|Common names: ||Red or Orange head Geophagus, Geophagus sp. Tapajos|
|Natural Habitat: ||Rio Tapajos, Para, Southern Brazil|
Geophagus means earth eater, these cichlids spend a lot of their time sifting through fine substrate foraging for food, their specially designed gills give them the ability to sort organic from inorganic matter. They are a very colourful species, both male and female will exhibit very vivid colours unlike many other species. Although they will predate on small fish such as small tetras, they are generally a very peaceful fish that can add something special to a community tank containing larger fish. They are fairly communal, enjoying the company of their own kind, they are best kept in a small group or 5 or 6, they can show aggression towards one another, especially males, when it comes to sorting dominance but this tends to be short rounds of “lip locking” or flaring, once they have decided who has the biggest mouth and best fins, they tend to settle fairly quickly, with a good mix of sexes, they do pair up fairly easily too.
As these are a medium sized fish and are best kept in a group, a larger tank should be used for housing them, a group of 4 or 5 should have a minimum of a 4 foot by 2 foot tank as they will need space to take up territories. Plenty of smooth rocks should be provided if you want to breed this species, along with lots of roots and overhanging branches, the Red heads tend to take up a territory that has some degree of cover.
Good filtration and water flow is a must for this species, a turn over of at least 6 or 7 times the tanks volume per hour is recommended along with plenty of surface agitation to keep the water well oxygenated. Plants do not appear to be needed to keep this species but if they are to be kept in a planted tank, you may find that a lot of plants become up rooted as the Geo’s move the substrate around. A fine sand is an ideal substrate for them as they can sift through this with no problems, the males also like to move sand around to try and attract a female with his constructed breeding spot, they will move mouthfuls of sand and dig a large bowl in the sand until they reach the smooth bottom of the aquarium. As they are a South American Cichlid, Geo’s come from water that around ph 6, tannin stained and incredibly soft, strangely though, they seem to fair better and breed more regularly in harder water and of around ph 7.8 – 8.
These fish are described as being carnivorous but from my experience, I’d tend to say they were omnivores with carnivorous tendencies. They do favour meaty foods and will readily accept virtually anything offered to them, they will also take algae wafers and most forms of flake food, they may also take cooked peas but do tend to ignore most other vegetable. Frozen bloodworm and granular food seem to be favourite with all of mine.
Once paired, the Red heads don’t seem to need any outside influences to induce breeding, the pair will take on most roles of the process together, they will find a pebble that they like and will spend a few hours cleaning it, once clean, the male will try to show it off to the female by “dancing” around it, if she feels its up to scratch, she will lay the eggs upon its surface.
From this point, both the male and female will guard the eggs from any other inhabitants.
After 36 to 60 hours, the parents will pick the eggs up from the pebble and start to mouth brood, they will then keep them in the mouths for the next few days. After about a week from when the eggs were first collected, the parents will start to let the fry out for short periods of time, allowing the parents to fill up after fasting for a few days and giving the fry a taste of the outside world.
They will continue to collect up, spit out the fry in this manner for at least another week. The tank should be given regular amounts of powdered baby food for this period so as to ensure there is food available for the fry when they are let out. The fry will eat very heartily from now on and although they are slow growers, the initial growth spurt is fairly rapid and within a couple of weeks.
The fry will be too large for the parents to collect them all up, instead, they will try their best to guard the whole shoal, they will continue this way until all the fry have been removed.
Red heads appear to only spawn while there are others present in the tank, I have not had a pair spawn while they were alone in the tank