellers.

So, it is wise to get a sandy substrate for these fish. They tend to sieve along the substrate and sand substrate is the ideal choice.

You can also add pebbles, big or small if you prefer some small stones in the substrate. This won’t bother these fish as long as they can sieve through it.

Plants For Ruby Clown Cichlid

Once you are done with the substrate, you need to go for another factor similar to their natural habitat.

These ruby clowns prefer thick vegetation where they can hide and rest when they feel stressed or nervous. You can go from water wisteria to Amazon swords along with Java Fern.

All of these and more will provide them shelter as well as hiding space. They don’t prefer much light so these fish might hide around plants to reprieve from light. So, you may have to choose low light plants for your aquarium with Ruby Clown.

Heater For Ruby Clown Cichlid

One of the most important things you need to worry about is maintaining an ideal temperature for these freshwater tropical fish.

These cichlids do adjust in a huge range of temperature and the subtle fluctuation doesn’t bother them. but they are thermophilic and will ask for a thermostat to maintain the ideal temperature.

The slightest change might not affect these fish but continuous fluctuation will definitely harm them. these changes can invite various parasites and bacteria in the tank as well as stress the fish.

All this chaos can make your cichlids unhealthy and even result in death. So, here is what you can do. You need to get an aquarium heater that will maintain optimum temperature all the time.

Aqueon Submersible Heater can be ideal for your tank if you are planning to keep Ruby Clown Cichlid.

Water Quality Maintenance For Ruby Clown Cichlid

You need to clean and maintain the tank water quality all the time. To maintain ideal water quality all the time, you need to remove pollutants like dead plants, dead fish, ammonia, nitrites, etc. from the tank.

These pollutants can make water cloudy in the aquarium and a dirty tank can be a real headache for you. Also, the change in water quality can affect your fish and can even cause the death of the fish. So, it is very necessary to remove all the impurities from the tank.

Filter, especially canister and hang on filter, helps you to clean the impurities present on the tank. Beneficial bacteria present in the filter media and later aquarium will perform the aquarium nitrogen cycle.

The nitrogen cycle helps to eliminate ammonia present in the water and prevent aquarium ammonia poisoning by converting to essential compound nitrate.

Ammonia can also decrease the pH and you have to increase the pH in the aquarium. That’s why it is necessary to know how to adjust the aquarium pH to avoid acid burn or other consequences to your fish.


They don’t need high-powered light and will do great will a low-dimmed environment. The low powered light will also reduce the algae growth in the tank.

NICREW Classic LED Aquarium Light is highly recommended for the tank with Ruby Clown Cichlid.

Decorations For Ruby Clown Cichlid Tank

Decorations might make your tank look beautiful but you need to know what to do and what not to do while decorating your aquarium.

These cichlids are shy and need various hiding spaces. They even need caves, stones, and driftwood in their breeding tank as well.

The stones and caves will give them space to hide and rest as well as these ornaments will enhance the beauty of your tank.

Water Changes

You need to change 20 to 30% of the water once a week. This can be tricky as overdoing the water change can be harmful to your fish. So, you need to know How To Perform Water Change and how much each time.

This will ensure the optimum water quality and remove all the extra toxic ammonia and nitrate present in the water.


Before you add a new fish to the tank, you need to quarantine them in a separate tank to monitor whether they have any diseases or not.

New fish can bring diseases, parasites, and bacteria along with them so it is not wise to add them directly to your tank.

Once you see them asymptomatic and healthy you can transfer them to the tank along with other pre-existing fish.

Ruby Clown Cichlid Diet

It is quite necessary to know what these fish eat in wild and how to feed your fish properly so you don’t overfeed them. Overfeeding your fish can cause a nutritional disease called obesity to them.

Ruby clown cichlids are omnivores and bottom-dwellers while they feed. In the wild, these cichlids tend to sieve through the substrate in search of food.

They go from riverbed detritus to other plant matters to small organisms that lie on the bottom of the water. They, however, feed on insects and plants that lie on the surface of the water too.

Food For Ruby Clown Cichlid In An Aquarium

It is risky to bring live foods in the tank as they can bring parasites and bacteria along with them. still, you can stick with a few diets that are healthy as well as different.

