Geophagus Surinamensis, also known as the Redstriped Eartheater is one of the more peaceful species of cichlid to keep. It is called Eartheater for its habit of taking mouthfuls of sand and gravel to search for food. The species is prized for its beautiful, almost neon markings, peaceful nature, and low maintenance. Here is everything you need to know to keep Geophagus Surinamensis successfully.

The Redstriped Eartheater is a cichlid species that is native mainly to the Amazon river basin and Suriname river system in Suriname, South America. They are a bottom-dwelling species and can be found in calm pools and backwaters where there is ample rock for shelter and gravel for them to hunt through.

Earth eater fish are also raised commercially in different parts of the world and have been interbred with other Geophagus subspecies to try and enhance color differences. They are mouthbrooders and can be difficult to coax to breed.

Geophagus Surinamensis Stats

Family: CHICLIDAE
Species: Geophagus surinamensis
Common Name: Surinam Geophagus
Size: Up to 12 inches (30cm)
Habitat: South America, Saramacca and Suriname Rivers in Suriname; Marowijne River in Suriname and French Guiana.
Min Tank Size: 55 gallon or larger recommended.
Diet: Omnivorous, live, frozen, and flake. Bottom Feeder, sinking food.
Behavior: Peaceful, relatively non-territorial cichlid. Will dig.
Water: Temperature: 76°F to 88°F (24-27°C),pH range: 6.0 – 8.0; dH range: 5 – 19
Care: Medium
Communities: They are more suitable for large community tanks as they will not bother smaller fish. However, this peacefulness makes them less suited to tanks containing other large, more aggressive fish.
Suitability: Species tank
Scientific Name: Geophagus Surinamensis
Distribution: Suriname – Sarramacca, Maroni and Suriname Rivers
Size: 10-12 inches/25-30cm
Temperature: 76 to 80 degrees
pH: 6-8
Common Names: Red Striped Eartheater, sometimes also called Pearl Eartheater (although this name is also used for G. Brasiliensis)

Appearance

Juvenile fish and those you purchase from fish stores will be muted in color. Once they are settled and growing, you see their true colors emerge.

Non-stressed fish in well-kept tanks display neon-like linear patterns of red, blue, and green.

Their fins and tails have light blue spotted patterns and are long and flowing. This can present a problem when you have tank mates that are fin nippers.

The Redstripe Eartheater gets its name both from the red stripes on its sides and its bottom-sifting feeding habits. It seems purpose-built for this task with a slanted forehead and eyes located so that they can keep an eye on what is going on around them as they feed.

The geophagus surinamensis lifespan can be as long as 7 years, though 5 to 6 years is average. It grows to be as long as 12 inches, making larger aquariums a requirement for healthy keeping. It may take up to 3 years for the Redstripe Eartheater to reach its full size in terms of growth rate.

Geophagus Surinamensis Care Guide

The Redstripe Eartheater is quite easy to care for, but its potential to reach 12 inches creates the need for a large aquarium to house them. A single pair can be kept in a minimum size horizontal aquarium of 55 gallons. Use this size as a factor for every pair of fish you add.

Like most South American cichlid species, eartheater cichlids like their water clean and free of ammonia and nitrates. Since they do a thorough job rooting the bottom, a good filtration system is a must. The system should be well buried as exposed pipes will get gnawed upon.

A weekly water-changing regimen is also recommended. This can be done manually but with large aquariums quickly becomes too labor-intensive. An automated water-changing system will make your life much, much easier.

This species is happiest with warm water in a range of 76°F to 88°F (24-27°C). It has a reasonable tolerance for pH and hardness. If you have water quality that falls close to the ranges listed below, use it so that the fish will become acclimated. It will save you the time and cost of chemicals.

Striped cichlid eartheaters live in the mid to bottom levels of an aquarium and spend much of their time feeding on the bottom. A good aquarium design gives them plenty of sand and small aquarium gravels to mouth while keeping the filtration system concealed.

Plants tend to be uprooted, but floating plants can provide some variety and cover for smaller tank mates. Creating hiding places with rocks and aquarium structures big enough for foot-long fish to explore will help keep them interested in their environment.

Large pieces of driftwood or resin roots also give them places to explore and help the aquarium appear more like their native habitat.

