Can Bolivian Rams Live With Sand? {Will They Choke?}

Are you wondering if sand is a better option for Bolivian rams? Can Bolivian Rams Live With Sand?

Will sand disturb their gills or add to their comfort level in your tank?

In this article, we’ll discuss if Bolivian rams like to live with sand.

Can Bolivian Rams Live With Sand?

Yes, Bolivian rams belong to the microgeophagus family, which means they are bottom dwellers. The earth provides food and comfort. A course gravel is harmful and unnatural for them. There are many sand options, but Bolivian rams will enjoy any soft substrate over rocky alternatives.

Can Bolivian Rams Live With Gravel?

Gravel that is coarse or rocky will harm bottom dwelling fish like Bolivian rams or Cory catfish. Bolivian rams are unique because they don’t want to disturb the substrate. They are not looking to make a mess and this makes sand a healthy option for them.

It will be more difficult for Bolivian rams to perform their natural duties of sifting through the substrate if it’s coarse gravel. Some fish keepers create sand and gravel zones in their tank or mix them together.

Why is Sand Better For Bolivian Rams?

Bolivian rams are earth eaters. They suck in the sand through their mouths and expel it through their gills. They filter it out and find food this way. Sand makes them feel more comfortable because gravel can be sharp and it could hurt their bodies.

You can keep patches of sand and surround it with stones. Some of it will mix with the gravel substrate you already have in your tank. Sand is the better option overall to mimic their natural conditions in the wild.

Can I Use Smooth Gravel For Bolivian Rams?

Make sure the gravel is not coarse or sharp. Bolivian rams are not picky and generally hardy. They are peaceful with not become moody because they aren’t getting the sandy substrate they are used to.

Add some smooth stones as well and see if your Bolivian rams use them as shade or shelter. Consider a mixture of sand and gravel or create sandy patches surrounded by stones.

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Which Type of Sand Is Best For Bolivian Rams?

There are many types of sand to choose from. Here are a few to mention:

  • Pool filter sand
  • Black diamond blasted sand
  • Playground sand
  • Aquarium specific sand
  • Colored sands

Pool Filter Sand

This type of sand could be large and bright. It’s cheaper than most choices, but you must wash it extremely well. The white color will get dirty and fish waste will be noticeable on pool filter sand. The grains are uniform in size and easy to maintain.

Black Diamond Blasted Sand

BDBS is a type of sand that is dark, but sometimes contains sharp edges. The best BDBS is expensive and smooth. Colorful fish like Bolivian rams will look vibrant and shiny atop black sand. The grains are small in size.

Bottom dwellers enjoy this type of sand, but its can also get dirty fast. Perform more water changes to keep the sand pristine. Thankfully, Bolivian rams do not wish to disturb the sand when they are sifting through it.

Playground Sand

Playground sand must be washed thoroughly. You will end up rinsing out the clay that is mixed into it. The grains look pearly, round and smooth.

The color is usually closer to a light brown which blends in well with debris or waste that can collect in the substrate. Continue water changes to keep it clean.

The appearance of your bottom dwelling Bolivian rams may become muted because of the brown color. The clay could get packed down and reduce the oxygen exchange if it isn’t rinsed out first.

Aquarium Specific Sand

Aquarium specific sand is the easiest to use and most expensive. The consistency is fine and the size of the grains are small.

Bolivian rams would enjoy it very much, but your budget will not. If you have a 30-55 gallon tank, go for it. If your tank is 150 gallons, it’s going to be very costly.

Colored Sands

This type of sand is calcium carbonate based. The brand “Imagitarium” carries multiple colored options. It’s also expensive and a bit artificial looking, but it’s pleasing to the eye. The grains are soft and your bottom dwelling fish such as Bolivian rams will enjoy the feel and texture.

What Are The Disadvantages of Sandy Substrates?

  • More cleaning
  • Fish waste more visible
  • Mutes the color of fish
  • Reduces oxygen exchange
  • Fine grains are easy for bacteria to take hold

Sand requires cleaning at first before adding it into the tank. Clay and other toxic compounds must wash away if you are buying cheaper sand for playgrounds.

The fish waste is much more visible in sandy substrates. Consider brown sand to camouflage it better, but that will also mute the color of your fish who dwell at the bottom.

Aerate the sand often so the bacteria doesn’t take hold. Larger grains are easier to clean and won’t get impacted with bacteria so easily. The oxygen exchange must flow and packed in fine grain sand may hinder that.


Bolivian rams prefer soft or sandy substrates that mimic their natural conditions in the wild. Look to add medium to larger grain sand that is not sharp around the edges. The larger the grains, the more aeration and oxygen exchange can take place.

Bolivian rams will sift through the sand to look for edible plant matter and leftover food. A rocky gravel substrate will make it hard for these fish to perform their natural behaviors and could harm their bodies. Sand is the way to go for bottom dwelling Bolivian rams


Thank you for stopping by at and we hope to see you again soon for more articles and information on Bolivian rams! 


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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