In the meaty section, you can feed them live or frozen brine shrimps, white or blood worms. You can even feed them finely chopped earthworms.

Flakes and pellets are also the best options when it comes to ruby clowns. Pellets tend to sink to the bottom of the tank as flakes don’t sink properly. As your cichlids have a habit of searching and feeding from the bottom, so, pellets are an ideal option here.

They also feed on homemade gelatin bound food that includes small yet balanced parts of vegetables, fruits, dried fish food, etc.

If your ruby clowns act fussy (generally they won’t), then you can go for garlic juice to stimulate their appetite and make their immune system stronger.

You can soak frozen or dried fish food you have in the garlic juice and feed them to these cichlids.

And now coming to the size of food. Don’t go big with these cichlids. You should feed them 2-3 pinches of food several times a day rather than large-sized food once a day.

This will help to keep your fish healthy and active as well as keep the tank cleaner with no remaining uneaten food.

Get more information on Fish Food 101: A Beginner’s Guide On How To Feed Aquarium Fish

Best Tank Mates For Ruby Clown Cichlid

These peaceful Ruby clowns make ideal tank mates for most of the other dwarf cichlids as well as other peaceful fish. And as already said, they are ideal for community tanks as well.

The thing that matters the most is the size of the fish as well as water requirements. If the fish has similar water requirements as these cichlids and are peaceful then they will be ideal tank mates.

Another factor is size. Although these fish are peaceful, they can’t differentiate between fish and food. So, there is a chance that these cichlids will devour smaller fish and shrimps present in the tank.

Larger fish tend to make ruby clown nervous and stressed. These fish are already shy and might be seen as prey by the larger fish.

Here is the list of ideal tank mates for these Ruby Clown Cichlid:

  1. Neon Tetra
  2. Pleco
  3. Tiger Barb
  4. Gourami
  5. Swordtail
  6. Mollies
  7. Rummy Nose Tetra
  8. Platies
  9. Corydoras
  10. Guppies
  11. Odessa barbs.

Worst Tank Mates For Ruby Clown Cichlid

Any predator fish or aggressive fish will make the worst tank mates for these cichlids. Also, avoid keeping the small-sized fish with these cichlids.

Shrimps like Red Cherry Shrimp are very small and can be eaten as food by these cichlids. So, stick to the above-given list and research well before keeping any fish with ruby clowns.

Ruby Clown Cichlid Diseases

Ruby clown cichlids are susceptible to few diseases like any other fish. That doesn’t mean they are very sensitive and will develop the disease every time you look away.

There are no such complicated diseases that are common in these cichlids. The disease they get is one of the commons among fish and is easily treatable.

Let’s welcome Ich to the list. If you are talking about fish and the Ich won’t be brought up. That’s quite impossible. Ich is the most common among the fish community and is seen in every other freshwater fish.

Ich is caused by a parasite when they attach themselves to the body of these fish. It is also known as the white spot disease as you will see white spots on the scales of the fish once they are infected.

This ich is a nightmare for any fish keeper and if you are new to fish keeping, then this will be the worst thing you have to face.

Once your fish is infected with ich, they start gasping, slow down, and don’t feed properly. Sometimes, this will even lead to death when the infection grows and isn’t controlled on time.

It spreads quickly among the fish, if you can’t treat the infected fish sooner, then you’ll have a whole tank infected with ich.


  1. Poor water quality
  2. Sudden Environment change
  3. Change in water parameters
  4. Stress
  5. Introduction of new fish with infection

Prevention And Cure

  1. Maintain the ideal water quality all the time.
  2. Maintain the optimum pH and temperature.
  3. Change the water frequently with high-quality water.
  4. Quarantine the new fish before adding it to the tank.
  5. Ensure the decorations you buy are clean and sanitized.
  6. Use medications as soon as you see symptoms on your fish.

Gender Determination

The best way to determine the gender of these ruby clown cichlid is to look closely at their tails, head structure, and dorsal fins.

Let’s talk about the tail first. The tail of the male species has filaments that are extended on both sides whereas the female has none. The only extension females have is in their tail fin.

