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  1. Default Eartheaters: A Primer

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    In the dazzling pantheon that is Cichlidae, each family has something that makes it unique. In this post, we will study the Geophagans - the Eartheaters.

    Eartheaters, the literal translation of Geophagans, make their living sifting through the substrate for tidbits, like small Crustacea, aquatic worms, plant debris and insect larvae. Most of them will take food from the water column if given the opportunity, but the usual method of feeding is to take a mouthful of substrate and sift out food items, expelling the substrate through rake-like structures in the gills.

    Each species of Eartheater is different. Some are unbelievably peaceful fishes, some holy terrors. They range from just a few inches to over a foot long, and size is no indication of behavior. Some are mouthbrooders, some are substrate spawners. All grow up to be very attractive, colorful fishes.

    And the vast majority of them are suitable for the planted tank, and some must be kept in such aquariums for their continued health. None of the almost two dozen species I've kept tear out plants; in fact, they use them for cover and security. Most are excellent community fishes and won't touch tankmates too large to eat. And all of them are great parents

    Many will only spawn in soft, acidic water, and some will only live in such waters. The majority are, however, adaptable to a point, but none do well in hard, alkaline water like pH's in the high 7's and hardness over 15 degrees.

    Since they do comb the substrate, it behooves one to have a soft substrate for the fishes. Small-grade gravel is best, but aquatic soils and mixes of coarse sand and small gravel can be used. They will keep the top layer of your substrate turned, especially the larger species, since they work on the substrate far more than most of the smaller species do.

    The Austrian scientist Johann Jacob Heckel erected the Geophagus Genus in the early 19th Century, and one of the fish in this list is named after him.

    Now, some species.


    Hailing from the warm waterways of Brazil and Guyana comes Satanoperca leucosticta, the Long-Nosed Eartheater. Often misidentified as S. jurupari, the Long Nose Eartheater for many, many years was THE Eartheater in the hobby. The true S. jurupari is very, very rare in the hobby, and it's highly unlikely you'll see one.

    Topping out at a foot long in a suitably-sized aquarium, say a 200 gallon; S. leucosticta are more usually around nine inches when kept smaller containers. This is perhaps the most peaceful larger Cichlid you can buy. Very, very mellow, and can be kept with larger tetras, like Lemon or Diamond Tetras, Corydoras catfish, peaceful loricariads; even the wisp-like hatchet fish are perfectly safe with this Eartheater.

    Like many others in the family, leucosticta makes its living by sifting though the substrate. The fish takes a mouthful of gravel, makes a chewing motion to sift out tidbits, then expels the gravel though the rake-like structures in the gills. Thus, a group of these fish will keep the top two inches of your substrate thoroughly turned.

    That habit denotes feeding. Live and frozen worms, insect larvae and Crustaceans, like Mysis shrimp, are best for them. Prepared foods should sink, like tablets designed for catfish. They will happily nibble fresh vegetables like cucumber.

    For some reason, this fish has an almost mystical meaning to the native people in its natural waters. They call it the 'Devil Fish' as it is both revered and feared. In fact, the Genus name, Satanoperca, means Devil's Perch.

    These fish are a perfect Cichlid for the large, planted aquarium with driftwood and stones. Though they come from still waters, strong filtration should be employed, as this fish is sensitive to dissolved organics like high Nitrate, and their foraging does stir up the substrate a bit. Filtration though peat is very, very helpful with this species, as though it can be kept up to pH 7.5 with moderate hardness, it is most colorful and healthy in soft water; about gH 6 or lower, with a slightly acid pH. They are truly brilliant fishes, especially the males, when kept in peat filtered, soft water.

    The tank should have a soft substrate, say a mix of fine gravel mixed with dark, coarse sand, or one of the aquatic soils so in vogue for planted tanks these days. Clean, water-logged leaves, like those from Oak trees, covering the substrate in the main swimming area, will enable the keeper to see not only natural behavior, but natural colors as well. Temperatures should be 77 degrees up to 84. I kept mine at 78.

