I'll be going into my second year of college at the end of the summer and a wonderful friend gave me his ten gallon after he had to sell off his nano reef stock for reasons.
Basically all of my tanks have been smaller than that so I've been pretty limited on what I can have. My current college tank is a 2.5 gallon with two irritable female platys. I've suddenly found myself growing bored of platys after keeping them for four years and want to move into something a bit more challenging/interesting.
For local stores in walking distance (I don't have a car), I'm pretty much limited to PetSmart and a place that sells nothing but marine, guppies, and really expensive, really large cichlids.
Since I have only the typical PetSmart stock, a 10 gallon tank, and a limited budget to work with, I was figuring I might go for a single ram of whatever kind they had and a school of five or six cherry barbs or harlequin rasboras with maybe 2 to 3 corys.
I however, have no experience with cichlids. Would this be possible?
I used to keep a 10g cichlid tank in college as well and two 10g tanks of cichlids (african dwarfs, flowerhorns, etc) at home for years.
That being said, I do have little experience with rams.
But here are some things I follow when setting up any cichlid tank.
You would do well with one or 3+ to spread aggression.
And if you do get 3+, be sure to add them at the same time. Make sure to keep an eye out on the tank water as it does impact the bioload.
Cichlids will usually be aggressive to any other fish in the tank. Even with spread aggression, there's no guarantee it will work and if it doesn't you end up with dead or soon to be dead fish.
As with all fish, temperaments vary for each individual, but generally cichlids are aggressive and territorial. Even if some are considered peaceful, they may nip at fins.
I would usually keep them only with other cichlids of the same temperament or certain species of pleco (the safest bet IME).
However, if the cichlid can outgrow the pleco by a sizable margin, the pleco will probably not be safe.
(plants*,driftwood, rocks, etc)
1. Break Line of Sight (As much as you can in a 10g).
*They love to nip plants
Anything they can dig/burrow (sand, small-med gravel, etc.).
Just to make sure, if you overstock your tank to spread aggression, you must have adequate filtration.
I've recently tried Purigen to substitute the carbon media, and I highly suggest it. However carbon is still a great alternative as I'm not sure you would want to go through the work of recharging the Purigen, which consists of a bleach soak followed by dechlorinator soak.
Cichlids are really fun to watch and have loads of personality compared to other fish. I would be hesitant to keep them with other than what I mentioned, especially in a 10g. My knowledge of Blue Rams is limited however so use this as a general guide if no one else provides more information on the subject.
I don't know if I'd get 3+ in that small a tank unless they are all one sex. If you get a male and female, chances are they'll pair up and pick on the odd one out. It's very easy to sex German Blue Rams so it should be easy to pick them out. Females will always have a pink belly and males will not. Its plain and simple. Don't look at the fin size or anything else. Just look for a pink belly.
Gametheory, it sounds like your advice is more for Africans as Rams typically won't nip on plants and actually really like planted tanks and aggression is way different with Rams. Once a male and female pair up they will be very territorial towards any other Rams, especially in that small of a tank. I'd get a pair as they are fun to watch and really cool fish.
Aren't I looking at problems if I just pick a male and female? Don't rams get a bit aggressive I don't get an already mated pair?
Also, if I want tank mates of any kind would the cherries be a good choice? Semi-aggressives with semi-aggressives?
Most of the time if you put a male and female together they will pair up. Sometimes they are incompatible and it just doesn't work out but I've found more often than not they will pair up. I've housed just about every pair I've had with either Cherry or Malayan shrimp and never had any problems. Once and awhile they'll be an occassional snack but not enough to affect the population.