Above: a young 2.5" to 3" long Geophagus Winemiller Eartheater.
At this size this fish is just beginning to show some color, but as it grows, it will become very colorful.
Origin: Eartheaters are members of a very large family of closely related fish called Cichlids.
The ancestors of this Eartheater species lived in Venezuela in northern South America.
But now this Eartheater lives in aquariums all over the world.
Maximum Size: In aquariums males can grow to be about 8" long, including their tails, which is a nice size for large aquariums.
Females are a bit smaller than males.
Behaviors: Eartheaters are usually not aggressive fish, but males will quarrel with each other from time to time.
They're more aggressive just before spawning, during spawning, and when protecting their eggs and babies.
They're called Eartheaters, not because they eat earth, but because they take large mouthfuls of small gravel and sift out food particles to eat.
In this way they help keep the gravel cleaner, which is a big benefit in many aquariums with gravel.
Compatibility: Some recommended tank mates include catfish like Pictus Cats and Plecostomus, plus most other fish that are not too aggressive.
Even small fish are not bothered by Eartheaters.
Click here to read more about compatible groups of pet fish.
Temperature: Eartheaters live best from about 76 to 82-degrees F., with 78 to 80 being perhaps ideal.
Click here to learn about aquarium temperature, aquarium thermometers, and aquarium heaters.
Feeding: Premium Fish Food Pellets is the best type of food to feed Eartheaters and can be fed to them throughout their entire lives.
It's probably best to feed them smaller size pellets, even when they've grown large.
Click here to learn more about and shop online for premium fish foods.
Water Conditions: Their ancestors lived in in a region, where the water is usually soft and rather acidic, but apparently at times the pH and hardness increases in these water.
So Eartheaters can adapt to most types, and as usual it's best not to try to change the water chemistry, unless you want to breed them, hatch the eggs, and raise the baby fish.
Click here for a lot more information about aquarium water conditions.
If water conditions are not kept very good, Eartheaters may get the so-called Hole in the Head Disease. So do frequent partial water changes.
Click here to learn more about that.
Aquarium Size: Eartheaters grow fast and soon need to live in an aquarium with at least 80-gallons of water and eventually in an even bigger aquarium, if you have several of them.
Decor: Eartheaters need fine-grained gravel. Keep a layer that's shallow enough that they can dig all the way to the bottom.
As they get older and bigger, they will be able to dig deeper.
If the layer of gravel is deeper than they can dig, the gravel will fill with bits of uneaten food and become contaminated.
Click here for more about aquarium gravel.
Live plants are beautiful and improve the water quality, but Eartheaters will usually uproot plants, so aquariums with Eartheaters rarely have live plants.
Here's a way get around that problem. Put plants in new clean uncontaminated terra-cotta pots with #2 gravel, then top the gravel off with a thin layer of aquarium-safe rocks that are too big for the Eartheaters to move.
Aquarium Filter: Bio-Wheel Filters are highly recommended.
Most 80-gallon aquariums have room along the back for at least two Penguin 350B Filters, and this is sort of the minimum set up for Eartheaters.
Better is a 120, 150, or 200-gallon aquarium with as many Penguin 350B Filters as will fit across the back. Eventually one Eartheater will need a large aquarium with many filters along the back edge.
Click here to learn more about aquarium filters.
Like Oscars, Eartheaters will develop Hole in the Head Disease, if the water conditions deteriorate for several weeks. So dedicated maintenance is a must.
Click here to read more about Hole in the Head Disease.
The addition of Lava Rocks will keep nitrates in the ideal range. Click here to learn more about using Lava Rocks in aquariums.
Life Span: Eartheaters can live for several years and possibly longer.
Gender: It's difficult to tell males from females, females become plumper.
As males mature, they become more colorful and usually have longer more pointy fins.
When Eartheaters breed you can see their breeding tubes, and the female's tube is much larger and wider than the male's.
Breeding: Eartheaters choose a territory often in a back corner of the aquarium, and evict the other fish from that territory.
They'll soon begin cleaning an area like the surface of flat rock then lay eggs, guard the eggs for few days until they hatch, and then take the babies into their mouths to protect them.
Click here for a lot more about breeding various tropical fish in aquariums.
Popularity: For a long time various Eartheaters have been popular aquarium fish.
Names: Their scientific name is Geophagus winemilleri.
Variations: This species is a member of the Surinamensis Group of Eartheaters, but is not actually Geophagus surinamensis, which is apparently rare in aquariums.
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