    In tanks with soft, slightly acid water, the fish is a greenish yellow, with glitters of iridescent yellow-gold on each scale. In exceptionally well-kept examples, electric turquoise lines radiate on the head and the scales near it really sparkle. A very attractive Cichlid in health. They should be the only Cichlids in the tank, as they don't do mix well at all with others as they are easily intimidated. They can be kept in groups of six or more in a large enough aquarium, but when they pair up, the others in the group should be removed unless the tank is quite large and they can stay out of line of sight.

    These fish are mouthbrooders, and both sexes share the duties. A flat stone is cleaned and receives the spawn, which in about a day, are picked up in the mouth of the female. The brood is switched between she and her mate almost every day, so neither starve. After two weeks the spawn in released, and you can feed the fry baby brine shrimp immediately. They will shelter in the mouth of the closest parent when frightened until they can no longer fit. Warming the water to about 85 over a week or so and feeding them lots of live and frozen foods usually results in a spawn. You can leave the fry with the parents for a month as allowing the parents to raise them results in much better fry. Successive broods form a nuclear family with their parents.

    A very interesting, colorful Cichlid. Recommended.

    On to Part 2

  2. Default Part 2

    0 Not allowed!
    By far the most common Eartheater in the hobby is the diminutive Ram (Mikrogeophagus ramirezi) of the slow, warm, plant-choked waterways in the Orinoco watershed in Venezuela and Columbia.

    Of course, the Genus name means 'Little Eartheater'.

    Though available in several color variations and victim of the heinous practice in Asia of genetic manipulation via hormone injection of young fish, it's in its natural self that it's most attractive and healthy. A deep green-yellow background is liberally scattered with electric blue dots that extend into the unpaired fins, which also have a blush of deep red. Dorsal and anal fins are feathered with long rays. Faint dark stripes mark the flank, and a strong dark stripe runs through the eye, which is red. A strong occelated black spot is behind the eye. As they age, more and richer colors present themselves.

    Males top out at close to three inches, the females about a half-inch less and have an attractive rich pink on their anterior region. Dorsal and anal fins are less developed on her.

    In nature, Rams live in very soft, acid water all the way down to pH 5.0, with a general hardness in the ones and twos. It occurs both in clear waters and black waters stained by tannins, and always lives near the shelter of aquatic plants, and in truly soft, acidic waters, the roots of terrestrial plants. Thus one is obligated to keep them in the soft-water, planted aquarium for best results. Bright light should be diffused by floating plants over the main swimming area. General hardness shouldn't be more than 6 degrees, and pH 6.5 to 6.8 are best. Temperatures are 78 to 84.

    Very shy by nature, the best tankmates for your Rams are a dense school of tetras, like Cardinals (Paracheridon axelrodi), as it will encourage the little Cichlids to be seen. Small Corydoras cats, like C. panda, and Carnegiella species hatchet fish, can round out the stocking. It's best you keep your Rams in larger planted aquariums, say 75 gallons and up, as larger tanks are inherently more stable, which the Rams need, and will enable the keeper to keep a good-sized colony of these charming fishes.

    The water must be kept very clean via good filtration with weekly partial water changes, as dissolved organics like Nitrate are very poorly tolerated. Partial water changes should ONLY be done at night, especially when the little Cichlids have a spawn, as stress leads to disastrous results with Rams. The filtration must be efficient, but the water should be as still as possible, so canister filters are the best option. The tank should be very well planted with thickets of plants, driftwood and stones. Filtering through peat is recommended, as it intensifies the Rams' colors, particularly on the male.

    Kept in a group of six or eight individuals usually results in a compatible pair if kept in a soft water, slightly acid planted tank. They spawn readily in such waters, most likely on flattened stones, occasionally in depressions in the substrate. Young Rams lay about a hundred eggs, adults, up to 500. It takes a week for them to hatch, and a further 24 to 36 hours before the fry are free swimming. Do not disturb the parents in any way when they have a spawn, as they will always eat the eggs or fry if disturbed, like by a gravel vacuum. As above, do partial water changes, no more than 20 percent, at night with room lights very dim.

    Rams in general are excellent parents, with the brood collecting in a cloud around them when they are free swimming. The fry are too small for baby brine shrimp, so Rotifers are the best first food. It will be at least a week, more likely 10 days, that the fry have grown sufficiently to take live BBS. They aren't difficult to raise after that point, and leaving the fry with the parents for a month is a very good idea, and will result in fish larger, more colorful and healthier than their parents. There will always be a demand for such home-bred fish. Rams can live more than three years properly kept, with up to five not unusual.

