South American Cichlids • Geophagus Tank

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Geophagus Tank

Postby RobsFishTank » Sun Oct 01, 2017 8:27 am

I've never done a Geophagus tank and need something new to get me back into the swing of things. I would like to do a group of one of the smaller species in a 55 gal. tank. I'm looking for tips and suggestions for how to set-up décor and possible tank mates. Also, any recommendations on sourcing the Geos as LFSs are dying breed and they are few and far between around here would be appreciated.
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Re: Geophagus Tank

Postby mambee » Mon Oct 02, 2017 12:29 pm

I have a 150 with 6 Altifrons, which are a larger species. They live with 6 angelfish, about 50 cories and various BNPs. Altifrons are definitely too large for a school to be housed in a 55, so look for a different species.

Regarding tank mates, they are pretty peaceful and will mix with anything that they can't eat: angelfish, severums, festivums, cories, large bodied tetras, etc. Of course, you have to go with tank mates which will work in a 55.

Regarding sourcing, I purchased some of mine from a Florida fish farm who sells on aquabid.com.

Regarding decor, a sand substrate is a must since sifting through sand is a natural feeding behavior. If you use sand, canister filters work best. Geos spit a lot of sand around, and it will ruin the impellers of HOBs. Other than that, driftwood with anubias attached. The larger geos with uproot plants.
150 Gallon:
Geophagus, Angelfish
90 Gallon:
Bolivian Rams, Rummynoses, Corys, Dwarf Loaches, Neons, Glass Catfish
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Re: Geophagus Tank

Postby RobsFishTank » Mon Oct 02, 2017 4:34 pm

Thanks for sharing your experience. I haven't totally tossed the idea of having a pair of one of the larger species but I am definitely leaning towards being able to do a species group.

In your experience, how important is low pH and soft water? I'm not sure I can easily do that with my tap water having a high pH but . I don't think the it's hard but it's definitely not soft. I think I had to increase it when I was considering Africans. I'll have to retest that before proceeding.

I'm glad you mentioned plants. I'd like to have it lightly planted and am tossing around the idea of going aquaponic. In fact, that is why I changed my mind from the Africans. Didn't think the plants would like the water parameters that Africans thrive in.
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Re: Geophagus Tank

Postby mambee » Mon Oct 02, 2017 5:12 pm

The water at the Florida fish farms where the geos are bred is probably hard and alkaline, so I don't think it is that important. I have LEDs on my tanks and my anubias grow like weeds. I think that geos do best in small groups, especially harems, as opposed to pairs.

Please don't use gravel as it will damage their gills.
150 Gallon:
Geophagus, Angelfish
90 Gallon:
Bolivian Rams, Rummynoses, Corys, Dwarf Loaches, Neons, Glass Catfish
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Re: Geophagus Tank

Postby RobsFishTank » Mon Oct 02, 2017 6:09 pm

That's why I was asking about sourcing. If the fish have been bred in similar water, there shouldn't be a problem. These will probably be the first time I buy fish on-line. I love getting small fish and growing them out. Hopefully, I'll get a good mix of male vs. female.

Can a harem of six have more than one male, say with Jurupari or something similar?

I think I'd rather go bare bottom than use gravel ever again.
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Re: Geophagus Tank

Postby Granamyr » Mon Oct 02, 2017 10:05 pm

Geos really should be on sand as they constantly sift the sand as their natural way of searching for food. I also wouldn't put any group of geos in a 55 as it's just too small of a footprint for them long term in my opinion. If you were to try it I would only go for a geophagus parnaibae group as they stay close to only 6" supposedly. Other than that I would try something other than geos for a 55.
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Re: Geophagus Tank

Postby RobsFishTank » Mon Oct 02, 2017 10:25 pm

Sorry, but there are a number of varieties that top out at much less than six inches.
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Re: Geophagus Tank

Postby Granamyr » Tue Oct 03, 2017 10:30 am

RobsFishTank wrote:Sorry, but there are a number of varieties that top out at much less than six inches.



What versions of geophagus top out at less than 6 inches? Can you share as I'd like to hear what they are so I can look for those
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Re: Geophagus Tank

Postby Mr Chromedome » Tue Oct 03, 2017 12:38 pm

Geophagus taeniopareius and grammepareius are about 6 inches (15cm) and just over 4 inches (10.2cm) respectively. I've seen the first occasionally, even had a few for a very short time. The second is very rare in the hobby, and when it does show up it commands extreme prices, as it is an exceptionally beautiful species. Both of these are pure substrate spawners, no mouthbrooding. The other two "true" Geophagus that tend to top out around 6 inches or a little over are parnaibae and "Red Head Tapajos", and in exceptional instances both have had specimens near 8 inches (20cm).

Only Satanoperca species that stays under 8 inches (20cm) is pappaterra, and only one population (Porto Velho) of that seems to stay at 6 inches (15cm).

The brasiliensis complex may also have a couple of species that stay smaller. I have heard that iporangensis and itapacuruensis tend to stay smaller, but they are hard to find. This complex tends to be very aggressive species, and "do not play well with others". Pairs only, no shoals.

Of course, a lot of people think of Biotodoma as close relatives, which they are. Both species stay well under 6 inches (14cm for cupido) and like to shoal. Guianacara also like to shoal. Both of these Genera are substrate spawners with no mouthbrooding at all.

'Geophagus' steindachneri, the common Red Hump, generally maxes out at 6 inches (15cm) in aquaria. The other two humphead species can reach 8 inches (20cm).

