Are Bolivian Rams Bottom Feeders? {Can They Eat From The Substrate?}

Do you want to find out are Bolivian rams are bottom feeders? Can they survive on just eating from the substrate?

Is it ok for them to feed from food at the bottom of the tank.

In this article, we’ll dive into the topic of bottom feeders and whether or not Bolivian rams fall into this category.

Are Bolivian Rams Bottom Feeders?

Yes, Bolivian rams are not predatory by nature and sift through the substrate in the wild and in tanks for microorganisms, leftover food and edible debris such as plant matter. Add sinking pellets, boiled vegetables and meaty snacks to their diet as well.

Why Are Bolivian Rams Bottom Dwellers?

The Bolivian ram is native to tropical freshwaters of Bolivia and Brazil. They are also known as the Bolivian Butterfly. The river basins and lakebeds that house them naturally contain plenty of nutrients at the bottom where they dwell peacefully.

The sandy or muddy bottoms of these bodies of water is where Bolivian rams filter food from the sediment. They look for:

  • plant matter
  • nuts
  • seeds
  • small organisms
  • worms
  • small fish
  • insects
  • larvae

The bottom allows these peaceful fish to avoid predators with plenty of shade and spaces to hide. They can also protect themselves with sharp spines around their fins. A predator will have trouble finding and swallowing them.

Should I Feed Bolivian Rams?

Even though Bolivian rams are bottom feeders, you should add balanced meals to their diet. They are looking for anything that sink to the floor of your tank. Bolivian rams prefer soft or sandy substrate to play and search for food.

Sinking pellets with a blend of fish or shrimp meal mixed with veggies provides plenty of nutrition to supplement what they can find in the substrate. Include snacks of boiled veggies such as cucumber or zucchini. Also add mysis or brine shrimp and the occasional bloodworms 1-2 times a week.

How Much Food Should I Feed Bolivian Rams?

You have to observe the way your Bolivian ram eats. At first, this particular type of fish may act shy at the bottom of the tank. They will not compete with tankmates for food. They will also wait or sift through the bottom for food.

Try to feed your Bolivian rams 2-5 pinches of sinking pellets because flakes tend to float or sink slower. These pinches of food must make it to the bottom. Watch and see what happens. If they aren’t eating right away, they may find the leftovers later on through their daily rummaging activities.

Are Bolivian Rams Easy To Keep?

Bolivian rams are hardy and hungry. They are not picky or aggressive. Beginners are welcome to keep Bolivian rams for their peaceful and carefree nature. They will keep themselves busy at the bottom of the tank.

It’s best to add 2-6 Bolivian rams at the same  time into your tank that is at least 30 gallons for 2 and 75 gallons for 6. They enjoy plenty of space and will pair up to mate and breed.

The mating ritual may involve two males fighting for a chance to breed with the available female. A female may chase the male around to test his strength and suitability as a potential mate. The entire act is usually harmless and shouldn’t leave them with wounds or abrasions.

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How Should I Feed Bolivian Rams?

Bolivian rams are omnivores that enjoy nibbling on food all day long. Even if you are not feeding them more than twice a day, you will notice them trying to seek out what they can find in the substrate.

These bottom feeders filter the water and sand they swim through for anything edible. Feed your Bolivian rams foods that sink quickly such as sinking pellets. Chop up worms or add in brine shrimp 1-2 times a week along with algae wafers or boiled veggies that sink.

Vary their diet between:

  • live foods
  • frozen foods
  • presoaked flakes
  • sinking pellets
  • veggies 
  • algae wafers

2-5 servings of small pinches of food will suffice. They are always going to be hungry or at least look for more even if they aren’t.

Feeding them too much at once will disrupt the water quality as too many leftovers could spike up ammonia levels. Bolivian rams are one of the easiest fish to feed in your tank.

How Do I Set Up A Tank For Bolivian Rams?

One Bolivian ram should have around 20-30 gallons to swim through. Each additional ram should allow for 10 more gallons of water. A 55 gallon tank would be sufficient for 4 Bolivian rams, but we recommend larger tanks at 75 gallons or more for multiple pairs of these fish.

  • Water temperature: 74-78°F
  • pH 6.0-7.5
  • Water Hardness: 5-15 dGH

Add in plenty of decorations, plants or obstacles for your Bolivian rams to swim through or hide. Include:

  • stones
  • driftwood
  • caves
  • rooted plants

Which Plants Go Well With Bolivian Rams?

The following plants would work well in a tank with Bolivian rams:

  • Java Fern
  • Amazon Sword
  • Vallisneria
  • Anubias Nana
  • Wisteria

Bolivian rams like dimly lit environments and these plants provide shade for them. Floating plants are also a good idea to block some of the artificial or natural light.

What Is The Best Substrate For Bolivian Rams?

Bolivian rams live in muddy basins and lakebeds where the sediment is soft for them to sift through. Most of these places include sand and we should try to mimic that in our tanks.

Sand is the best option, but you can mix in soft or rounded gravel and stones that will not hurt their bodies when they are digging and playing at the bottom of your tank.


Bolivian rams are bottom feeders, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be feeding them. They are not picky, but due to their peaceful nature, they will not try to swim and compete with tankmates for food that is being delivered. They will wait at the bottom for their meals to sink and reach them.

You should give them very small pinches of food throughout the day instead of all at once. Don’t worry if you are not seeing them gobbling up all the food right away.

The small amounts you are feeding will naturally break up and mix into the substrate where other edible debris is located. This is where your Bolivian ram is most comfortable and able to sift through for bits of snacking all day long.

Brian Arial

Brian Arial has kept fish for leisure and worked with fish stores for most of his life. He enjoys writing and caring for aquariums and ponds.

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