    In feeding, they like to sift through the substrate for tidbits, so frozen and live aquatic worms, insect larvae and small Crustaceans, like Mysis shrimp, are their best foods. A suitably-sized pelleted food can be part of the diet, and vegetables like cucumber, and blanched zucchini, will address the fishes' need for plant debris. Live food like water fleas (Daphnia pulex) and aquatic worms like California Black Worms are very beneficial. The substrate should be fine, like aquatic soils, for best results with Rams.

    Stay away from those Rams bred in Asia, as though they are available in various attractive color forms, the fish themselves are inferior due to poor quality control and injections that makes males color up early, shortening their lives by 2/3rds. The two major national chains in the US carry these Asian-bred Rams, so seek out fish bred in Florida or the Czech Republic for good, high quality, healthy Rams.

    The fish is named after Manuel Ramirez, a collector and exporter of this and other fish in the first half of the 20th Century. They were initially exported to Germany, thus the common name German Blue Ram. A similar species, M. altispinosus, is native to the warm, soft, acidic, still waters of the Guapore΄ and Mamorι rivers. Native to Bolivia and Brazil, it's more yellow than M. ramirezi, but can be kept just the same. Bolivian Ram males dance for the female's favors more than German Blue Rams do.


    A native of the Parana River in Paraguay comes Gymnogeophagus balzanii, the Argentine Humphead.

    By the common name it is obvious this fish also comes from Argentina, as well as Brazil and Uruguay. Though it is widespread in nature, thankfully, the vast majority available are captive bred.

    Though the colors of the Argentine Humphead are relatively modest, they are quite pleasing. A yellow-brown is the base color of the body, which is bisected by six double bars that are dark grey to black. The male has many green and blue sparkles on the edges of his scales when he grows up, and those sparkles reach into the dorsal and anal fins, which are extended into long tendrils as he ages. The tail fin is similarly colored.

    The 'Humphead' name refers to the male. His face is flattened, like he swam at top speed into the aquarium glass, thus the common name. Only mature males have the distinctive head and sparkles; the females lack both, but she is attractive in her grayish brown body with the dark bands. The eye is orange-red.

    G. balzanii males top out at just over 7 inches, with the females about an inch less. Unlike the previous two species, the Argentine Humphead isn't monogamous, and males will mate with any female that's ready. Despite their total length, even when spawning, these are very peaceful fish to those that aren't small enough to eat. Larger tetras in a good school are perfect tankmates. These Cichlids look best over dark substrates with a dark background, and also they should be the only Cichlids in the tank, as they are easily intimidated to their cost.

    Like most Eartheaters, G. balzanii's best foods are insect larvae, aquatic worms, plant debris and small crustaceans, which are easily duplicated with live and frozen foods, and fresh vegetables like cucumber. Two or three quality pelleted foods should be no more than half the diet.

    They are mouth brooders - spawning on flattened stones - and the female waits a day or two before taking up the eggs in her mouth. She carries the eggs while the male guards her. After about two weeks the fry are released and can take live baby brine shrimp immediately. It may take her a time or two to get it right, as sometimes she either holds the fry too long, lets them go too early, ignores the spawn totally or eats the eggs. Once she gets it right, however, they are dependable spawners. In about a month the fry are large enough to care for themselves. Very young fish just have a single dark spot in the middle of their body and it will be some time until they start to develop the bars; over two months.

    They are adaptable as far as pH, and can live in moderately soft to moderately hard water, but to my experience they only spawn in soft, say gh around 5, and slightly acid (pH 6.8) conditions. They can be housed in the suitably-sized (75 gallons and up) planted aquarium with driftwood and stones, as they like the cover of plants as they give the fish security. Substrate should be soft like aquatic soils and filtration efficient for these fishes, as they don't do well in tanks with more than 10 ppm Nitrate. You can keep them in groups; one male to three or four females, as pairs often don't get along. Temperatures are 72 to 78.

