Frequently Asked Questions
Why are eartheater species labelled incorrectly? The real problem lies at the point of collection and export. It could be assumed that a large percentage of eartheaters are exported at a small size to lower transport costs per fish and to reduce mortalities. At a small size these fish would be hard to ID even if they knew the collection point and right or wrong would sell them as what they honestly believe them to be (selling "mixed Geophagus species" wouldn't get too many sales).The next facility would keep the name given to the fish and the cycle continues (labelling mix ups at wholesalers probably donesn't help either). You will also often hear on international forums that a couple of species are mixed together and are sold as one species. I've also seen instances where beginners have brought some "geos" and have then gone onto the internet and have seen something "resembling" what they have and therefore decide to call them the same thing.

Basically fish will be sold as what people believe them to be and it's up to concerned and dedicated hobbyists to sort out the mess.

How do I correctly write scientific names? All scientifically described organisms have a genus name and a species name. The genus name is capitalised and the species name should be all lower case; the name should also be italicised. Sometimes you will see "sp.", "cf." and "aff." within scientific names; these mean "species", "conferred" and "affirmed" respectively.

What do I look for when trying to identify a species? There are some species which are quite easily identified such as G. sp. "Pindare" or G. steindachneri. However others such as those belonging to the "surinamensis complex" can look quite similar, but they do show subtle differences if one looks closely enough. Traits that need to be examined include: (1) Overall size, (2) body shape, (3) head profile, (4) fin patterning (especially caudal fin), (5) iris colour, (6) breeding behaviour, (7) lateral bar number, thickness and arrangement (8) lateral spot size, position and shape (9) presence or absence of a preopecular stripe (10) presence of distinguishing features such as a lachrymal stripe (blue eye stripe) found in G. argyrostictus or a black throat area as found in G. brachybranchus.

What water parameters do eartheaters prefer? Eartheaters come from a range of different water types. Geophagus and Satanoperca do best in warm (28 degrees C) soft and slightly acid water, while Gymnogeophagus prefer cooler (25 degrees C and lower) water which isn't as soft and acidic as are some parts of the Amazon.

What should I feed my eartheaters? In the wild, the stomach contents of eartheaters is mainly detritus (along with accompanying organisms) and aquatic invertebrates (such as insect larvae and crustaceans). In the aquarium we can try to simulate this diet by feeding a few types of good quality pellets or flake (one of which should be spirulina based), brineshrimp, mysis shrimp, krill, bloodworms and shrimp. Earthworms (composting worms) can also be added to the diet.

Some difficult to spawn species may need specific diets to bring them into spawning condition. Wayne Leibel fed his Satanoperca acuticeps bloodworms, spirulina flake, daphnia and a homemade gel food (consisting of equal parts green peas, krill, spirulina powder, crushed cichlid pellets and bound by gelatine) to stimulate them to spawn. This was after looking into a Kullander and Ferreira (1988) reference which showed the gut content of Satanperca lilith. It showed S. lilith were feeding on cladocerans ("water fleas" like Daphnia), conchostracans ('clam shrimps") and ostracods ("seed shrimps"), in addition to insect larvae and plant debris.

Can you identify this 5-6cm geophagus? Most probably not to any degree of accuracy. It is possible for some species, however using adults to identify a species is much easier (not that it's always easy with adults).

Can eartheaters be imported into Australia? No eartheaters are on the allowable imports list, even species such as G. steindachneri which have been here before the import restrictions are not an allowable import.

Can eartheaters hybridise with each other? There's no absolute proof that this is happening, however it could more than likely happen. Please keep and eye on any interspecies spawning activity if you have a mixed eartheaters aquarium.

I did a waterchange and all my eartheaters started stressing out and died? There have been several reports of people using Seachem Flourish Excel and killing off their eartheaters. Typical poisoning symptoms such as loss of balance and darting into tank sides have been observed. Someone has also had problems using Iron fertilisers. It appears Geophagus are not very tolerant of these products and they should be avoided.