When you get into Gymnogeophagus, all the rules are out the window. Most require some cooling for part of the year to stay healthy and to breed. Generally they are not shoalers, but are more like the brasiliensis complex in their pairing and breeding behavior. Exception would be balzanii, which likes to be in groups, but is one of the longer species, as well as being very deep bodied. However, this is also one of the most peaceful Cichlids I have ever kept, and a nice male with a small harem would do well in a 55.

Forget about Retroculus. They get fairly large and require massive water movement. Mine were crowded in a 125, though they did spawn.
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Re: Geophagus Tank

Postby Granamyr » Tue Oct 03, 2017 12:55 pm

Mr Chromedome wrote:Geophagus taeniopareius and grammepareius are about 6 inches (15cm) and just over 4 inches (10.2cm) respectively. I've seen the first occasionally, even had a few for a very short time. The second is very rare in the hobby, and when it does show up it commands extreme prices, as it is an exceptionally beautiful species. Both of these are pure substrate spawners, no mouthbrooding. The other two "true" Geophagus that tend to top out around 6 inches or a little over are parnaibae and "Red Head Tapajos", and in exceptional instances both have had specimens near 8 inches (20cm).

Only Satanoperca species that stays under 8 inches (20cm) is pappaterra, and only one population (Porto Velho) of that seems to stay at 6 inches (15cm).

The brasiliensis complex may also have a couple of species that stay smaller. I have heard that iporangensis and itapacuruensis tend to stay smaller, but they are hard to find. This complex tends to be very aggressive species, and "do not play well with others". Pairs only, no shoals.

Of course, a lot of people think of Biotodoma as close relatives, which they are. Both species stay well under 6 inches (14cm for cupido) and like to shoal. Guianacara also like to shoal. Both of these Genera are substrate spawners with no mouthbrooding at all.

'Geophagus' steindachneri, the common Red Hump, generally maxes out at 6 inches (15cm) in aquaria. The other two humphead species can reach 8 inches (20cm).

When you get into Gymnogeophagus, all the rules are out the window. Most require some cooling for part of the year to stay healthy and to breed. Generally they are not shoalers, but are more like the brasiliensis complex in their pairing and breeding behavior. Exception would be balzanii, which likes to be in groups, but is one of the longer species, as well as being very deep bodied. However, this is also one of the most peaceful Cichlids I have ever kept, and a nice male with a small harem would do well in a 55.

Forget about Retroculus. They get fairly large and require massive water movement. Mine were crowded in a 125, though they did spawn.


Ok so the only one that I hadn't heard of from that group is the grammepareius. that is a cool looking species though.

taeniopareius apparently are very active and shouldn't be kept in tanks shorter than 5'. Never had experience with them just what I've read

Red Head Tapajos must have a couple of variations to them because I have personally seen some huge ones on different occasions wish I would have taken a picture. (at least 10" more like 12")

Biotodoma should be kept in bigger groups than what should be put into a 55.

Guianacara I think could work in a 55 but they don't do any sand sifting to speak of just digging mostly. more of an acara behavior than geophagus.

the brasiliensis complex is so wide and diverse it really needs to have some work done to identify what is what. These are going to be removed from the geophagus group though much like the hump head versions are going to be as well. I wouldn't put any of them in to a 55 though long term.

Steindachneri could work potentially still a 55 is pushing it in my opinion for them long term.

Gymnos I can't comment on I haven't done much research on them.
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Re: Geophagus Tank

Postby RobsFishTank » Tue Oct 03, 2017 4:18 pm

Welp, it looks like I was mistaken about their being smaller geos, at least in the range that I wanted. Best laid plans...

Would a male and two females, still one of the smaller species, work?
Last edited by RobsFishTank on Tue Oct 03, 2017 4:21 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Geophagus Tank

Postby Granamyr » Tue Oct 03, 2017 4:21 pm

RobsFishTank wrote:Welp, it looks like I was mistaken about their being smaller geos, at least in the range that I wanted. Best laid plans...


Bolivian Rams (Mikrogeophagus altispinosus) are a nice fish and several can be put in a 55. But they don't do the sand sifting nearly as much as a true geo does.
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Re: Geophagus Tank

Postby RobsFishTank » Tue Oct 03, 2017 4:23 pm

I like rams but am considering dwarf cichlids or possibly discus.
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Re: Geophagus Tank

Postby Mr Chromedome » Tue Oct 03, 2017 9:13 pm

I've seen pictures of altifrons mislabeled as Red Heads. I've never seen real Red Heads over 6 inches. My numbers all came from Weidner's South American Eartheaters book.

As I said, I had taeniopareius. They were not any more active than other fish their size. I would not hesitate to put 5 in a 55 gallon tank.
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Re: Geophagus Tank

Postby Granamyr » Tue Oct 03, 2017 10:21 pm

Mr Chromedome wrote:I've seen pictures of altifrons mislabeled as Red Heads. I've never seen real Red Heads over 6 inches. My numbers all came from Weidner's South American Eartheaters book.

As I said, I had taeniopareius. They were not any more active than other fish their size. I would not hesitate to put 5 in a 55 gallon tank.


Maybe red heads I saw were cross bred with an altifrons I don't know. I've seen them on 2 occasions though where they were quite large. They were more orange headed though than red headed. Is there an Altifrons type that has an orange head like a RHT? I have no clue what they were labeled as, as I just looked at them and said wow those are HUGE RHT.

That's cool to hear about the Taeniopareius, Wetspot has some for sale right now and I think would be a really good tank mate for my Heckelii if they aren't any more active than the other geos.
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