    On to Part 3

  3. Default Part 3

    0 Not allowed!
    Topping out at just five inches and perhaps the only Eartheater that can be labeled as semi-aggressive is Biotodoma cupido; the Cupid Cichlid of the Amazon River basin in Peru, Brazil and Bolivia, and the Essequibo River in Guyana.

    This fish is only aggressive towards it's fellows, and in a large-enough aquarium, even that can be diffused. However, in pairs they are perfectly peaceful but picky, as buying just a pair is inviting disaster with one fish killing the other. The best method is to buy eight or so young fish, and select the best pair for transfer to the main tank. They are very monogamous, and will be mated for life. As they are little grey fish when young, normally they aren't very expensive in shops.

    What makes these fish worth having? Adults, particularly the males, as nothing short of stunning. Perhaps the Rainbow Cichlid would be a better common name as males can display a rainbow of colors as he moves through the tank. From a golden brown start, depending on how the light strikes him, he can be green, yellow, blue and close to the head, purple, and these colors get more intense as he grows. The strong first rays of his ventral fins are bright white, and the attractive golden-brown dorsal and anal fins grow flowing extensions when he hits sexual maturity. She isn't as glittery as her mate, but still attractive with a greenish-brown body with light dark banning. He has blue iridescent lines on his head, she dark spots.

    The only caveat is these fish don't do well above 7.0 pH. Soft water, under gH 5 with a pH between 6.0 and 6.8 is what they require, and 77 to 82 are the temps. They stay within easy distance of aquatic plants in nature, sheltering in them if frightened, so the planted tank with driftwood and stones is indeed the very best environs for them. The water must be kept very, very clean, which the plants will help with, and weekly partial water changes, no more than 20 percent, should be done at only night. The reason is, to my experience, they tend to hide in the plants all day if you do your water changes then, and they will not breed if disturbed in that manner. The substrate should be soft for their foraging, and background dark to accentuate their colors. Filtering through peat is very helpful. In exceptional surroundings and care, the colors they develop are startlingly beautiful. They are rather delicate fishes with no tolerance for dissolved organics like Nitrate, so only those with very-well established planted tanks should attempt this species. Drip bucket acclimation, at the very least two cycles, is all but necessary for these fish, especially wild caught examples. Exceptionally well kept, however, I found them quite hardy once established.

    Tankmates should be a large school of tetras, like Cardinals, and hatchet fish for the top realms. Mine never bothered Corydoras catfish, but those I talked to before writing this post said they sometimes do, as they are rather territorial and will frequent a favorite clump of plants, repelling those that invade it. These Cichlids prefer to stay near the substrate, so make sure a good deal of open area is available at the front of the tank.

    In feeding they eat live (better) and frozen insect larvae, aquatic worms and small crustaceans. They do nibble vegetables like cucumber. It may be some time before they take any prepared foods, nevertheless, two or three quality pellets should be only a small percentage of the diet.

    They aren't the easiest Cichlid to breed, but it's very worthwhile to do so, as the fry grow into far more colorful and hardy fishes than their parents. The temperature should be slowly raised to 84, and you know breeding is imminent when she digs a pit in the substrate. They should spawn in the evening, and he guards her while she hovers over the eggs, fanning them. They hatch in two to three days, and it'll be 10 days before the fry are free swimming. They are too small for baby brine shrimp, so Rotifers are the food for them for at least a week, perhaps two, before they can take BBS. Let the parents raise them for at least a month. You can leave the youngsters with them as they form nuclear families, and a colony of these fishes is quite attractive.

    A neat little Eartheater, and well worth seeking out.


    Perhaps the first Eartheater you should try due to it's exceptional adaptability, availability and good looks, is Geophagus brasiliensis, the Pearl or Mother of Pearl Eartheater of the coastal streams around south and east Brazil, and Uruguay.

    The pH and hardness levels of the Pearl Eartheaters' natural waters change dramatically over time due to tidal influx from the sea and torrential rains up river, thus they can be kept in aquariums with pH 6.0 to 8.0, and quite soft to moderately hard. If ill, even .5 percent sea salt can be used with them, as they are adapted to occasional brackish conditions due to the influx of sea water in their native environs, though by NO MEANS should you use salt with them normally.

    For most of the year, however, the pH is between 6.0 and 7.0., the water is moderately soft, and the temperatures are between 75 and 82 in their coastal streams. Best temps for maintenance are 75 to 78.

