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~Pooja Chakrabarty

Geophagus: Geophagus Steindachneri

The Geophagus is also referred to as the Red Hump Eartheater. A fish that seems hungry all the time, this South American species is not a very large or colorful cichlid. However it is attractive in its own way, and in fact, a male geophagus usually has several mates.

Also known as the Red Hump Eartheater, this mouth brooder is from the waters of South America, particularly from Colombia, and Venezuela.

In this sexually dimorphic species, the male geophagus is more colorful than the female and it has a more pronounced hump on the head. The males of the species grow to a length of about 5". Though not the most colorful fish, they have yellow and blue spangles which become visible in the right light. Wild geophagus cichlids even have deep red stripes but these disappear when they are bred in captivity.

Geophagus cichlids get sick easily if the nitrogen cycles of the tank are not monitored properly

They are polygamous fish that pair up with a number of females. The males therefore tend to be aggressive, but the females are generally passive except when tending to their fry. Due to the differences in their behavior, you could keep the male in a separate aquarium, while the females can be kept in another, such that the fish in both tanks can see each other. When a female is ready to breed as will be observed by her proximity to the male, the male can be transferred to the other tank till the breeding process is completed.

A mature geophagus female will have no more than 45 to 60 fry at a time. These become somewhat aggressive at this time as they want to find privacy to lay the eggs and to raise the fry. 

Geophagus cichlids get sick easily if the nitrogen cycles of the tank are not monitored properly. These cichlids stir the substrate in search of food, and hence waste matter from the gravel is freed. Hence, a good filtration system is required, and the water must be changed regularly. Also, preferably use a sandy substrate, as they tend to chew on the substrate while searching for food. Temperature, pH, hardness of the water are not major factors so long as they are not in extremes.

The usual aquarium foods such as flakes, pellets, bloodworms, and shrimp are readily accepted. How does a geophagus eat? It picks up sand and rolls it in its mouth before spitting out the non-digestible matter. That is what earned them the name of 'eartheater'. Do note that these fish seem forever hungry. Do not overfeed them.

[Permission for using the above picture has been given by Jeff Rapps of Tangled Up In Cichlids.]

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