Planted Tank Obsessed
Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: ABQ, New Mexico
OK, sorry for the novel first off.
Hey there pmcsomething. I am by no means an expert on SA Cichlids but I have been keeping very successfully (and they would breed successfully if the Plecos wouldn't eat their eggs) for a few years. My water parameters are about the same as yours (High pH and harder water) and I do nothing special to the water except to use dechlorinator.
I would highly suggest cichlid-forum.com and look under their South American section. There are a couple of people there who all they keep are rams (both German and Bolivian) and so there is a TON of information and the people are nice. Do a search on the username "blairo" and take a look at some of his planted tanks. The guy has a gift and likes to keep rams as well. Just remember that depending on what types of cichlids you keep, they will dig and eat your plants. Rams are pretty good about not eating them, but they do dig.
Now for my "opinion" stuff when it comes to changing water parameters. How big is your tank and how often are you planning on changing water? I have a 135 and a 55 (soon to be 90) where my SA cichlids are kept and a 15% water change is over 28 gallons of water to treat. Changing my pH or hardness was just out of the question. If you have a smaller tank then maybe, but personally I would look around in your area for some high quality fish that were acclimated to your water. Or keep them in a small (10 gal or so) quarantine tank and slowly acclimate them with your water over time and put them in your main tank. As an aside, most non-wild rams will probably acclimate well in your water, but I do not know about breeding.
Bottom line to all of this, and a lesson I learned the hard way, is that when your tanks become more work than enjoyment the hobby becomes another job and can make you lose interest or worse (not paying close attention and losing fish). Just be careful before you take the plunge to treat all that water without thinking of the possibilities. For example, a bottle of medicine, fertilizer, or dish soap gets accidentally dumped into the tank and you have to do an emergency 60-75% water change. I have been called a pessimist for thinking like that but if it could save my fish I am all for it. Sorry for the novel, I just hate to see people start a regimen that causes more work when it is not entirely needed.
BTW, somewhere on this forum (sorry cannot remember the name) is a person who keeps discus in a naturally planted, NON WATER CHANGE tank. That right there is a perfect example of how these fish can acclimate.
Hope that helps and doesn't confuse the issue.