    The common name describes the fish, particularly the males. When mature, he is liberally covered by electric silver--green pearls; hundreds of them, and they go into both the dorsal, caudal and anal fins, which are expansive, and either edged with red or completely red. Body color on both sexes is a sort of brownish green; rich medium brown on the head moving towards a more greenish brown as you move down the body. Ventral fins are edged with an electric blue which is very bright on the male. A very attractive fish in health, and quite common in shops. Inexpensive, young fish are a sort of muddy brown, but be patient as in time they will be true showpieces. Make sure to buy six or eight youngsters to get at least one compatible pair.

    Males top out at a foot long given the space and time to do so, and the females nine, perhaps 10 inches. Despite their size they are rather genial fish. Yes, a pair will stake out a clump of plants, usually close to driftwood and stones, but they aren't very vigorous in defending it, as a school of larger tetras, like Lemons or Diamonds, are ignored.

    They do like planted tanks to my experience, as they aren't nearly as colorful in unplanted ones. They don't seem to take to plastic plants at all, but they harbor among live plants at night. They are substrate combers, thus the substrate should be fine gravel, which is natural for them since they come from rocky streams, or softer substrates like aquatic soils. They don't seem to like sand as much, for some reason.

    Though they are adaptable, one shouldn't push it. You can keep them perfectly well in pH 7.2 to 7.6 moderately hard water, but not in really hard, alkaline conditions. They do seem more colorful and genial, and more interested in breeding in the softer and slightly acid of the planted tank, but I saw no difference in how hardy the fish were in varied levels of pH and hardness the years I kept them. Filtration should be quite efficient, and for best results, partial water changes should be done in the evenings weekly. Kept in a well-planted tank, Nitrate is almost never a problem, but even in them, partial changes keeps the water fresh for these fishes, and results in better color.

    In feeding they are easily satisfied, though of course they prefer the live and frozen insect larvae, aquatic worms and small crustaceans. Stomach analysis of this species indicates they eat mostly insects and algae in nature, so it would be a good idea to culture some green algae on stones for them, and provide vegetables like cucumber and blanched zucchini as part of the daily menu. They will take pelleted food, so make sure they are high quality brands. The live and frozen foods should be the staple menu. They are quite good eaters, so there's no problem in feeding them.

    They will breed regularly if kept in the soft and slightly acid tank. The pair always selects a flat rock to receive the spawn, cleaning it carefully. Excellent parents, it's recommended you leave the eggs and fry with them, as long as you don't keep catfish like pictus or any of the doradids, as they will eat the fry at night. The fry are large enough to take BBS as soon as they are free swimming. Since they do feed a bit on the parents' sides it's best you leave the fry with them for a month. They form nuclear families if you keep the fry with them. This species lives for well over 10 years.

    A commonly available, attractive Cichlid. If you're wondering what Cichlid to put in your 75 gallon planted tank, the Pearl Eartheater is a good choice. It's also probably the earliest (1824) Eartheater named to science.

    On to Part 4

  4. Default Part 4

    0 Not allowed!
    If one wants one stunner of an Eartheater seek out Geophagus surinamensis, the Red-Striped Eartheater of the Maroni, Saramacca and Suriname Rivers in Suriname.

    In finnage and color the Red-Striped Eartheaters have no equal in the clan. A greenish base color is marked with deep red narrow stripes along the lines of scales. The ventral fins are orange and green and are long and feeler-like. The dorsal, anal and caudal fins are red-edged to full red with pearl-like speckles, and that tail fin is shaped like a lyre, the dorsal, attractively feathered and tall. The downward sloping forehead gives them a dour look, and the eyes are glittering red-orange. As they age, the colors steadily intensify and the dorsal and tail sprout into flowing magnificence.

    And a gigantic plus is, even though the top out at a foot long, they are peacefulness itself, thus you can keep these gorgeous fish in your large planted tank with schools of larger tetras, Cory cats, and hatchet fish. Even at their size, the Red-Striped Eartheater doesn't consider small tankmates food.

