Why Do Bolivian Rams Fight Each Other? (Reasons Explained)

Bolivian rams are an extremely popular freshwater fish, with many hobbyists wishing to acquire them for their aquarium community. However, Bolivian rams do prefer to be housed in groups of between 4 and 8, which can lead to them "fighting" each other.

Bolivian Rams

Typically, Bolivian rams fighting is a result of two males trying to declare dominance over a female. However, there are a whole host of other reasons as to why you might think your rams are fighting, and sometimes your rams are not actually fighting! Let's dive in and learn more.

Why Are My Rams Fighting? (Reasons)

There are an abundance of reasons as to why your rams are fighting with one another. Here are the most common ones:

  • The territory within your aquarium.
  • Females fight with males to see if they are capable of breeding with them.
  • Females chase after males that they are not compatible with.
  • Two males fighting for breeding rights.
  • Your tank is too small to house Bolivian rams.
  • Ammonia in your fish tank causes your rams stress which can result in aggressive behavior.
  • You simply have one or more super aggressive Bolivian rams.


Bolivian rams can be pretty territorial fish, especially if there are not enough live plants or decorations to hide within.

If you see your Bolivian rams fighting around or over decorations, plants, rocks, caves, equipment, or the corners of your tank you should try and introduce more hiding spots as it will provide more territories for your rams to occupy.

Bolivian ram hiding spots


Females are typically larger and more aggressive than males. Sometimes the females will even chase and attack the males to see whether or not they are suitable to breed with. If she is successful, then the chasing will stop once they begin the breeding process.

If the female does not choose the male, she will usually chase him away or even bully him for some time. Not only do females bully, but two males will also fight for the right to breed with your female, and after the fight is over, the loser may be harassed for some time by the victor.

Tank Size

The tank size makes a huge difference when it comes to the aggressiveness of your fish. There is a rule in place for establishing how big of a tank you will need for your fish - 1 gallon per 1 inch of fish, however, with groups of rams it is much better to have a larger fish tank than this rule would suggest.

Bolivian Ram guide

Bolivian rams should be kept in groups of 4 (minimum), but groups of 8+ are typically advised. If you are going to house 4 Bolivian rams together then the size of your aquarium should ideally be 40 gallons (181 liters), especially if you are planning on adding tank mates, with the minimum size being 30 gallons (136 liters). This way, your rams can establish hiding spaces and territories, which will help relieve the fighting.

Water Quality

Fish can get stressed out just like humans can, and one of the biggest reasons for stressed out or ill fish is poor water quality. Ammonia or spiking nitrate levels will almost certainly cause your rams to become aggressive as they are trying to escape the tank.

Obviously, they cannot escape the tank, which will usually lead to more aggressiveness and fighting amongst each other. By performing 2 or more 50% water changes per week you will be able to decrease your ammonia level to 0. Your Bolivian ram tank setup plays an important factor in their behavior.

Not Noticing Their Behavior Before You Buy

When you purchase any pet you should always watch their behavior and see how they act before you acquire them, this is on the basis that you purchase rams from a pet store. Not only this, but you should watch to see whether they are healthy too, displaying bright and brilliant colors.

However, a brilliantly colored and healthy fish can still be aggressive, so make sure your desired ram is not chasing around other rams in the tank at the pet/aquarium store before your purchase.

Should I Stop Bolivian Rams From Fighting?

You shouldn't interfere with your aquarium community, even if they are fighting, rams included. It may only be a brief altercation between two rams trying to establish a territory or a female to breed with. However, if it continues over the course of several days, you should certainly try to help relieve the situation.

You can also look out for clear signs your Bolivian ram has been repetitively attacked via inflammation, bleeding, missing scales, or damaged fins.

As a first assessment, look at the various suggestions of aggressiveness in this article, since most of them can be normal behavior that require no intervention. If you notice your water quality is bad, change it immediately and assess the situation. But if you have checked everything and your rams are still going at it, you will more than likely have to intervene, usually by separating the two culprits and then populating your tank with more hiding spots and territories to occupy.

How to Stop Bolivian Rams From Fighting

The best way of stopping your Bolivian rams from fighting provided you have tried every other method and they are still being aggressive towards each other is to use a divider in your aquarium, separating the aggressive rams from the peaceful ones.

Do bolivian rams fight

You can use an aquarium divider or you can create your own by using driftwood, or similar decoration. Additionally, by adding plants to your tank you will help to relax your rams by providing them with shade and a nice hiding spot.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Here are some answers to the most popular questions surrounding the topic of fighting Bolivian rams, or overaggressive Bolivian rams.

Why Are My Bolivian Rams Lip Locking?

For most fish, lip-locking can be a sign of affection, or even that two fish are about to mate. Unfortunately, this is not the case with Bolivian rams, in fact, males will lock lips with each other as a part of their fighting ritual for the right to mate with a female. Lip locking is better than your Bolivian rams attacking each other, but it could be a sign that they are about to take their aggressiveness to another level. Make sure you keep a close eye on them if they start doing this.

Are Bolivian Rams Aggressive?

No, Bolivian rams are actually one of the least aggressive cichlid species. So, seeing your Bolivian rams fighting should be a rare occurrence. If you are not interested in your Bolivian rams breeding then you should look at removing a female so that your males will not become more aggressive.

How Many Bolivian Rams Should Be Kept Together?

It is certainly recommended to house no less than 4 Bolivian rams together as they prefer groups, despite not being schooling fish. We recommend keeping between 4-8 Bolivian rams to keep them happy. They will get along well with most fish species and they are hardy enough to live in a busy community tank with many different types of fish.


Bolivian rams are truly amazing freshwater fish and make for brilliant community members too. Sure, like most fish, Bolivian rams can be aggressive towards each other and fight, but as long as you know what to look out for and how to stop it you will be completely fine. Bolivian rams fighting each other is an unusual occurrence, but if it does happen, it helps to know what to do, which in some cases, is nothing.