Now coming to the head structure. You will notice two types of head structure: one of them is rounded than the other. The fish with a round head structure is female whereas a slightly less round one is male.

The dorsal fins come in the list of differences next. The male ruby clown has a longer dorsal fin in the 3rd and 4th ray while the female shows no such prolonged rays.

The dorsal fin of Ruby Clown Female, however, has rays that are arranged in progressive slope. Meaning that the middle rays are a bit shorter than the boundary rays maintaining continuous progress.

Moreover, it is easier to distinguish these species during the breeding season. The pinkish patch on the female belly shows up at the time of breeding.

Well, male doesn’t develop any patch like that and it will be easier for you to know which one is what.

Breeding Of Ruby Clown Cichlid

With all the easy levels while caring for these Ruby Clown Cichlid, there is no way they will give you headaches during the breeding period. They might not be the easiest fish to breed in a home aquarium but they are very easy to breed, just slightly different than the top 10.

You just have to be a little careful and extra caring when these fish are about to breed. There are things you need to do to make sure your fish have everything they need in the tank. You have to set-up a fry tank that is applicable for breeding as well as keeping the fry safe.

Before starting anything, you need to make sure you have male and female paired first. You can’t take two male and female cichlids and wish these two to breed.

You need to get 8-10 juvenile group of fish and wait for them to partner up on their own. Once they have found their mate, you’ll know because of their togetherness as they mate for life.

Breeding Tank Requirements

Although you can keep them in the same tank while they breed, it is wise to separate them in a new tank. You need to get an extra tank just for breeding purposes as the tank mates from the tank can harm the eggs.

They need a large space for the breeding purpose, so you need to get and set-up a 50-gallons tank. Also, these clowns search and seek shelter as they do in the wild.

You need to keep caves, plants, large snags, and stones where these fish can lay eggs. Likewise, you need to feed them enough frozen food during this period.

The temperature they ask for in the breeding tank is on quite the warm side, i.e., between 77 to 82 °F, as well as the light, should be dimly lit. Other requirements are quite similar to their normal tank so you don’t have to worry about that.

After seeking the areas, they want to lay eggs on, the couple cleans and prepares the area for spawning. Once the area is prepared the breeding process starts.


The female then lays eggs on the various areas they have chosen and the male will protect the areas where the eggs are kept.

These ruby clowns are open spawners and will lay eggs externally. The male will fertilize the eggs after they are laid.

These females are known to lay 100-200 eggs in the wild, however, captivity decreases the egg count to 100.

After the spawning and fertilization, the couple will protect their eggs till they hatch. These clowns are known for their parental instincts and will guard the eggs.

The male also keeps on fanning the eggs to create water flow and remove the dead ones. The watch is, however, taken over by females only giving a turn to males during feeding time.


After 60 hours of fertilization, the eggs will begin to hatch and once they are hatched, parents move the fry to another area with the help of their mouth.

Parents are overly protective of these newly-born and will guard them till they mature enough to swim. Fries will take 7 days to swim freely, till then they feed on their yolk sac.

These newborns are quite sensitive to nitrates so you’ll have to change 30% of the water every day. Once they pass a few weeks, they will start feeding on vinegar eels or shrimp naupii.

The parents of Ruby Clown Cichlids will lead their babies while they search for food in the tank. After 2 months, the fry will feed on any standard dry food.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Ruby Clown Cichlids Aggressive?

No, Ruby Clown Cichlids are shy but peaceful fish that are even ideal for the community tank.

What Fish Can Live With Ruby Clown Cichlid?

Guppies, platies, dwarf Gouramis, Silver Dollar, emperor tetra, etc. are the few peaceful fish that can happily live with Ruby Clown Cichlid.


In conclusion, Ruby Clown Cichlids are hardy and will be a great choice for you if you have just acquired a fish-keeping hobby. Those beautiful colors and the peculiar swimming style of these cichlids can attract anyone to the tank giving you the most beautiful tank. As long as you are taking proper care of your fish, you’ll see them swimming around graciously even in the community tank. Watch out for the parasites and diseases, and you’ll do great.

Happy Fish Keeping!