    They should, however, be the only Cichlid species in the tank, as they are easily intimidated and are likely to hide and starve to death even if kept with such mellow fish like Oscars. Given a larger planted tank, in the hundreds of gallons, this is one Eartheater that likes it's fellows, so a good-sized group of these beautiful fish can be kept.

    They don't like bright open places, so overhanging driftwood and floating plants are necessary for their comfort. Plants should be selected that have deep and wide-spread root systems like the larger sword plants to resist the near constant foraging of these fish. The substrate should be of course soft, like very fine-grade gravel or one of the aquatic soils now favored for planted tanks. Filtration should be strong and efficient. These fish developed in still, rocky pools in their native waters so they have no resistance to dissolved organics like Nitrate. Water changes should be up to 40 percent, and done only at night to avoid stressing these beautiful Eartheaters. Water quality must be kept very high consistently with this species. Temperatures should be between 75 and 80 degrees, no higher.

    Unless you want them to nibble your plants, fresh vegetables like cucumber and zucchini (blanched) should be available to them every day. They should have far more foods of vegetative origins than meaty foods than other Cichlids, as they eat a lot of algae in their native waters. They should be fed about 65 percent greens, 35 percent meaty foods. The more greens in their diet they more colorful and hardy they will be.

    In nature they also take insect larvae and aquatic worms, easily duplicated with live and frozen foods. All foods should sink to the bottom, as that's the only place they will feed.

    If your water is soft and neutral to slightly acid, your Red-Striped Eartheaters will breed in your tank. They'll either choose a flat rock or dig a pit to deposit the spawn and either sex will pick up and brood the eggs. They hatch in about three days, and the fry are free-swimming a day or two after. They are large enough to take baby brine shrimp immediately. Letting the parents raise them is an excellent idea, as they are great parents. They are only slightly aggressive when breeding, but like to stay in one area with their fry so as long as the tetras and Corys avoid that area, there are no problems.

    Though the young fish you'll find in shops are nothing to look at, just wait, as you're in for a colorful treat with these fishes. They aren't uncommon in shops but few know what they'll look like when they grow up.


    Though in the Geophaginae family for more than the last 150 years, that may change in the future of Acarichthys heckelii, the Thread-Fin Acara of Guyana and the upper Amazon River in Peru and Brazil.

    The reason for the possible change is the fish's mouth points straight out, not down like most of the Geophagans, and feeds primarily through the water column, not from the substrate. They are more chunky and only moderately laterally compressed than more common Geophagans. Only a few gill rakers this species possesses keeps it in the group. One day it might join the Laetacara genus, as it's thought to be between the Geophagan and Aequiden families.

    But, the fish does dig, and boy does it dig. Thought to be looking for hiding freshwater crabs, Thread-Fin Acaras excavate large, deep pits, all the way to the glass bottom of the tank. They do so most days. If you smooth out your substrate, they will just start building another wide, deep pit.

    Heckel's Thread-Fin Acara is one of the more sought after Eartheaters due to their looks. A medium-brown saddle starts just behind the head and ends just behind the gills. The body base color is greenish-beige and nine rows of yellow-white sparkles are on the edges of the rows of scales. An orange or dark spot is in center of the body, and the ventral, tail and anal fins are deep orange-red, and edged with electric green. The anal fin, caudal and dorsal are also liberally scattered with sparkles. A black line bisects the yellowish eye.

    It is the soft rays of the dorsal and top ray of tail fin that earns common name. When mature, the rays extend easily two inches, and are red. Those rays continue to grow as the fish does. Like most Cichlids, they can change colors and markings at will.

    Thread-Fin males top out close to six inches, the females an inch or so less, and she is less colorful than her mate, and her markings are darker. In a group, subordinate males share those dark colors. In feeding they are easily satisfied, and a concert of pelleted, frozen and live foods can be the main menu. Vegetables like cucumber and blanched zucchini are enjoyed.

    Not terribly uncommon in shops, and well deserving of tank space, as long as one has a lot of room for them to dig.


    Called the Red-Hump Eartheater in the trade is Geophagus steindachneri of slow-flowing waters in Magdalena River of Columbia and Maracaibo watershed Venezuela.