Tank Mates

The best way to ensure geophagus surinamensis compatibility is to keep both small and large aggressive species out of the aquarium. As they are bottom feeders, tank mates are generally not considered food fish.

Redstripe Eartheaters are peaceful fish and will not bother large or small tankmates. Large aquariums with multiple eartheaters can be quite stunning with the addition of brightly colored small fish, a few large fish, and bottom cleaning species.

Good South American tank mates include:

  • Guppy: There are many varieties of guppy that make great tank mates for Geophagus Surinamensis. What they all have in common is that they are peaceful fish that are not too small and get along well with everything that will not eat them. Some of the more ornamental varieties will look great in your aquarium as long as none of the other tank mates are fin nippers.
  • Plecos: Plecos are beautiful little bottom-dwellers that are popular for their ability to help keep an aquarium clean. They are omnivores and will make short work of sinking food. They are peaceful but solitary. Don’t put more than one in standard size aquariums.
  • Corydoras: Like Plecos, Corydoras are a variety of bottom-feeding catfish commonly placed in tropical freshwater aquariums. They grow up to 4 inches in size and are peaceful omnivores.
  • Cardinal Tetra: Cardinal Tetra makes great neighbors with many kinds of similarly gentle species. A small school of Cardinal Tetras adds beauty to any aquarium and does not create any significant bioload to the tank. Always a great choice. Add them in groups of 10.
  • Neon Tetra: Another great tank mate choice for Geophagus Surinamensis. Adding them in groups of 10, same as Cardinal Tetra, per 20-gallon tanks will give you an ever-moving, shimmering display.
  • Green Neon Tetra: If you want to keep a brightly colored aquarium, the Green Neon Tetra is another tank mate to consider. Similar in size and appearance to the Neon Tetra, the Green Neon Tetra, as its name implies, has a beautiful streak of neon green along its sides.

Breeding

While not as prolific a breeder as the smaller South American fish, geophagus surinamensis spawn in captivity. When obtaining fish with the intent of breeding, you can tell males and females apart by their fin length. Males will have longer, more elaborate fins and tails. The distinctions between the two begin to show after a year of age.

Breeding may occur naturally when Redstripe Eartheaters reach sexual maturity. Some keepers believe in using a blackwater conditioner, which helps mimic the darker color of Amazon river water during the flood season. Flood season is also breeding season for most Amazon species. Softening the pH of the water to neutral can also be effective.

Watch their behavior. The male will start making shallow depressions in the tank bottom. He will try to encourage the female to lay her eggs in the nest to fertilize them.

Once this is done, either the male or female will take the eggs into their mouth for safekeeping. The eggs mature in about three days. When they hatch, the fry will swim freely but will return to their parent’s mouth if threatened by other tank mates.

Note that both male and female Restripe Eartheaters will be aggressive to their tank mates during the spawning and rearing time. Both parents abandon their duties when the fry are too large to hide in their mouths.

Eartheater fry can be fed very fine sinking and live foods such as tiny brine shrimp.

Diet

Geophagus Surinamensis is easy to feed and appreciates some variety in their diet. Since they are bottom sifters, sinking pelletized omnivore food is a good all-around choice. Mixing in protein foods such as bloodworms, brine shrimp, chopped shrimp, or daphnia is a good idea.

You can also add occasional chopped vegetables such as zucchini or squash. If you want to bring out the coloration of your Redstripe Eartheaters, try adding a little bit of spirulina to their diet.

Summary

  • Geophagus Surinamensis is a South American cichlid that can grow to 12 inches.
  • Redstriped Eartheaters get their name from their habit of sifting sand and gravel with their mouths to find food.
  • They are peaceful fish and make great tank mates to most South American Species.
  • They need room to swim, so the minimum aquarium size for 2 fish is 55 gallons.
  • Geophagus Surinamensis will chew on vegetation and any exposed tubing in the aquarium.
  • The species are mouthbrooders and keep eggs in their mouth until they hatch.
  • Feed them sinking pellets and occasional live food to keep them happy.

Geophagus Surinamensis or Redstripe Eartheaters are a great way to add large, peaceful fish to a South American-themed aquarium. You will appreciate their colors and inquisitive manner.

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