    The common name describes the male. When he matures, he develops more of a bump than a hump on his head, and it develops a reddish color. That red goes down the snout to the top of lips that would put Mick Jagger to shame. The body is a sort of tan and liberally scattered with dark on some scales, and lots of little greenish glitters on the edges. Dorsal and anal are edged with red, and it can have a blush of red on the anterior of the body when mature. She is paler, yellowish, and has light dark banding. His dorsal, caudal and anal fins develop long flowing extensions, hers don't and are less colorful. The males top out at nearly six inches, the ladies about an inch less.

    One should most definitely get a group of eight fish and keep them in the largest planted tank you can afford and site. When they start to mature, males no longer tolerate each other, and the large tank is necessary so the vanquished can shed his gay colors and blend in with the females. In a smaller tank one male would probably kill all the others, so keep these fish in a 75 gallon or higher, with several hiding places built within, as both the subordinate males and females should be able to stay out of line of sight of the 'Alpha' male. When he is sure in his authority he will usually allow others of his kind into sight.

    He will mate with any female that's ready to, and they spawn either over a clean rock or a depression she, and sometimes he, digs. She cares totally for the eggs, and the tank size is needed so she can brood in peace, as the male doesn't like egg-carrying females, even ones he just mated with. Mouthbrooders, she can eat a bit while carrying eggs and fry, a rare feat. Normally, she carries between 50 and 100 eggs and fry.

    He does a shaking, flaring gap-mouthed dance to impress a prospective female, and looks pretty goofy doing it. Both possess full, lush lips and almost 'kiss' in the nuptial waltz, actually testing the value of a prospective mate.

    They are true Eartheaters, and will spend a lot of their days sifting through the substrate for tidbits. Plants should be well-established and rooted with this species. They tend to shelter at night around driftwood, so buy a good-sized piece for your planted aquarium. Bottom should be fine and soft for them. A thickly-planted tank is by far the best for them.

    They like fairly soft water between pH 6.0 and 7.0, but do OK in pH 7.2-7.4 as long as the gH is under 12. The tank should be well-filtered, and these Eartheaters don't mind a little current through their tank. Temps are 75 to 80, and 77 degrees are best for them. Partial water changes should be done only at night, as this species tends to freak out and possibly hurt themselves if you do them in the day. As long as the tank is planted, clean, and regular maintenance is done, they will thrive. Water must be top-shelf with this species, as they are vulnerable to disease if you shirk your duties. Larger tetras and Corydorus cats can be tankmates, as these Geophagans ignore them. It's better they have lots of schooling tankmates, as to my experience, they tend to calm this species.

    They'll eat what you give them, but are very partial to aquatic worms and crustaceans. They'll nibble veggies, so they should be available to them. Pelleted foods of top brands are helpful, but the live and frozen will get them to breed.

    A neat mid-sized, rather funny looking, Cichlid. Recommended.


    The Geophagans are an expansive family and many species are available. I've touched on those most commonly found in shops on this list. They are fascinating, colorful fishes for your next aquarium.


  5. #5


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    WoW Dave!!!!

    Thanks for this article, very informative and I think we are definately in need of some Eartheaters for the monster tank in planning.....if we could find some here by us. They look beautiful as well!
    There may be plenty of fish in the sea, but there is only one in my pond.....

  6. Default

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    Excellent article Dave, Thanks for that.
    recently some kinds of eartheaters are getting available in my area, I really like to keep them, and now I have a good knowledge about them, thank you.
    80g Oscar Tank
    MTS cured!

  7. #7

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    0 Not allowed!
    Another great primer, Dave!


  8. #8


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    Great primer!

  9. #9


    0 Not allowed!
    That was a good read!

    50G Tank - Kyathit Danios, Zebra Danio, Swordtails, Silver Hatchetfish, Platy, Gold Barbs, Cherry Barbs, Bolivian Rams, Apisto, Zebra Loaches.
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  10. #10

    Default Wow Awesome Post!!!!

    0 Not allowed!
    Thanx for the info Dave. You have me interested in one now. So what Eartheater would you suggest for my 125 im planning? (Mabey Geophagus surinamensis ?) He would have to grow large as possible to discourage my Jardini from messing with him. Yet otherwise very peaceful, and very colorful - because my current fish are basically all silver I need some color in the
    Last edited by tanks4thememories; 08-16-2008 at 02:47 AM.
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